BREAKING NEWS 7 people dead in overnight shooting in Morgan County Full Story

Cooper: Trump eager to back Saudi denials

CNN's Anderson Cooper discusses President Donald Trump's suggestion that "rogue killers" could be behind the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after a phone call with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about the case.

Posted: Oct 16, 2018 4:25 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2018 4:30 PM

"It doesn't matter. We won."

These were the words of President Trump earlier this week, on an entirely different topic to the likely abduction and killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But they set the tone for this year's spate of attempted assassinations or failed abductions -- and, possibly, a new era of impunity.

Be it on a door handle in Salisbury, England, or inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the degree to which these gruesome and unprecedented possible crimes are bungled or purposefully clumsy has become less relevant. The essential message is the same: We don't really care if we get caught.

In Salisbury, you can buy one of two narratives: that Russia's GRU is devastatingly naïve, arrogant and unaware of the ubiquitous amount of CCTV in Britain. Or of how much the West knows of its rare and complex nerve agents like Novichok. Or of how relatively easy it is for experienced-yet-amateur sleuths to find GRU agents through their open-source medal pages.

Or, instead, you see the clumsiness as the message. Whether their attack actually murdered former Russian agent Sergei Skripal or not, it doesn't matter. They won. Russia managed to get a weapons-grade nerve agent into the UK, deploy it and have its agents leave. Russia has denied trying to kill Mr Skripal and his daughter.

The consequences: some more diplomatic expulsions, some more financial sanctions. It was an extraordinary display of one resurgent power's callous reach and outsized boldness.

After invading Ukraine (twice), changing the course of the war in Syria and tampering with the US elections in 2016, Moscow has a head of steam on it.

If you recall how former KGB agent Vladimir Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, it's not a wild leap to conclude the isolation of sanctions and castigation of Russia by the West are not cost, but benefit.

It enhances the "them and us" feel the Kremlin feeds with its state media. And the West now knows Russia just gets out of bed and then does what it feels like, unrestrained.

The field trip of Russian "tourists" to The Hague, who Dutch intelligence convincingly proved were GRU officers seeking to hack the chemical weapons inspectors the OPCW, is another brazen extension of that.

They walked through Schipol airport with Russian diplomatic passports, bought a huge battery to power their hacking devices and even carried taxi receipts from their GRU headquarters with them.

The KGB was once a formidable enemy to the West. These guys can't even be bothered to empty their pockets.

The broad conclusion remains that Moscow simply wasn't that fussed if it was all traced back to them. It might have simply said: "Look at what we will do, and what you don't do back to us."

So it might be yet more naïve still to think that a key Middle Eastern ally of the United States would feel particularly restrained right now, were it to decide to remove a troublesome journalist from its orbit.

Riyadh has jailed female activists who supported women driving, perversely just as it let women drive. It has used US-made weaponry and targeting to bomb civilians in Yemen repeatedly, and by its own accounts, mostly accidentally.

It has kidnapped and detained the prime minister of another country. So weigh up for yourself the decision process that perhaps surrounded the reported killing of Khashoggi.

President Trump calls the media the "enemy of the people," providing actual physical human targets for his supporters as he weaponizes information.

President Erdogan of Turkey -- whose jails contain, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the global record per capita of journalists -- said six days after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate, that another journalist -- whose reports on Turkey allegedly arming Syrian Islamists he did not like -- would "pay a high price."

In this climate, if you consider Mohammed Bin Salman responsible, you can you see why, at the peak of his expanding powers and flushed with the Napoleonic confidence of his early 30s, he might think that Khashoggi's disappearance one Tuesday would not register. The tactics themselves show scant regard for deniability.

Fifteen Saudis, suspected to be officials, are dispatched on private planes. They come and go right around the disappearance of Khashoggi and are tracked in blatantly menacing black vans coming and going to the consulate.

This is the polar opposite of deniability. Separate commercial flights, European fake passports, baseball caps to hide from CCTV, and an assassination made to look like a heart attack in a hotel room bought Israel slightly more deniability in 2010 when it allegedly killed a Hamas leader. And they were still caught. Eight years later, Riyadh seems also to have got out of bed and just done it.

