“If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.”
When Martin Luther King Jr. uttered those words, he was warning us of the greed and undue power surrounding America’s military-industrial complex.
We have not heeded his warning. America, driven by materialism and militarism, is increasingly devoid of compassion, morality or any vision for a future that could even proximately be called “great.”
This is evident in our shameful response to the apparent murder of Saudi dissident, U.S.-based Washington Post journalist and father of two U.S. citizens, Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. and Turkish intelligence officials agree all indications point to Khashoggi being murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Under the normal standards of American values, the state murder of a journalist, a legal U.S. resident working under an American masthead, would cause unequivocal condemnation and a meaningful national response. But, these are not normal times, and values today hold little sway — especially when they’re contrary to corporate profit and partisan interests.
In his characteristic, cowardly penchant for equivocating in the face of despots, our president outlined in clear terms where his priorities lie. Weighing the assassination of American journalists by foreign powers against a $110 billion arms deal, Trump came down solidly in favor of the guns and money.
“I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do,” Trump told 60 Minutes in a piece that aired Sunday. “Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these companies — I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that.”
Our president lives in a dystopia of his own making, where money and power always outweigh human life and our republic’s founding principles, and he assumes we all live there with him. He is incapable of comprehending a state in which the sanctity of human life, decency and freedom outweigh a business deal.
Even Lindsay Graham, a recently devoted Trump sycophant, has raised alarm over the Saudi prince’s murder of Khashoggi.
“He had this guy murdered in the consulate in Turkey,” Graham told Fox News Tuesday. “Expect me to ignore it? I feel used and abused. I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because they are a good ally.”
Saudi Arabia a “good ally”? That’s a stretch that requires ignoring virtually every facet of American statecraft — all but the profit from selling weapons to a state that has no interest in our values or our survival.
And there’s plenty of profit to be made by pumping more weapons into Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen — a religious conflict in which Saudi-led bombing has claimed close to 7,000 civilian lives and contributed to more than 22 million people being dependent on international aid for survival.
Trump is searching for a “mutually agreeable explanation” for the death of Khashoggi — meaning, a not-necessarily-the-truth explanation that protects the crown prince and our ability to keep selling him weapons.
How can a “Christian values” president justify ignoring the murder of a journalist, to defend arms sales to an autocracy that will use said weapons to murder more innocent people?
Well, you’d need a “pastor” who didn’t mind taking a few pieces of silver to put the “Christian” seal of approval on such evil. Cue up Pat Robertson.
“We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of…it’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers,” Robertson said on the 700 Club. “It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.”
Apparently, blowing up civilians “willy-nilly” for profit — that’s squarely in line with the Robertson-Trump rabbit hole view of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
To take this approach seriously, you must surrender your intellect to a state in which truth and values no longer hold any meaning — a state in which the narrative of the blessed leader is the only narrative that matters.
Jamal Khashoggi, like King before him, warns us from the grave. In his final column, published posthumously Wednesday in The Post, Khashoggi wrote on press freedom in the Middle East.
But, his words ring eerily true for the trajectory of American political discourse.
“A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative,” Khashoggi wrote. “Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.”
When we accept these false narratives, and allow our values to be traded for arms deals, we’re not being dragged — we’re willingly skipping down the “long, dark and shameful corridors” that leave us, as King warned, a nation “approaching spiritual death.”