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Is our partnership with Saudi Arabia worth the butchery and starvation created by the Saudis in Yemen and elsewhere? Are human rights and lives less important than cheap oil? Do we need Saudi petroleum when we ourselves are exporting petroleum and natural gas? Do we have to sell $100 billion in armaments to a nation that uses beheadings, amputations and stonings to punish criminals? Would we be better off investing in renewable energy in Iowa? Would we be better off requiring better energy efficiency in our automobiles and trucks?

I lived in the Yemen Arab Republic four years, leaving in 1985. My family has been thinking a lot about Yemen. Its wealthy neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, continue to bomb schools, hospitals, wedding parties, villages and towns in Yemen. The blockade of Hodeidah (the main port for food deliveries) and destruction of the main airport continue. Eight million Yemeni are in famine conditions and another six million will be so in a few weeks. People are dying from bombs we sell to the Saudis; food production is nearly wiped out; food relief cannot be delivered. Our Republican president, secretary of state and congressional leadership have so far blocked efforts to censure Saudi bombing.

And then we had the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It is clear at least one Saudi government employee, the autopsy/bone-saw expert, was involved. Reports strongly suggest the 15 men who arrived on two private jets seized Khashoggi when he entered the Saudi consulate, cut off his fingers (it would be the thing to do to a journalist you did not like), beheaded him and cut him into pieces, packed them into suitcases and left the consulate.

This kind of action is not out of the question or context for the government of Saudi Arabia. This year, by the end of April, 45 people had been beheaded by the government. In 2017, 150 people were executed, mostly beheaded. On Jan. 2, 2016, 47 people were executed, mostly beheaded. Since 2014, 660 people were reportedly beheaded (over 30 percent for drug trafficking).

Saad al-Bershi, the official executioner, said in a 2003 interview he was “very proud to do God’s work. ... It doesn’t matter to me, two, four, 10 as long as I am doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute.” It is possible, even probable, that the government of Saudi Arabia called for and organized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

We need to hold that government (commanded for all intents and purposes by Deputy Prime Minister Prince Mohamed bin Salem) to account for this act, as well as the killing of civilians through bombing and starvation in Yemen. We need to redefine our strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia. How can we better serve the interests of the USA? How does our Saudi Arabia partnership promote peace and justice in the Middle East?

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David Fredrick of Waverly is a retired diplomat and college employee.


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