We Didn’t Do It; It Didn’t Really Happen:
The Saudi Case for Innocence in the Jamal Khashoggi Murder,
As Shown by the Monthlong Investigation
by David Hartley Mark
(Scene: A small interrogation room belonging to the Saudi State Security Apparatus, located adjacent to the Royal Throne Room. Three Saudi operatives are looking worried as they watch a Turkish Police video of themselves, as well as Jamal Khashoggi, walking in and out of the Saudi Consulate in Ankara—that is, all walk out except Khashoggi.)
Op 1: Maybe we can say that he fell and hit his head on a desk.
Op 2: Yeah, that’s it: Jamal killed himself.
Op 3: When you pushed him, Ahmed.
Op 1: Me? Why did I push him? Maybe you pushed him, Abdul.
Op 3: Hell no. I was in the can.
Op 2: Calm down, you guys! MBS could be here any minute. We have to get the story straight.
Op 1: Straight like this, you mean? (Removes one of the Khashoggi’s fingers from his pocket. The other two crack up.)
Op 2: Stop it! Oh please, stop it, Ahmed. You’re killing me.
Op 1: Hey, it could happen. Watch yourself.
(Op 2 quietens. Op 1 puts the grisly souvenir back into his pocket.)
Op 3: Settle down. What do you hear from the Americans?
Op 1: I saw that Pompeo guy, grinning like a fool and talking to MBS. Bless our ruler and exalted sovereign! (The other two genuflect and nod vigorously.)
Op 2: MBS will think of something. Except—
Op 3: Except what?
Op 2: Well (whispering)—he’s not very bright. I mean, look at who he pals around with.
Op 1: You mean Jared and Trump?
Op 2: Yeah.
Op 3 (pointing at the security camera in the corner): Will you guys just shut up? We could end up like Jamal, you know? Are you looking to get us all killed?
Op 1: Yeah, Sultan, you’re right. Well—what’s our story?
Op 2: He fell.
Op 3: And hit his head. Yeah.
All Three: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that’s it.
(Enter General Ahmed al-Asiri, one of the main architects of the Saudi war in Yemen [The New Yorker]. He looks worried. The three Ops jump to their feet and salute.)
Asiri: At ease, soldiers (They stand down.). Well: what excuse did you come up with?
Op 1: Sir, General, Sir, we decided—
Op 2: That Khashoggi fell and hit his head on the desk.
Asiri: What, that excuse again? That’s what we said about the last three dissidents we killed.
Op 2: Oh—yeah. I forgot.
Asiri: Listen, Boys: this is what I thought of: Khashoggi got all upset, because the clerk told him it would take a month to process his divorce. He went crazy-like, and began to attack our Security Contingent.
Op 3: All fifteen of them, Sir? Will the US Congress believe that? Jamal was kind of chubby, Sir.
Asiri: Fifteen, twenty—who cares? Anyway, Khashoggi was killed during the struggle.
Op 1: What about the bone saw?
Asiri: Oh—um—well, he got his fingers caught in a desk drawer.
Op 2: Brilliant, Sir!
Asiri: Hey, I have a gift for this kind of thing. That’s how I got to be commander of the Yemen operation.
Op 3: And doing, an excellent job, too, Sir!
Asiri (looking thoughtful and distant): Yes. The war—um, pacification—in Yemen. Just imagine it! Thirteen million of those Yemeni cockroaches facing famine, and millions of children without food or water. And that cholera outbreak is helping things, nicely.
Op 1: And they owe it all to you, Sir.
Asiri: Yes, well, I don’t require flattery, though I do love it (The Ops all smile). Well. In case MBS comes in here—you know, he himself is heading the cover-up—I mean, the rationalization for the Americans—we have to get the story straight.
Op 1: We decided how Jamal died, but what happened to the body?
Op 2: You mean this? (Taking bone saw out of his pocket; some blood still remains on the blade)
Asiri: Oh, God. Will you put that damn thing away? I thought I told you to toss it into the Gulf.
Op 2: Sorry, Sir. I will take care of it. (Salutes, and begins heading for the door—which opens, to admit Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, the absolute dictator of Saudi Arabia.)
Asiri: Sir—your majesty! Ten-Hup!
(All three ops snap to attention, and salute.)
MBS: At ease, at ease, Gentlemen. Well: which one of you landed the first blow against the head of that miserable traitor?
(All three Ops raise their hands, and wave frantically.)
MBS: Good. It may save your going to a death—I mean, prison camp.
Op 1: Sir, your majesty, we have discussed and concluded how Traitor Khashoggi lost his fingers, as well as died.
MBS: Good. We only have twenty-nine days to prepare some sort of excuse—I mean, explanation—of Jamal’s death. I must not be implicated—is that clear, Dogs?
Op 2: Clear as crystal, Majesty. Anyway, we have decided that Jamal caught his fingers in a desk drawer—while falling—and his striking his head against the desk, caused his demise.
MBS: Fine—yes, I had concluded the same, myself. Only, what are we going to say about where the body is?
Asiri: Um—Sir—we hadn’t quite gotten that far.
MBS (sitting at the desk, and steepling his fingers): And when will this happen?
Op 2: Majesty, we will have the entire excuse—um, story—emailed to your secretary tomorrow!
MBS: And why not tonight?
Op 1: Um—um—Majesty, we are trained to assassinate, not rationalize.
(MBS takes a Glock pistol out from under his robes, and shoots Op 1 in the head. Op 1 falls without a sound. The others recoil in fear.)
MBS: I will say it one more time: why not tonight? And please, do not ask me to repeat myself.
Op 2: You will have it, Majesty! An entire report of the Incident, typed out, bound, and delivered to your desk in the palace.
MBS: Good. See that you do. (He sweeps out, grandly, followed by a smallish entourage—as many as could fit into the room.)
Asiri: (pointing to Op 1, body): Get that—that—thing out of here.
(Op 2 and Op 3 carry the corpse out. Asiri sighs.)
And now, if the World will forgive us, that is exactly what happened to Jamal! Only in pieces, I mean. It’s going to be a long night....