Archives for posts with tag: Saudi Arabia

The death of Jamal Khashoggi has lead to a lot of public outcry against Saudi Arabia, and yet the responses from a lot of world leaders has been pretty non-committal. They spout a lot of rhetoric about the horrifying nature of such a crime, but when it comes to a response of substance, they openly cite money as the reason they’re just plumb not going to do anything about it. This leads me to a question: how much does it cost to kill a journalist? Actually, scratch that. Saudi Arabia has been going after dissidents for a while, and there was that whole “anti-corruption” campaign wherein all political opponents to the Crown Prince were arrested and jailed. The behaviour is nothing new, but the target is, so let me rephrase that. How much does it cost to kill a journalist for an American Newspaper who also happens to be a US resident?

The price tag for US President Donald Trump is currently $450 billion, but it could even be as low as $110 billion because Trump speaks whatever happens to be on his mind, be it a lie, an untruth, and, maybe through the law of averages, the occasional half-truth, so who knows what the actual cost of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia is? Given Trump’s personal enjoyment of harm being committed against journalists, one can certainly speculate that even if no money was on the table, Trump would be hesitating to condemn their brutal murder.

Trump not giving a shit about brutal dictators committing heinous acts is not news. However, Trump is not alone on the world stage as he is on so many other occasions. Our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is unlikely to cancel a $15 billion arms contract, citing a $1 billion cancellation fee. We might put the arms deal on hold, pending the conclusion of the investigation being conducted jointly between Turkey and… Saudi Arabia? Oh good, at least we know it won’t be biased. Presumably it will be reinstated once this whole thing simmers down.

France‘s President Emmanuel Macron won’t even address halting arms sales, despite European pressure lead by Germany’s Angela Merkel. France sells about $12.6 billion worth of arms to the Sauds. The UK isn’t planning on giving up its £4.6 billion in arms sales either. Nor the Spanish government, who decided after all to sell Saudi Arabia a bunch of bombs, because if they didn’t, Saudi Arabia would not buy its warships, meaning Spain would lose €1.8 billion on top of the €9.2 million from the bomb deal.

Now I know what you’re thinking. We all need to sell Saudi Arabia military equipment, because if we didn’t, they wouldn’t be able involve themselves in Yemen’s civil war to create “undeniably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by far!” Or murder children! Or actively promote cholera outbreaks by bombing so many hospitals that those bombings even have their own Wikipedia page! We have a moral obligation to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia, and that’s why it’s such a difficult decision to abandon those deals! I know, I know. I know.

I know.

However, if we ignore our righteous indignation at those hundreds of thousands of ultimately irrelevant Yemeni children for two seconds and get back to the importance of one American resident, we’ll see that it costs at least a billion of your local currency to dismember a journalist from the Washington Post.

I truly believe that this is enough information for a bitingly sarcastic blog about arms dealing and Saudi Arabia, but I do have one more thing on my mind. When I first heard Donald Trump deny flat out that he would implement financial repercussions on the Saudi government because $110 billion is too much money to throw away on some paltry journalist’s death, it reminded me of the bank bailouts of 2008. “Too big to fail” was the soundbite at the time, claiming that too much of the American economy was invested in these literal criminal organizations to implement any real consequences.

Am I saying that Saudi Arabia has too much of a monopoly on arms sales and that our countries should spread our military equipment around more diversely to not be in the pocket of any particular corrupt tyrant? No. I think that in our current guns versus butter economic divide, the radical lopsidedness of our focus is becoming suicidal. What I’m saying is that if you have a system that demands infinite growth by companies that seek the largest market share, those who grow faster, or who started out big, will naturally consume their competition in their unending greed. In more Marxist terms, capitalism tends toward monopoly. Hence, the banks, the media conglomerates, the tech firms, etc.

Saudi Arabia does not have a monopoly on military equipment. We can always just turn to Israel to support their war crimes if we feel that same burning desire to cause humanitarian crises. My problem is that we live in a system where wealth equates to power, and we applaud this. We revel in it. My problem is wealth. Arms deals, war crimes, and the destruction of the economy are all intrinsically immoral, sure, but having the power to get away with it is the true crime. That power is wealth, and any outrage directed at the Saudi government must include within it the complicity of all our governments in perpetuating the power of wealth, and the system itself that allows and encourages its accumulation.

As someone on the left wing, communism tends to come up every now and then, often as more of an accusation than anything else. Now, people don’t generally understand what communism is, and whatever, but when people describe what they think it is, what they inevitably end up describing is the basic structure of a multinational corporation: a small, unelected group of elites holding tyrannical power over all those under their jurisdiction, dictating from on high the direction the collective will follow, and also everyone at the bottom is impoverished and starving.

starving-child-5

Communism: Because believing in propaganda is easier than reading books!

If the Soviet Union failed because Joe Comrade was starving rather than living in utopian abundance, then why isn’t Apple considered a failure when it has enduring criticisms of sweatshop labour conditions? Poisonous work environments and suicide epidemics? And of course, child labour, because why not? I mean sure, Apple has made a few people very, very rich to the point where movies get made about them, and now we have a whole new kind of addiction that drug addicts of the past could never even conceive of, which, I guess, kudos for changing the world, but if Stalin invented the iPhone instead of Steve Jobs, would that really change our opinion of the USSR as a country? I mean, for the sake of argument, if a company that had fruit in its name were to indirectly hire a mercenary army to overthrow a democratic government, we’d rage with equal fury to Russian interference in an election, right?

Consider Saudi Arabia. What you might not know about the Saudi kingdom is that it is technically a “socialist” state, similar to the “socialism” of the Soviet Union… Not, you know, real socialism, but the fake propaganda socialism we’ve been talking about that is interchangeable with communism. The Saudi state owns the oil production within Saudi Arabia. And wouldn’t you know it, people go nuts for that shit. People love oil, maybe even more than their iPhones. And much like the Soviet Union, the human rights record in Saudi Arabia isn’t all that great either. And, for added serendipity, it recently endured what could quite easily be compared to a Stalinistic purge. Comparisons for days!

The Saud family is hella rich. Richer than Steve Jobs. Does that mean that we have finally found that successful communist state that those on the Right routinely demand of their progressive interlocutors? I suppose that depends on a long series of ever-changing definitions. Unfortunately, nobody ever calls Saudi Arabia communist, mostly because that would lead to conflicting propagandas.

mohammad-bin-salman

MbS: The revolutionary new face of the definitely-not-communist Wahhabi regime

The differences between a privately-owned company and a privately-owned country are slim. The only objective measure of success seems to be economic (Apple would never change its working conditions if it thought it wouldn’t lose any money from the blowback; I mean, they’re still doing it, and still making money, so). Subjectively, all you have to do is play ball with the Western powers, and people will literally define words differently to suit you.

What made the Soviet Union a failure was that the people were oppressed by a tyrannical government. The solution, according to even the propaganda, is having the people direct their own future by collectively agreeing which direction they wish to go: you know, democracy. Well, the same applies to any company: the workers should direct their own future and collectively agree which direction they wish to go: you know, socialism (not communism… it’s different. Learn what words mean).