Bahrain exposes Western political and moral bankruptcy
Fri Nov 2, 2012 4:59PM
In truth, an announced ban on public demonstrations in Bahrain is only an academic matter anyway. For in practice, the Western-backed regime has always cracked down violently against all public protests – regardless of the fact that these demonstrations have been largely peaceful and are simply calling for basic democratic rights, primarily the right of the population to elect a government in place of the unelected monarchy."The brutality of the Bahraini regime again this week inadvertently exposed the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of its Western government sponsors. While US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was reiterating alleged support for democratic transition in Syria, the reality of US-backed despotism in Bahrain once more demonstrated the hollow cynicism of official Western pronouncements on democracy and human rights. Last week, too, during the televised American presidential debate Barack Obama declared that the US was on “the side of democracy during the Arab Spring”. But in Bahrain reality intrudes abruptly on such American grandiose pretensions to expose them as mockery of the truth. This week the US and British-backed Khalifa monarchy decreed that all public protests are now banned and that organizers of any attempted demonstrations will be arrested and “prosecuted” - which, in Bahrain, means such persons will be held unlawfully without charge or legal representation, tortured and convicted on the basis of forced confession. In truth, an announced ban on public demonstrations in Bahrain is only an academic matter anyway. For in practice, the Western-backed regime has always cracked down violently against all public protests - regardless of the fact that these demonstrations have been largely peaceful and are simply calling for basic democratic rights, primarily the right of the population to elect a government in place of the unelected monarchy. Since Britain granted nominal independence to Bahrain in 1971, the Al Khalifa family has ruled the Persian Gulf island like a fiefdom with an iron rod, enriching itself through graft and corruption, without any accountability to the population. The people have had to endure squalid over-crowded housing, unemployment and ill-health as the Khalifa cronies parasited the oil wealth of the country.
The Bahraini regime has only maintained its un-natural privileges by the use of dictatorial emergency powers and, secondly, by relying on the unwavering support of Washington and London governments. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain and the presence of British intelligence in the repressive security apparatus are unspoken guarantees to the regime and its despotic rule.Down through the decades, the US and British governments have sold to the world the deception of the Bahraini rulers as a “constitutional monarchy” - when in reality the regime is and has always been a despotic tyranny. Anyone that has spoken out against the despotism - and they have numbered tens of thousands - has ended up brutalized and silenced in the Al Khalifa dungeons. Many Bahrainis have paid for their noble principles with their lives. When popular protests resurfaced in February 2011, the regime responded as it has always done - with brutality and without mercy. Nearly 100 people, including women and children have been killed by regime forces over the past 20 months. Thousands have been maimed and imprisoned. Their only “crime” was that they refused to recognize the British-imposed and American-maintained Khalifa dictatorship as the legitimate government of Bahrain. One of the youngest victims was 14-year-old Ali Al Shaikh who was killed in his hometown of Sitra at the end of Ramadan last August. Ali was shot in the head with a teargas canister fired at close range by Saudi-backed Bahraini state forces. No member of the Khalifa security forces has ever been prosecuted for the murder. This week the boy’s father, Jawad, was arrested under the regime’s even more draconian powers against public protests. Jawad wants justice for his son. He wants those responsible for his son’s death to be held to account. He wants the persecution of his family to stop. Ever since Ali was killed, the family has been subjected to a living nightmare. Shortly after the killing, Jawad was detained because he refused to sign an official document stating that regime forces were not responsible for his son’s death. Over the following months, the family home has been frequently ransacked by police officers. Photographs of Ali have been ripped from the wall and destroyed. Even his grave has been desecrated by regime thugs. This is the reality for Bahrainis living under the despotic rule of the Western-backed Khalifa regime. Children are killed in cold blood and a father protesting against the barbarity is in turn treated barbarically. The Khalifa mis-rulers seek to justify the latest clampdown on peaceful protests by claiming that the move was necessary to “preserve security”. This was partly a reference to the alleged killing of a policeman last week in the village of Eker. Interior minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa also said the ban against all public protests was necessary because of violence that had accompanied demonstrations. The logic here is breathtaking. Violence accompanying public protests in Bahrain is due to the state forces gratuitously attacking such demonstrations with live rounds and toxic gas. Even the alleged killing of the policeman in Eker points suspiciously to sinister state involvement in contriving a crime that is now used as a pretext for intensifying repressive powers. A long history of dirty tricks by the Khalifa regime shows that this would not be first time that its forces have fabricated murder and felonies in order to criminalize the pro-democracy movement. The blanket ban on all protests has been met with the usual limp-wristed and disingenuous concern from Washington and London. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner this week said: "The United States is deeply concerned by the Bahraini government's decision to ban all public gatherings. Freedoms of assembly, association and expression are universal human rights.” Alistair Burt, British Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, also said: "A blanket ban of this nature is excessive. Peaceful protest is a democratic right. I hope the Bahraini government will rescind this measure as quickly as possible." However, both the US and British governments qualified their “concern” by calling for “peaceful protests” and by urging dialogue between the Khalifa rulers and “responsible opposition”.
If the Western sponsors of the Khalifa regime were genuinely concerned for democracy in Bahrain, they would condemn the regime outright for its brutal, indefensible repression; the Western powers would also insist unreservedly on the rights of the people to elect a representative government. But note, the Western governments sneakily articulate their “concern” in such a way as to smear the pro-democracy movement as being partly to blame for violence and to bolster the legitimacy of the despotic regime by urging dialogue between “responsible opposition” and the rulers.The Western governments are thus arrogantly framing the choice for the Bahraini populace in which “choice” means accepting the Khalifa regime, and not being able to demand its abolition and replacement according to the people’s wishes. And yet these same governments appoint themselves to lecture the rest of the world on “democratic transitions”. Bahrain clearly shows that democracy and human rights are nothing more than ideological window dressing that Western governments invoke to conceal what they are really selling - dictatorship and brutality on behalf of elite power. That fundamental truth about the real nature of Western governments is becoming clearer by the day, both at home and abroad. FC/HMV