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Mike Pompeo's response to the Jamal Khashoggi case sums up Donald Trump's entire approach to foreign policy

An American Secretary of State tells the world that he doesn’t want to talk about facts

Sean O'Grady
Thursday 18 October 2018 14:17 BST
Mike Pompeo on Khashoggi: 'I don’t want to talk about the facts'

Has it come to this, then?

An American Secretary of State tells the world that he doesn’t want to talk about facts. Instead, as Mike Pompeo informed reporters, when they asked him if the Saudis had confirmed whether Jamal Khashoggi was dead or alive, Pompeo replied: “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

Doesn’t inspire much hope does it? Sooner or later some Saudi goon or other is going to have to carry the can for “overdoing” it in an “interrogation” of this journalist. We already know this because Donald Trump has told us he reckons it was a “rogue” killing. Well, it depends on what you mean by “rogue”, I suppose. Most of us would reach for stronger language to describe torture followed by murder.

As with much else in America’s foreign policy, and indeed the whole of president Trump’s political style, we pass through the veil of reality and into a strange looking-glass world where facts are not what we think them to be. What was it that Humpty Dumpty tells Alice in Wonderland? Here is the prototype Trump, as created by Lewis Carroll in 1872: “'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master – that's all.'”

Indeed so. So when he wants to believe – and he wants the rest of us to believe – that Barack Obama wasn’t an American born on American soil he expends ridiculous amounts of money and energy attempting to prove that “fact”. When he says he enjoyed the biggest inauguration crowds ever, he expects us to believe that, “period”, to use the word of his hapless former press secretary, Sean Spicer (remember him? – a miniature Humpty Dumpty himself who eventually fell off his White House dais). When Trump tells us that the stock market boom is all down to him – but when it dips it has nothing to do with his policies? When the Mexicans are all criminals, and the Chinese all crooks, and the rest of the trading world just one gigantic conspiracy to dupe and defraud the American people? When Kim Jong-un is almost simultaneously a crazy little rocket man but also a strong leader to be respected and dealt with as an equal? (Which in one sense, if you think about it, he is).

When the giant Mexican wall is not only practical but cannot ever simply be tunnelled under or gone around? When the president scrawls on a draft of a foreign policy speech “TRADE IS BAD”? When every challenge facing America has the simplest of answers?

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America has got itself a Humpty Dumpty president, sat up there on his great big “beautiful” wall, chopping logic, twisting facts and butchering words on whim after whim – and all with that stupid Humpty-style broad, smug grin slapped across his face.

Imagine having a leader whose entire approach to foreign (and domestic) policy operates on the basis of smoke and looking glasses; on fake news rather than on facts; on sending the media down rabbit holes; stories rather than policies; on slogans not reality. Trump is a disappointment to those of us who just expected him to be a cynical, lying monster: He is not that smart, and a little cracked too. Richard Nixon, as someone said on social media the other day, must be spinning in his grave.

I think you may guess what I am going to wonder next. When will this annoying, volatile, childish Humpty Dumpty have a great fall?

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