Jamal Khashoggi: Where The Road to Damascus & The Path to 9/11 Converge
by Kristen Breitweiser - WashingtonsBlog
October 16, 2018
Road to Damascus Conversion: Derived from the Biblical story of Paul, the term “Damascus road conversion” is commonly used to refer to an abrupt about-face on a serious issue of religion, politics or philosophy. In this type of change, a single, dramatic event causes a person to become aligned with something he or she previously was against or support a position that he or she previously opposed.
As a 9/11 widow who has spent the last 17 years fighting for accountability with regard to the 9/11 attacks that killed my husband and 3,000 others, I find the recent uproar over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder interesting and out of character for many of those decrying his disappearance and demanding an investigation and accountability.
Frankly, 9/11 Family members keep a running list of all those in Washington who have proved by their past actions to be against U.S. victims of terrorism and in support of nations like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a nation with a long history of supporting global Wahhabist terrorism. As victims of terrorism, we are ever vigilant and watchful about all those named on our lists. We follow these folks actions, their speeches, their legislation, because we know that they are never looking out for our best interests as U.S. victims of terrorism. As a group, our institutional memory is broad and long. And we never forget.
That’s why we all happened to notice the uncharacteristic behavior of so many of those on our lists with the advent of Jamal Khasoggi’s disappearance. And it made us wonder why so many people, who had previously always blindly supported the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, were now so vociferously jumping Saudi ship.
What caused this Road to Damascus conversion?
Take for example those who fought against the release of The 28 Pages of the Joint Inquiry of Congress(JICI) that detailed the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks for fear that The 28 Pages public release might harm the Saudi’s reputation and its very special relationship with the United States. A relationship, in large part, based on oil, weapons, money, and shared intelligence operations—things that have little to do with keeping American citizens safe.
Regarding The 28 Pages, CIA Director, John Brennan once said, “releasing a classified section of the congressional investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States would be a mistake. A reason to keep them under wraps is they contain “unvetted information” that some could use to unfairly implicate Saudi Arabia in the terror attacks.”
Yet, now when faced with the comparatively less significant disappearance and murder of only one man, Khashoggi (not the thousands on 9/11, the hundreds from Khobar and the Embassy bombings or the 17 U.S. sailors from the Cole), based on far less substantiated and convincing evidence from newspapers(rather than a several hundred page bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Investigation’s Final Report), John Brennan is suddenly moved to hold the Saudis accountable.
On Khashoggi’s disappearance, Brennan had this to say:
“It appears increasingly likely that Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was detained and killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. There is still much that we don’t know, but if such an audacious act was carried out, it almost certainly would have required the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi was a particular irritant to the crown prince. Khashoggi was widely known and respected inside and outside the kingdom for his literary talent, political acumen and principled opposition to Mohammed’s increasing authoritarianism and arrogance. The news reports and Turkish government accounts of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Consulate, and the contemporaneous arrival of two planeloads of Saudis, have the hallmarks of a professional capture operation or, more ominously, an assassination.
“As someone who worked closely with the Saudis for many years, and who lived and worked as a U.S. official for five years in Saudi Arabia, I am certain that if such an operation occurred inside a Saudi diplomatic mission against a high-profile journalist working for a U.S. newspaper, it would have needed the direct authorization of Saudi Arabia’s top leadership — the crown prince.
“I am confident that U.S. intelligence agencies have the capability to determine, with a high degree of certainty, what happened to Khashoggi. If he is found to be dead at the hands of the Saudi government, his demise cannot go unanswered — by the Trump administration, by Congress or by the world community.
“Ideally, King Salman would take immediate action against those responsible, but if he doesn’t have the will or the ability, the United States would have to act. That would include immediate sanctions on all Saudis involved; a freeze on U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia; suspension of all routine intelligence cooperation with Saudi security services; and a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the murder. The message would be clear: The United States will never turn a blind eye to such inhuman behavior, even when carried out by friends, because this is a nation that remains faithful to its values.”
