Buchaniec: Khashoggi case revisits American hypocrisy

Catherine Buchaniec, Columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

The United States places itself on a moral pedestal — a platform promoting equality and freedom, liberty and justice — and has for decades. From our own perspective, we are the apostles of democracy. But under the gaze of the rest of the globe, we are moral hypocrites.

Presidential administrations have promoted liberal democracy as the superior form of government, taking actions to globalize the beliefs they held so near and dear.

President Bill Clinton strived for the world to have democratic values through the National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement. President George W. Bush pledged to promote peace around the world and end tyranny, his words ultimately translating into years of unnecessary intervention in the Middle East.

For better or for worse, our government has told us we have a habit of getting involved in the name of doing good.

Yet, this involvement is inconsistent and not always done for the right reasons. We pick and choose our battles depending on what we get out of it. We perpetuate involvement when it suits America, not necessarily when it is the right thing to do.

Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family and a writer for the Washington Post, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. He was not seen again.

Despite the audio tapes and a report from the CIA, our own president refuses to accept that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the 33-year-old de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia — played a role in Khashoggi’s death. After a month of investigation and world discussion, action against Mohammed bin Salman has been deemed “premature” by President Trump.

Furthermore, our government’s response against Mohammed bin Salman has been weak at best. Saudi Arabia has shifted its narrative countless times, yet President Trump continues to accept whatever tale they decide to tell. Our economic and political investment in Saudi Arabia is being prioritized over acting with morality.

The U.S. cannot pick and choose when to speak up or when to take action. If we condemn crimes against humanity, we have to condemn all crimes against humanity. If we promote freedom, we need to promote freedom everywhere. Both our enemies and our allies warrant equal treatment.

Regardless of whether a country has rich oil reserves, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to humanity to treat it equally when it engages in human rights violations.

If Canada is demonized for economic trade, Saudi Arabia warrants critical rhetoric and radical action for murder. If we stand for justice, then Khashoggi deserves justice.

Wrong is wrong — crimes against humanity and crimes against innocent people do not allow for discretion.

As a country, we have a host of weapons at our disposal; not those of destruction and violence, but those of economic prestige and sanctions, those of verbal condemnation.

When a country — ally or foe — commits atrocities, the U.S. and the world at large need to speak up. When we hear or see them, we need to say something and, better yet, take determined, non-violent action to ensure that future harm will never be done.

If we continue to give Saudi Arabia weapons and to treat them like nothing happened — like they didn’t murder a U.S. resident and journalist — it only validates them to commit more unthinkable crimes. Doing nothing sends the message they can do whatever they please.

President Donald Trump might want to put “America first,” but we cannot forget the rest of the planet; we cannot just look out for ourselves. We are past an age where we can hide behind our own borders and policies. We live in a time when someone oceans away can be called in a second, a time when economies are depend on foreign trade. It is impossible to ignore the fact that we live not in the age of America, but in the age of Earth as a whole.

Promoting a moral code only when we get something out of it demonstrates a degree of unfathomable hypocrisy and self-interest: beliefs that violate the very code we are preaching. If we wish to be perceived as a moral country, we need to act with morality.

Catherine Buchaniec is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at catherinebuchaniec2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.