The unfortunate disappearance, read murder, of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashogghi has been in the news for weeks as this is written. Do we really know what happened, beyond Khashogghi walking into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and never walking out alive?
The Saudi story changes, weekly. At first they claimed he left the embassy safe and sound. That story having collapsed, they floated the idea that a sharp disagreement went bad, and he was killed accidentally in the melee. That was also laughed at, as audiotapes apparently provided evidence of a deliberate takedown of a man who knew too much, or at least said too much.
So, new stories.
Well, yes, they were lying in wait for him, he was to be kidnapped back to Saudi Arabia for….what, exactly? And things got out of hand when embassy employees took unauthorized action. Employees now in deep trouble, even facing the death penalty, back in Riyadh, we are told.
It’s been a sad, international situation comedy really, with different dog-ate-my-homework stories coming along from Saudi officials at every turn, trashing any credibility the regime might have had.
Major newspapers have weighed in, around the world, with unending coverage, not just column inches, but column feet! But clear facts are few, beyond apparent pre-meditation: a team of assassins, to put it bluntly, flew in to Istanbul with the thought of tearing this nuisance to the Kingdom apart limb from limb, apparently literally.
But our Sherlock of corruption, conspiracy, and international intrigue finds a number of questions more interesting, and disturbing, than the grisly murder itself.
Why is the Turkish dictator Erdogan so intent on pressing the matter so publicly, backing the Saudi royal strong man Mohammed bin Salman into a corner? Usually, one totalitarian sees kinship in another and makes all sorts of trades with the Devil, but not here, for some reason.
What are the Turks even doing with an audio record of what happened in the Embassy Murder? Did they plant bugs, were they spying, and why are they so willing to give up that secret to embarrass the Saudis in front of the world?
What chain of communication led to the political hit? If the supposedly rogue perpetrators are tried and sentenced, will anyone think the process is more than Kangaroo Court in the Desert?
And finally a question from the realm of political and mass psychology.
Simply, why all the outrage, the biggest international political story of late 2018, over one slaughtered dissident? In Russia and elsewhere, nosy journalists (and disaffected officials) have been dying like flies, with the logical inference that Putin’s regime sends the word down to have them killed.
But hardly anything is said about Russian political murder.
That and the other questions offer rich mystery about corruption, and the brutal politics of secret spaces.