Really, Mr. Brennan? Never turn a blind eye? You turned two blind eyes to the Saudis for nearly 20 years as you defended them and kept the truth of their misdeeds shrouded in secrecy from the 9/11 families, the Embassy Bombing families, the Khobar Tower families, and the USS Cole families. Cover up is complicity and you have been complicit for 20 years! And now you are worried about inhumane behavior? Now, you are interested in the United States taking immediate action and imposing sanctions?
For the record, Mr Brennan—>3,000 innocent souls were brutally murdered in cold-blood on 9/11. Their massacre yielded literally tens of thousands of body parts that were recovered and returned to the victim’s family or unceremoniously incinerated at Ground Zero and/or hastily dumped in a garbage land-fill in Staten Island. That, John Brennan, is the definition of inhumanity.
Unfortunately, John Brennan is not the only DC insider who’s pulling a road to Damascus conversion in the face of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. As a 9/11 family member who fought with many other 9/11 family members to have the right to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law by getting legislation called JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) enacted into law, I know far too many people in Washington more than willing to choose their Saudi “friends” instead of helping U.S. victims of terrorism get our day in court for the mass murder of our loved ones. https://28pages.org/saudi-lobbying-scandal/
Chief among those Saudi supporters who threw us under the bus was our Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama and members of his Administration. Obama opposed JASTA from the start. And, when JASTA earned a near unanimous vote by Congress to become law, Obama heartlessly vetoed it. Thankfully, Obama’s veto of JASTA was soundly overridden by Congress who meted out the only veto-override of Barack Obama’s entire 8-year nearly perfect Presidency. https://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/obama-jasta-228548 And he deserved it. And just for the record, over those 8 years, the families and survivors wrote 5 letters to President Obama asking for a dialogue with him about JASTA, all delivered by members of Congress and all completely ignored by him. President Obama even fought against the release of the 28 pages—delaying their release for years—even though he admitted to never taking the time to read them!
When asked about the victims of terrorism legislation, JASTA, and the rights of the 9/11 Families to have a path to justice to hold all those who participated in the 9/11 attacks accountable in a court of law, Obama Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, said, “while the White House was sympathetic to the concerns of 9/11 families, they objected to the bill’s “principle of undermining sovereign immunity.” https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tasneemnashrulla/house-vote-9-11-jasta-bill
In short, to the Obama Administration (who was, at the time, very focused on their Iran Deal and ensuring Saudi silence for that deal), the rights of the 9/11 families to justice for the mass murder of our loved ones, had to yield to the more noble sounding concept of state sovereignty. Funny, we were all pretty certain that any modicum of state sovereignty pretty much flew out the window on 9/11 when our homeland—i.e. our sovereign—was attacked by 19 hijackers(15 of whom were Saudi) crashing planes into buildings. Not so, for Rhodes and Obama.
Interestingly though, most recently, Ben Rhodes has said this about Saudi accountability as it pertains to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance: we are presently suffering from,
“A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership with the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. And that it drives home the consequences of the Trump administration’s refusal to champion democratic values around the globe.”
Rhodes goes on to say,
“It’s not too late to heed Khashoggi’s warnings—to understand that while Saudi Arabia is a historic partner of the United States, our interests are not totally aligned with the Saudi leadership’s, and our values are most definitely not.
“We should cease all support for the war in Yemen, and lead an effort to address its humanitarian crisis. We should balance our principled opposition to the Iranian regime’s nefarious behavior with a return to the diplomatic agreement that prevents that regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We should resume an aggressive transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels. We should support countries like Canada that have been bullied by the Saudis when they spoke out on human-rights issues. We should cease military sales until the truth about Khashoggi’s disappearance comes out, and make clear that our support going forward is not without conditions. And we could once more stand up for universal rights, even if it means inviting the opposition of those who have a very different view of justice.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/jamal-khashoggi-and-us-saudi-relationship/572905/
I’d just like to add a few points regarding Ben’s discussion of the “Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership” currently underway: First, the Yemen war started under President Obama. Second, any humanitarian crisis created in Yemen was largely ignored under Obama. https://theweek.com/articles/625047/obamas-odious-war-yemen Third, military sales to the Saudis under Obama always flourished. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-security-idUSKCN11D2JQ And, fourth, regarding standing up for “universal rights” and “views of justice”—Obama should have chosen to stand up with the 9/11 families by supporting JASTA, rather than stabbing us in the back and vetoing JASTA. Full stop, Ben.
