This is the face of the little-reported crackdown against protesters that is taking place in Bahrain, which comes after the Obama administration approved Saudi Arabia’s military action in the country to “restore order” for the ruling family. Beware, this is what the U.S. means when it calls for a country facing revolt to have a “national dialogue
Tanks currently patrol the streets and security forces torture anyone they think may have possibly been a protester during the time the nation teetered on revolution, an uprising that was inspired by the downfalls of the brutal US-backed regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. In these three countries – Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain – the Obama administration and its European allies insisted that a vaguely defined “national dialogue” take place in order to “resolve” the crises. Of course, in Egypt and Tunisia, the people themselves spoke through the struggles that brought their oppressive (US-funded) governments to their knees. In Bahrain, the Obama administration allowed (and remained quite about) Saudi Arabian military forces that swept into the country for the sake of “restoring order” (read: unquestioned government rule). In fact, not only did they allow this invasion to take place, but they actually traded it in exchange for Saudi Arabia’s backing of the Western military campaign in Libya.
And thus, a “national dialogue” in Bahrain was imposed. This is a dialogue in which anyone suspected of having sympathies for the uprising can be rounded up and never heard from again; doctors and nurses are abducted from hospitals on suspicion of healing and “arming” protesters; people are kidnapped in front of their families and taken away to be tortured; tanks and helicopters keep Shia villages on lock-down; and people are shot on the streets or in prisons simply on the whims of the security forces.
It’s scary to think that if this is the national dialogue the United States intended for Bahrain (where the strategically critical US Fifth Fleet is stationed), what would Obama and his European Allies have hoped to see “nationally discussed” in Egypt and Tunisia before their governments fell from sustained protests? One can only surmise that the West learned their lessons from Ben Ali and Mubarak’s fall and thought no one would pay attention to little (but crucial) Bahrain – especially not when a new war was being launched in Libya. It also stands to reason that the United States’ approval of the murderous crackdown in Bahrain in return for Saudi Arabia’s support of the Libya campaign is one key evidence that the West’s intentions in Libya have little to do with saving lives.
In fact, as Gary Younge pointed out in The Nation, the West’s complicity in the crackdown in Bahrain – which serves its interests – is nothing new or unusual, both historically and at this very moment. This is something we should not forget when the US and Europe call for anything from “national dialogue” to “humanitarian intervention”:
Amnesia and ignorance are the privileges of the powerful. But the powerless, who live with the ramifications, do not have the luxury of forgetting. They do not forget Shatila, Falluja, Abu Ghraib or Jenin—to name but a few horrific war crimes in which the West was complicit.
This time around, however, there is no need for historical references, because the hypocrisy is playing out in real time. When protests started in Tunisia in January, the French foreign minister offered the Tunisian police training to “restore calm.” The day before Libya was attacked, dozens of protesters were shot dead in Yemen. Less than a week before, Saudi forces invaded Bahrain, where many protesters have been killed. These are American allies. [Emphasis mine.]
So, just remember, any time the United States and Europe declare that a nation facing revolt must have a “national dialogue,” what they are actually saying is that the crackdown should come swiftly (and quietly, if possible). What’s more, with the track record of the US and Europe in the Middle East, we should be highly suspicious of the true motivations behind any foreign influence they seek to impose on another country – whether that’s arms deals being discussed with Egypt, “humanitarian” interventions in Libya, or the approval for Saudi forces to invade another country to “restore calm.” If this episode in Bahrain tells us anything, its that the West will quickly sweep the rights, well-being, and even lives of protesters and innocent people under the rug at the blink of an eye if it best suits their interests.