In Jean Anouilh original stage play Becket: The Honour of God, and ultimately his 1964 film – with Peter O’Toole as Norman, King Henery II and Richard Burton as Saxon, Archbishop Thomas O’ Becket – it describes how two young men; who as inseparable friends, in later life become enemies.
The secular versus the Catholic Church, Mr Fixit Thomas, has turned into The Church of Romes henchman, by aligning himself with the Pope against Henry, and against his disagreements with Rome. Surely an analogy with present Saudi royalty; in Anouilh’s script, Henry – who still harbours great affection for his onetime cohort and drinking companion, Thomas – says in desperation: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
More a rhetorical question than an order, it is enough to encourage some dimwitted Norman Barons to go to Canterbury Catedral, where they butcher Archbishop Thomas. Full of regret, and in the final scene Henry has himself flogged by Saxon monks, in retribution for causing the death of his friend.
Hardly a flogging matter in Saudi Arabia, and to misquote William Shakespeare, one wonders whether ‘heads will now roll,” as these two historical incidents seem to coalesce, despite the passage of time.
I cannot understand why these incompetent assassins went to all the trouble they did to kill Jamal Khashoggi in this brutal way, when a swift stab wound with a stiletto in a car park or a muffled pistol shot, would have been far more effective; unless of course, they were acting under direct orders. But, under the direct orders of whom; an idiot?
Other than a general comment about Saudi freedom of speech, women’s rights, the ownership of property and assets, the marriage and divorce laws, and who gets the kids – most of which is sacred and established in our modern western society – it is hard to say why Khashoggi offended the Saudi state so much. Many western journalists are also concerned by certain inequalities in Saudi Arabia, a country where little value is put on servants and indentured workers – many who are treated like slaves – but we western journalists don’t seem to get bumped off.
All bad? Yes, but it is not news to anyone who has taken an iota of interest in the Middle East, or since reading TE Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom at school. I expect that the reason for this bloody murder was more tribal than anything else, and getting back to Laurence, it was probably an infringement of some obscure Arab moral code.
In the foreseeable future, and established by Arab custom, there will be a fairly unjust court case, where the minor players will be harshly punished. The major instigators will be severely admonished, whilst forced to pay huge amounts in blood money to the Khashoggi’s family – who in turn will profit greatly from Jamal’s death – and without a hint of sorrow or regret, it will all have been wrapped up neatly and forgotten about!