It’s important to highlight that, to date, not one person has been held accountable or fully prosecuted by the U.S. government for the mass murder of 3,000 people on 9/11, the injuries of thousands and the responders, many of whom are sick and dying. That’s why JASTA was so important to the 9/11 Families and all Americans. And that’s why we had hoped that a former Constitutional Law professor, scholar, and lawyer like President Barack Obama would have supported our efforts as U.S. victims of terrorism.
Notably, 17 years after the 9/11 attacks, those held at GTMO are still in the pre-trial phase of the military tribunal system. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/opinion/guantanamo-detainees.html And, lawyers who participate in the GTMO system privately acknowledge that the detainee cases will likely never make it to the trial phase—due in large part because of the difficulties created by the CIA’s enhanced interrogation(torture) program carried out on the GTMO detainees. https://theintercept.com/2018/03/05/guantanamo-trials-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/
Moreover, not one Department of Justice(DOJ) U.S. Attorney’s Office—even the famous Southern District of NY(SDNY) who can “indict a ham sandwich”—has bothered to file a single indictment against any co-conspirator connected to the 9/11 attacks. Inexplicably, 3,000 pre-meditated murders took place in downtown Manhattan a few blocks from the SDNY offices and they’ve got nothing to show for themselves when it comes to 9/11. How is that possible? Or, even acceptable? Where are the newspaper columns, editorials, articles, and op-eds about that outrage?
Of course, President Obama and his advisors were not the only ones fighting against the 9/11 Families in our plight to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was another one of the key members of Congress who chose to side with the Saudis instead of the 9/11 Families.
Specifically, regarding JASTA and the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks, Graham was “not convinced the Saudi government was culpable even though many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.” They want to blame bin Laden,” Graham said about the Saudis. “All I can say is, from what I can tell, I don’t think the government of Saudi Arabia was involved here.”
Graham, who said he’s in close contact with Saudi officials about the issue, warned it could destroy America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, a critical ally in the tumultuous Middle East. “This is an odd situation in the sense that 9/11 families are high on everybody’s list to take care of,” Graham said. “It comes at a time when Saudi Arabia believes that America is not a reliable ally. It comes at a time when they think they’re being blamed for things they didn’t do. All I’m trying to find is a way to move forward with a legal process that doesn’t destroy the relationship. That’s worth investing some time in.” https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/16/politics/gop-senators-9-11-lawsuit-bill/index.html
Now juxtapose that with what Graham has to say after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi: “I’ve never been more disturbed than I am right now. If this man was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that would cross every line of normality in the international community.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/10/lindsey-graham-hell-to-pay-if-saudi-arabia-killed-jamal-khashoggi.html “If they’re this brazen it shows contempt. Contempt for everything we stand for, contempt for the relationship.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/11/lindsey-graham-channels-john-mccain-over-missing-saudi-journalist.html
Lindsey Graham has never been more concerned with such “brazen contempt” put forth by the Saudis in connection to the disappearance of Khashoggi? Apparently, for Lindsey, it wasn’t the 3,000 dead on 9/11, and fifteen Saudi hijackers flying planes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon that triggered the end of his Saudi love affair. No, it was Jamal Khashoggi getting killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
What really speaks to the hypocrisy currently underfoot surrounding Khashoggi and the sudden out of character demands for Saudi accountability is the cross-over Congressional signatories found on two separate Senate letters.