We have now had the distasteful scene of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heading to Riyadh to hear its explanation, as leaks hint the Saudis may be edging toward saying this was an abduction gone wrong.

If this does become Riyadh's new line -- a stark reversal of the flat denial issued by the Saudi King to President Trump hours earlier -- we should not kid ourselves it is an "explanation." It amounts to a confession. You don't need 15 Saudis -- reportedly including a chief forensic scientist -- to question and extradite someone.

The most generous explanation based on the evidence is that the Saudis likely intended to cause Khashoggi considerable harm, and entertained a rugby team's worth of suspected security officials might end up killing him.

Yet, so far, the reaction has been outrage from the media and from corporate America, whose share price has no immunity when these apparent acts of impunity are called out.

Davos in the Desert may be deserted, indeed. Yet while President Trump has pledged "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia is deemed behind this, he was among the first to float the "rogue killers" excuse that is gaining currency.

Washington, for decades addicted to the stream of petrodollars that Saudi pumps into its body politic, is keenly looking for a neat ribbon with which they can tie this up, and drop it in the ocean.

The lesson Trump is teaching globally is not that America is respected again, but that it will only act -- perhaps -- if it's own citizens are threatened, its own direct interests harmed. It no longer claims global leadership by example or action.

That vacuum is being filled by acts of reckless impunity, as aspirant powers seek to define their new place in the shifting order. Caught at it? Lied about it? Bungled it? Condemned for it?

"It doesn't matter. We won."

Huntsville
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
Florence
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 84°
Fayetteville
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2321118
Jefferson1901104
Montgomery185843
Tuscaloosa83616
Marshall7089
Franklin5858
Lee56234
Shelby52819
Tallapoosa43466
Butler42118
Walker3862
Elmore3749
Chambers36026
Madison3534
Unassigned3062
Morgan3021
Baldwin2939
Dallas2923
Lowndes26512
Etowah26312
DeKalb2573
Autauga2415
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2176
Pike2120
Colbert1902
Hale1859
Russell1810
Barbour1771
Marengo1756
Lauderdale1722
Calhoun1673
Wilcox1577
Choctaw15310
Cullman1521
Clarke1492
St. Clair1351
Randolph1287
Dale1240
Marion12411
Pickens1205
Talladega1195
Limestone1080
Chilton1071
Greene954
Macon934
Winston910
Jackson833
Covington821
Henry822
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington736
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe462
Geneva440
Perry430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 25190

Reported Deaths: 401
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby5546124
Davidson551666
Trousdale13944
Rutherford134328
Hamilton96419
Sumner93846
Lake8350
Bledsoe6101
Williamson58911
Putnam5246
Robertson5235
Tipton4613
Wilson4498
Knox4355
Out of TN4264
Bedford2974
Montgomery2863
Rhea2170
Hardeman2020
Madison1732
Bradley1661
Macon1663
Loudon1610
Unassigned1610
McMinn14614
Fayette1362
Cheatham1350
Dickson1200
Cumberland1202
Maury1071
Sevier972
Blount933
Coffee780
Washington750
Monroe713
Wayne640
Gibson631
Sullivan602
Lauderdale591
Hickman580
Dyer570
Franklin541
Greene522
Unicoi480
Obion453
Marion441
Hamblen422
Anderson422
DeKalb380
Smith361
Hawkins342
Marshall331
Lawrence330
Haywood332
White330
Cannon320
Overton320
Henry320
Grundy311
Lincoln290
Jefferson290
Carroll281
Meigs270
Warren260
Weakley260
Perry240
Hardin222
Cocke210
Sequatchie200
Johnson190
Polk190
Jackson190
Carter191
Campbell181
Morgan170
Crockett162
Roane160
Henderson150
Humphreys151
McNairy150
Grainger130
Giles130
Stewart130
Claiborne120
Scott120
Fentress120
Chester120
Clay80
Houston80
Benton71
Moore50
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events