“It is like Pulp Fiction,” a Turkish official said, according the the New York Times, about the story that Turkey is currently telling of the presumed death of the Saudi insider-journalist-turned-dissident-turned-missing-person Jamal Khashoggi. Is it? It does involve disposing of a body, but the narrative has echoes of something else, another genre entirely.
The story is that, on the morning of the day Khashoggi was scheduled to pick up some paperwork at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a team of 15 Saudis flew out of Riyadh, bringing a bone saw, aboard a pair of chartered Gulfstream IV jets. Nine members arrived in Istanbul in the morning; the other six in the afternoon. By the end of the day, Khashoggi had walked into the consulate and, according to Turkish intelligence, been killed and dismembered and removed in pieces, and the Gulfstreams had flown back to Riyadh, one via Dubai and the other Cairo.
This isn’t Quentin Tarantino: It’s Thomas Friedman. It’s not just that the Times columnist, as a friend of Khashoggi and a promoter of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is caught on both sides of the incident. The whole thing, the kill team popping in and out of Turkey to disappear a political opponent, is like a Friedman column about how compact and connected and efficient the world has become. A blood-soaked autocracy doesn’t have to end at a nation’s borders anymore; tyranny can operate as a modular entity with same-day service. One way or another, Mohammed bin Salman may prove to be Friedman’s kind of visionary.