The grisly killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Turkey put pressure on US President Donald Trump to take firm action against an autocratic, oil-rich monarchy with an awful human rights record. Trump — who has personal business interests with Saudi Arabia — has spoken from both sides of his mouth in trying to assuage an outraged US Congress and public opinion, as he waits to resume business as usual once global attention had turned away from this savage atrocity. The history of three previous cases — China, Nigeria, and Egypt — suggests that Trump may well succeed in this cynical strategy. The first case of Uncle Sam failing to live up to its often hypocritically declared principles was when Chinese troops were sent into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, and massacred a reported 2,700 protesters — mostly students, workers, and professionals — who had been peacefully protesting for democratic reforms. Thereafter dissidents were jailed; control increased ov...

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