First, the Senator Bob Corker “Unintended Consequences” letter written and signed by 28 Senators immediately on the heels of JASTA becoming law. https://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/298357-senators-eye-changes-to-9-11-bill-after-veto The 9/11 Families considered the Corker letter as a betrayal and an act of bad faith. In short, we believed that those who signed the letter had succumbed to Saudi pressure and thrown us under the bus.
In part, the Corker letter said: We have a great deal of compassion for the families and respect their desire for justice. We understand your purpose in drafting this legislation is to remove obstacles so those who commit or support terrorist acts in the United States face the full range of consequences of the U.S. legal system. However, concerns have been raised regarding potential unintended consequences that may result from this legislation for the national security and foreign policy of the United States. We would hope to work with you in a constructive manner to appropriately mitigate those unintended consequences.
Yet, when it comes to Khashoggi, Corker no longer seems to worry about any unintended consequences. Rather, he is seeking very significant and fully-intended consequences. Corker has this to say:
“If it turns out to be what we all think it is today but don’t know, but what we all think it is today, there will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels.”
He also said,
“It points to the idea that whatever has happened to him, the Saudis—I mean, they’ve got some explaining to do.” Corker warned that a congressional response to the alleged killing would be “tangible,” adding:
“Our relations with Saudi Arabia, at least from the Senate standpoint, are the lowest ever. It’s never been this low.”
Unsurprisingly, Corker is not alone in his Road to Damascus conversion. Interestingly, nine of the very same Senators who wanted to “tweak” JASTA along with Senator Corker, due to their concerns about the “unintended consequences” of the 9/11 Families holding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable, now seem to have no problem demanding an investigation and swift accountability for Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder.
In part the Corker Khoshoggi letter states:
“The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, which includes:
“torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.”
“Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi. Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.
“Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the president, upon receipt of a letter from the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, must make a determination and is authorized to impose sanctions with respect to a foreign person responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights violations against individuals who seek to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote human rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression.”
Once again, we have a group of people doing a complete Road to Damascus conversion. These same nine Senators weren’t interested in providing Saudi accountability to the 9/11 Families, yet now, they are demanding it for Jamal Khashoggi.
Moreover, for years, many of these Senators didn’t seem to care too much about the human rights of the Yemeni citizens getting slaughtered by U.S. bombs and ammunitions. They all seemed ok with signing off on lucrative arms packages-even in the face of report after report after report of human rights atrocities taking place in Yemen and Syria at the hands of the Saudis. The nine Senators who signed both the Khashoggi letter and the JASTA “Unintended Consequences” letter are: Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Ben Cardin, Jeff Flake, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkely, Mark Udall, and Jim Risch.
Which begs the obvious question: Who was Jamal Khashoggi and why has his disappearance and alleged murder triggered this unprecedented, and out of character response from so many in Washington DC?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question makes the many statements and support currently being given by so many in Washington even more incomprehensible. Because Jamal Khashoggi was no Mother Theresa.
First, let me be crystal clear, Jamal Khashoggi was not merely a journalist working for the Washington Post.
Additionally, Jamal Khashoggi was not just an outspoken critic of current Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Simple research reveals a much more colorful background of Jamal Khashoggi.
To start, a person should read the Chicago Tribune article from 2004 that talks about Jamal Khashoggi being recruited by Adel Batterjee in the 1980’s to get the “scoop of a lifetime.” That assignment was to go with Batterjee to Afghanistan and hang-out with the CIA/Saudi mujahideen fighting against the Soviets. The article is long and very well-researched. I highly suggest you take the time to read it because it details very clearly and specifically why and how Jamal Khashoggi knew so much about al Qaeda, the CIA, the Saudis, and much of the financing, funding, and organizing of Bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Next, I would encourage you to read some of Jamal Khashoggi’s opinion pieces from the Daily Star. Notably, do not read the ones cherry-picked by David Ignatius. Read some of the others that include some fairly fiery words from Khashoggi: here, and here, and here, and here, here, and here.
