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The Khashoggi murder mystery: Erdogan as Lieutenant Columbo

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07.11.2018

In the long and distinguished history of great literary and cinematic sleuths, the character of Lieutenant Columbo, the fictional homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department in the American television series named eponymously after him, stands out in sharp contrast to his two other chief European colleagues: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

Created by Richard Levinson and William Link, and most memorably portrayed by the late Peter Falk, Lieutenant Columbo featured a uniquely American contrast to his British and Belgian counterparts. In the case of Sherlock Holmes, we have no suspect until our favourite sleuth meticulously pieces together the scattered evidence pointing to the perpetrator of the crime. In the case of Hercule Poirot, as perhaps best evident in the case of Murder on the Orient Express (1934), we have too many suspects until the genius detective gathers enough evidence to charge one or more of them with the crime. In the case of Lieutenant Columbo, in contrast, he and we the audience know exactly who has committed the murder at the very onset, and the whole fun of the story is to see how the beguilingly absentminded and shabbily dressed detective actually pieces together the evidence to trap the murderer and lead him to confess.

As much else that is happening in our world today, the enormity of the moral catastrophes we face on a daily and routine basis has forced our narrative out of any normative kilter. We can no longer talk or think about political events in purely factual terms. The creative and literary worlds are now more than ever needed if we are to make sense of the actual world we live. On this column, I have had previous occasions in which I was led to resort to cartoon characters to understand the current calamities befallen the United States and by extension the world at large.

The same is true with the case of the late Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist murdered by the Saudis in their Istanbul consulate. As it has unfolded so far, the depth of moral depravity evident in the Saudi butchering a simple voice of moderate dissent defies any normative language of analysis and understanding. Political assassinations are as old as politics itself. "Et tu, Brute? /Even you, Brutus?" is now the proverbial phrase after Roman dictator Julius Caesar uttered it addressing his friend Marcus Junius Brutus at the moment of his assassination in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

But in the case of Khashoggi the question is why this particular method of murderous savagery - cutting a person into pieces, reportedly cutting his head off and chopping off his fingers presumably as trophies to be sent to the person ordering the hit back........

© Al Jazeera