The only good news, according to NBC, is that Justice Department officials have pushed back. They understand that this issue is a fundamental red line for America’s commitment to the rule of law. The administration would lose any remaining moral authority if it sacrificed a man’s liberty and even life to assist one abusive ruler in his paranoid crusade against critics to protect an even worse dictator from accountability for murder.
The Trump administration has paid short shrift toward concerns about human rights. When adversaries brutalize their populations, the president and his aides grow ostentatiously sanctimonious, denouncing abuses in Iran and Cuba, for instance. However, when arrests and killings are committed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other friendly dictatorships, administration officials grow strangely silent.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was too blatant for the administration to ignore easily. But Washington apparently hopes to moderate the consequences of that crime on Riyadh by placating Ankara. Doing so would not be just bad foreign policy. It would sacrifice the rule of law in America. And that is far too high a price to pay irrespective of the foreign policy objective.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.