'Last Week Tonight' took a deep dive on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
The United States government’s friendship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stretches all the way back to 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Abdulaziz to hash out the details of an alliance that endures to this day. As John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight, however, that alliance has been sorely tested by the recent disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is alleged to have been murdered and dismembered by Saudi operatives after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Oliver explained that the American-Saudi alliance has grown stronger in recent years thanks to President Donald Trump and Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latter man is the country’s new crown prince, who recently embarked on a publicity tour of America to tout his proposed reforms for his country, including allowing women to drive and opening movie theaters for the first time. MBS (as he’s called) met with several famous business leaders, appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine, and even struck up a partnership with WWE.
“MBS’ PR push isn’t just toward attracting businesses, it’s also toward changing the world’s perspective on Saudi Arabia. To that end, he struck a 10-year deal with one of the most American franchises there is, World Wrestling Entertainment,” Oliver said. “They held their first of many events there back in April, and audiences around the world were treated to wall-to-wall propaganda about the new Saudi Arabia, including videos of women happily driving, men dancing, and tourist destination beauty spots, as well as constant excited comments throughout the broadcast. It seems the WWE is as pro-Saudi Arabia as it is latently homoerotic, which is to say, intensely.”
However, as Oliver pointed out, Salman’s much-touted reforms don’t quite pass the smell test. Weeks before lifting the ban on women driving, Saudi forces arrested several women’s activists who had campaigned for that very reform. Shortly after hosting the Global Investment Initiative in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel, Salman turned it into a makeshift prison for hundreds of his political opponents. Then there’s the war in Yemen, where Salman’s years-long campaign to extinguish that country’s Houthi rebels (with American military support) has resulted in untold devastation. The conflict’s many civilian casualties were highlighted in August when the Saudi coalition blew up a school bus, killing dozens of Yemeni children, while the ongoing destruction of sanitation and infrastructure in the country has created the world’s worst cholera outbreak.
As Oliver mentioned, however, none of those things really have the potential to damage America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, due to President Trump’s unqualified support for the kingdom.
“Since taking office, he has catered to them at every single turn,” Oliver said. “He made Saudi Arabia the first foreign country he visited as president, and he seemed to have an absolutely great time there. Look, it really shouldn’t be that surprising to anybody that Trump has so enthusiastically embraced the Saudi royal family. They have the two qualities he admires most in the world: Having a lot of money, and giving it to him.”
Watch the full video above.