Also, please note that in one of the leading books written about the 9/11 attacks, Lawrence Wright’s, “The Looming Tower,” Jamal Khashoggi is portrayed by Wright as a “friend” of Bin Laden. Khashoggi is not a “journalist” who reports on bin Laden. Rather he is described as Osama Bin Laden’s friend. And the Bin Laden/Khashoggi friendship apparently spans more than a decade—from Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to the Sudan.
In addition, also note that Jamal Khashoggi was closely connected to Prince Turki al Faisal. Prince Turki was the head of Saudi intelligence for more than 20 years. Interestingly, he resigned from his post 10 days before 9/11. Probably more interestingly, Turki is the man who allegedly brokered the deal with Bin Laden back in 1998 where, in exchange for money and support, Bin Laden would not attack the Saudi Royal Family. Some believe that this agreement paved the way for the 9/11 attacks and various intelligence agencies around the globe “looking the other way” or “turning a blind eye” to al Qaeda’s actions in the lead up to 9/11.
Notably, Prince Turki al Faisal was also one of the first named defendants in the 9/11 Families’ litigation. He was dismissed from the case years ago due to grounds of sovereign immunity.
Moreover, Jamal Khashoggi was also closely connected to Prince Alaweed bin Talal who was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel last year by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, reporting also links Talal to the 9/11 attacks.
Finally, there is Khashoggi’s family connection to Adnan Khashoggi, the notorious Saudi arm’s dealer at the center of the CIA’s Iran-Contra fiasco back in the 80’s.
Just because Jamal Khashoggi was around during the original days of al Qaeda’s creation, knew how all the Islamic charities were set up and how al Qaeda funds moved around the world, was a friend of Bin Laden’s for at least two decades, was very connected to Saudi intelligence and quite possibly, (like his Uncle Adnan) worked with the CIA, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jamal Khashoggi was a bad actor.
But, I’m someone who believes that you judge a man’s character by the company he keeps which is why I find the current uproar over what happened to Jamal so curious.
One last fact to mention: the timing of Khashoggi’s disappearance when taken in connection with the 9/11 Families’ litigation. Last Friday, something very notable happened in the 9/11 litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For the first time ever, the Department of Justice stood on the side of the 9/11 Families and publicly committed to finally releasing three large tranches of formerly secret documents that we believe connect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks. This is the biggest development we have had in our over 16 years of litigation.
In a time when news lasts about as long as a minute, why has the story of Jamal Khashoggi dominated headlines for more than a week? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever questioned by the FBI at any time before or after the 9/11 attacks? If not, why not? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever employed by the CIA? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever deemed an asset of the CIA? When did Jamal’s employment for Saudi intelligence come to an end? Was Jamal Khashoggi a joint asset between the GIA and the CIA? Did Jamal Khashoggi ever have any contact with the 9/11 hijackers or anyone in the support network of the 9/11 hijackers inside the United States? And, why did it take 15 Saudi assassins to kill Jamal Khashoggi? Doesn’t that seem a bit like overkill? And, is it just a coincidence that there were 15 Saudi hijackers on 9/11? Why would Jamal Khashoggi willingly go to the Saudi Consulate in Turkey—especially given his alleged sour relationship with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman? What would inspire him to go there? And what was the entreaty MBS allegedly made to Jamal more than one month ago about anyways? Was it made in earnest? What was Jamal Khashoggi really doing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul?
In many ways, Jamal’s behavior reminds me of former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger when he got caught stealing and destroying top secret national security documents from the National Archives so many years ago. None of it makes any sense.
As someone who has fought for nearly 20 years to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks, l applaud this newly found “mission of many” to hold the Saudis accountable—even if it is inspired by the disappearance, alleged murder and dismemberment of a man like Jamal Khashoggi.
Better late than never.
Kristen Breitweiser, one of the four 9/11 widows – known as the “Jersey Girls” – instrumental in forcing the government to form the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 2001 attacks.Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kdbreitweiser.