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Frontline report leaves little doubt about who was behind killing of Saudi journalist Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

I highly recommend the PBS Frontline documentary that premieres tonight at 8 p.m. (and runs again at 2 a.m., if that’s how you roll).

It pretty much nails down the case that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia known as MBS, the current leading figure in the kingdom and heir to the throne, was behind the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a brave Saudi journalist who broke with the Saudi establishment and used his gig as a Washington Post columnist to expose the fraud of Prince Mohammed’s reforms.

MBS managed for a while to pass himself off as a modernizer and liberalizer in the oil-rich kingdom. He is now in line to officially rule when his father dies.

The Frontline piece, titled “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” is deeply reported by the excellent Martin Smith, who quadruples as reporter, writer, producer and correspondent. 


Smith does little editorializing in the film. He quotes the prince’s denials of any involvement in the murder. Still, Smith’s report leaves little room for doubt. Like the United Nations and the CIA, Smith believes MBS ordered the murder. 

But guess who is inclined to take MBS at his word that he didn’t do it? President Donald Trump.

Well, maybe that’s not fair. Trump, who enjoys a wonderful relationship with the Saudis, says the CIA has “nothing definitive” to prove that MBS did it.  (The CIA says it has “medium to high confidence” that MBS ordered the killing. Trump characterizes that as “not sure.” And Trump adds: “We stand with Saudi Arabia.”)

According to the film, as Khashoggi, in his last years, stayed out of Saudi Arabia, MBS told associates that if they couldn’t get Khashoggi back to Saudi to face MBS’ wrath, his agents should find him somewhere else and “should show him a bullet.“ 

Anyway, I’ve given away the ending, and I should warn you that the film is two hours long. So you’re forewarned. You’ll learn a lot about Saudi society ( it’s not very pretty) and a little about the current Oval Office incumbent (none of which is encouraging or surprising).

Khashoggi’s last Washington Post column was headlined “What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression.” It was published September 28, 2018.

He was cut to pieces four days later at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He had fallen in love and wanted to get married and needed some Saudi paperwork. He feared MBS would have him killed if he set foot in Saudi Arabia, but he hoped to acquire the necessary papers at the consulate in Turkey. He was never seen again.

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 10/01/2019 - 11:11 am.

    So Saudi Arabia killed one of their citizens, is that really news. Syria killed 100’s of thousands of their citizens, where was the outrage? Who demanded we right that wrong by Syria? Ignoring that major tragedy seems to be fine but the corrupt Saudi government killing a Saudi (not an American) journalist is major news.
    President Trump is wrong by not condemning this killing as a Saudi act. What gets me is the selective moral outrage we seem to have here in our safe haven of USA.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2019 - 03:12 pm.

      Not quite that simple.
      Kashoggi was a Saudi citizen, but also employed by an American newspaper.
      In addition, the killing took place in Turkey, not in Saudi Arabia, which makes it an international issue (unless you buy the argument that an embassy’s grounds are part of the nation who the embassy represents, rather than the nation where the embassy is located).

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/02/2019 - 09:03 am.

        Technical point: embassy grounds are not part of the nation represented by the embassy. They are still part of the territory of the host country, although the host country’s representatives may not enter without permission.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/01/2019 - 03:32 pm.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but we haven’t committed ourselves to the defense of Syria, have we? Our armed forces aren’t waiting until Syria tells us to strike, or did I miss that story?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/01/2019 - 04:31 pm.

      An outspoken Saudi journalist, resident of the US and employed by the Washington Post, a leading US newspaper, enters a Saudi consulate and is butchered into easily disposable pieces is a little different than what you describe with Syria. Both event deserve, equal and significant coverage; but to equate Kashogi to 1/100,000 of Syrian massacres is a little misleading…

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/02/2019 - 10:01 am.

      Again, leave to a Trump supporter to conclude that State murder is OK because people get killed all the time anyways. This actually IS how Nazi Germany got started.

      And of course it goes without saying that leveraging business deals with murderous regimes is a perfectly acceptable White House activity for Trump and, his acquaintances/appointees, and family members. Obviously there are no national security issues with a president who sells (or gives) classified information and technology to such a regime. Need I remind anyone that 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked us in 2001, not to mention Bin Laden himself.

      What truly amazing and crazy is the fact that for decades, these Trump supporters have claimed to be the nations moral backbone, and national security champions. What even more amazing is the fact that by-and-large Democrats have let them get away with that claim despite it’s obvious vacuity.

  2. Submitted by Misty Martin on 10/01/2019 - 11:58 am.

    What happened to the late Jamal Khashoggi is a tragedy that never should have happened, nor should it be condoned or passed over without justice having been served, in whatever form that justice should take. Of course, it doesn’t help that our own President declares that journalists are the “enemy of the people”. Isn’t that what dictators say? He really shouldn’t hang around with leaders like Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin so much – he has enough bad habits of his own without learning more to add to his arsenal.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/01/2019 - 12:21 pm.

    And Saudi Arabia is what Trump would like the USA to become.
    The rich Saudi’s travel to more liberal Arab states when they want to party.

  4. Submitted by Barry Tungseth on 10/02/2019 - 08:17 am.

    What else would one expect from Donny Trump? He loves the thought of becoming a dictator, and ruling over his new “Amerika”.

  5. Submitted by Howard Miller on 10/03/2019 - 03:47 pm.

    Jamal Khashoggi’s children are American citizens, tho’ he was not. Any US president owes those American citizens the same protections afforded every American citizen. By allowing, if not actively participating, in the murder of their father, Donald Trump has failed in his duty of national defense.

    That it is so obviously the case does not make it ok or permissible. I don’t care whom the Saudis murder within their own borders. But killing the father of American citizens rots my socks completely. We should learn at least if Jared Kushner provided classified info to the Saudis that facilitated their first degree murder of the employee of a US company, working here in the USA, father to American citizen daughters

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