The most breathtaking four words spoken last week — as the horrific sum of gathering revelations confirmed mild-mannered journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey — must be Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir’s fatalistic: “These things unfortunately happen.” His extraordinarily ill-chosen words prompted ABC’s North America correspondent, Conor Duffy, to wonder: “When was the last time a journalist was murdered inside a foreign consulate by rogue staff?” To say such things “unfortunately happen”, Duffy added, “was the kind of flippant description you’d give to a minor car crash or storm damage”. Whatever Jubeir had meant to convey — that the killing was a mishap, that an otherwise unremarkable roughing-up of a dissident went too far, or that rogue elements subverted a routine diplomatic encounter for their own perverse ends — what they reveal most acutely is the cost of a political culture of profound unfreedom. Khashoggi’s death is a corollary. The protean shifts in Riyadh’s ...

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