Category Archives: Politics: International

Clarity

Really the Kevin Drum post, Saudis: Khashoggi Committed Suicide By Cop, Sort Of is so much easier to follow than the NYT version. Drum summarizes it like this:

The Saudis now say that they intended to negotiate a return to Saudi Arabia with Khashoggi, so they sent a 15-man team to meet him at the consulate. Fifteen men! Unfortunately, a fistfight broke out during the negotiations and one of the negotiators accidentally killed Khashoggi.

It seems odd that a 60-year-old man would pick a fight with 15 guys, doesn’t it? But that’s what happened. At that point, the Saudi team apparently went rogue and decided they had to cover up what happened. Luckily, they had come equipped with a bone saw and a forensic pathologist, so they were able to dismember the body and dispose of it. However, everyone on this rogue team has been arrested now, so the case is closed.

I’m pretty sure that a six-year-old could come up with a better story if he had two weeks to work on it.

Contrast the NYT:

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UK Finally Starts to Prepare for Brexit

Well, not really, but that was my first thought on seeing this headline:

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Another Modern Horror

From Robert Paul Wolff, a link to a new modern horror: what Prof. Wolff and his sources call a Chechnyan concentration camp for homosexuals.

My first thought was that perhaps the source was mistaken, but sadly snopes.com confirms the story, at least in its broad details, although it quotes an Amnesty International official as saying, “that it’s preferable, based on what we know, to refer to them as secret detention sites. ‘We should always be careful about using the language of ‘concentration camps.'”

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China?

Mexico Didn’t Pay For It

Brad DeLong writes, “I need to understand China. I do not understand China. How can I learn to understand China?”

They covered this at Yale. Jonathan Spence in his Introduction to Chinese History told us, when we got to the modern era, that there were three things we should never believe when we heard them: “1. ‘The check is in the mail.’ 2. ‘I’ll respect you in the morning'”…ok, it was the early 80s, … “and 3. ‘I understand what is happening in China.'”

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Vertebrate Paleontology

Congress gets a spine and nobody notices because it’s about Yemen.

Read this very interesting piece of Congressional vertebrate paleontology and thought, “Dan would like this; it’s the sort of thing he’d want for his rebooted White House Watch.”

But of course, it turns out that he wrote it.

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What Are they Hiding? (Turkish Edition)

Marcy Wheeler is very smart. And while she’s not giving to mincing words, she is also not a wild-eye conspiracist. So I sat up when I saw Meanwhile, Over In Turkey . . ., her blog post on Secretary of State Tillerson’s super-secret meeting with Turkish President Erdogan–the only other person in the room being the Turkish Prime Minister, who personally translated.

This is a huge breach of not just protocol, but standard and very sensible operating procedures at the US State Department (not that Tillerson cares).

Let’s go back to that no-staff-allowed element of the meeting once more. In general, it is in the interests of both parties to a conversation like that to have interpreters and notetakers present, so that in the public discussions that follow (like the one above), everyone agrees on the basic facts of what was said and you don’t getting into a “but you said . . .” and “no I didn’t” back-and-forth. For the meeting to exclude such staffers means that there is something else that overrides this interest.

In this case, the Turks had to have demanded that Tillerson not bring anyone with him to this meeting. There’s no way he would have told his staff “I got this – you take a break while I talk with Erdogan” on his own. The question is why, and all the possible answers I can come up after reading the Turkish Foreign Minister’s reply to that last question involve Vladimir Putin wanting Erdogan to pass on some kind of message to Trump — a message that he did not wish to be delivered within earshot of interpreters and notetakers.

It reminds me very much of that May 2017 Oval Office meeting that Trump had with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and outgoing Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. That was the meeting where we later learned that Trump revealed Israeli intelligence to the Russians about their source inside ISIS and told them that he just fired “that nut job” James Comey which took the pressure off of him because of Russia.

Oh, and the US press were kept out of that meeting as well, with the only reports of it coming after the Russians told us about it. As Politico’s Susan Glasser noted about that Oval Office meeting, it came at the specific request of Putin

But like we say in blogland, read the whole thing.

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