Point-blank: Political memoirs

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 31 Jan 2023


Memoirs are often used as weapons for political ends. The latest example of this is Mike Pompeo’s Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love. This tell-all about the time he served as secretary of state under former US president Donald Trump appeared just last week, causing a media storm with its revelations. Ironically, it has not endeared itself to the mainstream media, which had lashed out against Pompeo for embracing Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman soon after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Pompeo gets his own back in his memoirs. He writes that the media had created a misleading picture of Khashoggi. Contrary to the image built up in the Western press, Khashoggi was far from a John Woodward, the investigative journalist who exposed the Watergate scandal under president Richard Nixon. He was a political activist who, moreover, was “cosy” with the terrorist-supporting Muslim Brotherhood organisation. Pompeo stressed that Khashoggi did not deserve to die, “but we need to be clear about who he was — and too many in the media were not.” 

This is the first time we find a major critique in the West of the generally accepted narrative on Khashoggi, whose murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018 riveted the attention of the American press which has since used that incident as a means to attack the Saudi regime and the crown prince, in particular. But that critique elicited angry reactions. 

Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, said it was “shocking and disappointing” that Pompeo had “so outrageously misrepresented” Khashoggi and that it was “shameful” that he would spread such “vile falsehoods to dishonour a courageous man’s life and service and his commitment to principles Americans hold dear as a ploy to sell books.” Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, was reported as saying that regardless of what Pompeo wrote about her husband, he never knew him. “He should be silent and shut up the lies about my husband.” 

The timing of the publication of Pompeo’s memoirs is noteworthy. The former secretary of state  has announced plans to run for president in 2024. He said that Trump’s second bid for that office would not stop him. Pompeo, in his memoir, also delivered a broadside against Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the UN, who has signalled her intent to run for president. He wrote that Haley had plotted with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump to be named vice-president instead of Mike Pence. Haley called the allegation “lies and gossip to sell a book.” 

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