Ignoring strong objections from his fellow Republicans, President Donald Trump has vetoed a bipartisan resolution by both houses of Congress designed to ban his attempted "emergency" sale of $8.1 billion in advanced military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Trump asserts this is about helping the Saudis win the war in Yemen. Members of Congress say it's about affirming America's fundamental values.
In a way, Trump doesn't disagree that this is about American values; he just differs on what those values are. Opponents of the sale in Congress say America's values are rooted in supporting basic human rights around the world. They specifically do not want to reward Saudi Arabia's murderous royal family. Trump seems to think America's values are the same as his own: the blind, all-consuming pursuit of money.
Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has veered wildly off course in its bid to assert itself as a regional power and counterweight to Iran. He has jailed his critics en masse and was complicit in covering up the Oct. 2 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and op-ed contributor to The Washington Post.
When Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, he was immediately grabbed by henchmen dispatched directly from the crown prince's offices. They killed Khashoggi and dismembered his body to erase any tracks of the murder — all within the official confines of a Saudi diplomatic compound.
A few Republicans who normally march in lockstep with Trump have sharply parted ways with him on this proposed sale. "There is no amount of oil you can produce that will get me and others to give you a pass on chopping somebody up in a consulate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stated after voting last month to reject the sale.
"This is the moment to stand up for some moral clarity," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. "This is the moment to send a global message you cannot kill journalists with impunity."
More to the point of this sale, Saudi Arabia has used U.S.-supplied weaponry and air power to bombard neighboring Yemen into a bloody pulp. Since 2015, according to Human Rights Watch, a Saudi-led coalition has launched about 90 airstrikes that appear to have violated international law by targeting civilian homes, markets, hospitals, schools and mosques. Weddings and school buses have been hit by air. Investigators have repeatedly found remnants of U.S. munitions at sites where civilian noncombatants were targeted.
Saudi Arabia persists with its reckless disregard for innocent life. No matter how much Trump wants to help the crown prince wash the blood from his hands, Republicans in Congress must draw an unequivocal line and make clear: America will not allow the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to go unpunished.
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