One of my biggest problems with Donald Trump is that the leader of the free world is supposed to set an example for the rest of the world to follow and be a champion of freedom. That includes freedom of the press because even as a president may fight with journalist, he is still supposed to value the importance a free press brings to democracy. You can NOT have a free country without a free press. This is a fact.
Instead of championing freedom, Donald Trump attacked our democratic allies over the price of cheese, how much they contributed to NATO, questioned if we needed NATO, and insulted the leader of Denmark for not selling us Greenland. He sucked up to leaders who were strongmen and suppressors of freedom in Turkey, the Philippines, China, North Korea, and Russia. He took Russia’s president’s words over that of our intelligence agencies. He defended and pushed aside the murders committed by the regimes of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman.
When confronted with the fact that Putin has had journalists murdered, Trump said, “So what. Do you think we’re so nice?” We don’t throw journalists off buildings in our nation. When asked about his buddy Kim Jong Un’s murder of Otto Warmbier, an American college student, Trump said, “He feels really bad about it.”
After Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, living in the United States and under the protection of our country, was murdered in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, Donald Trump defended the murderers. Khashoggi was lured to the embassy and then killed with a hacksaw, in that they chopped his body up into multiple pieces.
Make no mistake about it. One reason Saudi Arabia did this to a journalist and an American resident is because they knew if caught, that the President of the United States (sic) wouldn’t do anything about it.
U.S. intelligence said it was “highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.” But Trump made suggestions that Khashoggi was aligned with terrorists, as if he had it coming. He questioned U.S intelligence and said, “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
That translates to: Our relationship is with Saudi Arabia, not with freedom and not with the truth. If Donald Trump could have chopped up journalists in our country, he would have.
President Joe Biden promised us we’d get the truth. He has delivered on that. When it comes to defending freedom in this manner, he has not. Yesterday, President Joe Biden became a disappointment.
I voted for Biden. And in doing so, I knew there would be issues where I would disagree with him. I knew there would be issues where I would have to draw a cartoon taking him to task, even if it upsets some of my readers…or all of them.
But, as I’ve said before, I am not like one of those MAGAt Trump-worshipping cartoonists. I am not in a cult to Joe Biden. I do not bow down before a golden statue of him like they’re literally doing at CPAC this weekend. I don’t worship Joe Biden and forget all the principles I used to claim I cared about. I am happy Joe Biden is president over Donald Trump, but I am not Joe Biden’s friend. I do not work for the Biden administration. Just because I champion many of the same issues you do, don’t make the mistake I am on your team.
My friend and fellow cartoonist Ted Rall made some bizarre post several weeks ago about how he’ll be the only liberal who will take Biden to task, which is just flat-out wrong. I can think of several cartoonists who will do that, and especially over something like this. Also Ted works for Sputnik, which is owned by Russia. Ted works for Vladimir Putin, so there’s that.
Like I said, I’m not like those MAGAt guys, where they will criticize a politician on an issue but ignore when their side does it. How many conservative cartoonists who ignored or defended Trump’s position with the murder of Khashoggi will now turn around and criticize Biden for it? All of them.
The Biden administration released the CIA report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And it reported what we already knew. The killing was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, a monarchy and dictatorship.
The conclusion was based, the report said, on the crown prince’s absolute control of decision-making, the involvement in the operation of a top adviser and seven members of his personal protective detail, and his “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad.”
In an opinion piece, The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributing columnist while living as U.S. resident, calls bin Salman a murderer and that Biden should not give him a “pass.”
The Post points out that while we do need stability in the region, in the oil market, and a strong deterrent to Iran, we can’t allow bin Salman to just skip away from responsibility.
While MBS will not have a direct link to the White House through secret backchannels and apps that delete conversations (thanks, Jared), or photo-op visits in the Oval Office, he’s still going to have contact with top American diplomats. Just a few days ago, he had a phone call with our new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin.
While Biden has stopped sales of arms for Saudi’s war with Yemen, which Trump refused to cease even after Congress told him to, Biden will continue to sell other arms to the kingdom for “defense.”
There will be no freeze of bin Salman’s personal assets in the United States. There will be no travel ban against him. There will be no expelling, even temporary, of the Saudi ambassador. There will be no calls for a new successor to the king of Saudi Arabia, which I should remind you, is not a democracy. Any sanctions against the nation will be minimal.
While MBS has opened up some freedoms in the nation, has released high-profile prisoners to appease Biden along with ending the blockade of Qatar, an American ally, his regime has still brutally oppressed freedom in that nation. In Saudi Arabia, you can be imprisoned for life for being gay…or receive the death sentence. How many other nations do we sell missiles to that murder people for being gay?
Saudi Arabia has the same policies on the press and LGBT as Iran.
While MBS may not chop up journalists under the protection of the United States in the immediate future, Biden’s actions doesn’t pressure them to stop murdering other journalists.
An American president should not only defend freedom in the United States. He should defend freedom worldwide. He should demand that Saudi Arabia cease all punishment of journalists. Last year, 50 journalists died throughout the world. Even our ally, Turkey, throws journalists in prison.
We have improved from having a president (sic) who called journalists the “enemy of the American people” and demanded we get rid of laws that protect a free press…you know, like the Constitution. But, just being better than Donald Trump isn’t good enough. We should demand better because we deserve better. Joe Biden was the answer to getting rid of Donald Trump. Now that we have done that, can we all move on?
When I criticized Andrew Cuomo, I did not put myself in that position. Andrew Cuomo put me there. In this case, Joe Biden has placed me in this position to go after his administration on this failed, anti-democratic, and anti-free press policy.
Trump’s position was, “Our relationship is with Saudi Arabia, not with freedom and not with the truth.” Biden’s is, “Our relationship is with Saudi Arabia, the truth, and maybe some of the freedom. Eh. Here and there.”
President Joe Biden, defend a free press. Don’t coddle the murderers of journalists.
Remember Jamal Khashoggi.
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