The Arab Uprisings and Our Hypocrisy

15May11
Bahrainis have continued to demonstrate ever since 14 February despite the regime’s frequent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators with security forces often recruited from Pakistan, Jordan and Yemen. Since 1793 Bahrain has been ruled by the same Sunni minority Khalifah family even though the country has an overwhelmingly Shi’i population today. Over the last three decades the royal family has allowed limited reforms and the country is now considered a constitutional monarchy with a parliament that is partially elected and partially appointed. However even these parliamentary seats are not entirely open to contestation as they are often unavailable to Shi’is. Indeed, Shi’is face the same discrimination in almost every other aspect of the government as well as the economy.
While the peaceful demonstrators who have assembled on a regular basis for the past month are seeking equal rights, they are mostly nonsectarian and include Sunnis who also feel marginalized by the Khalifah regime. Some are asking for the royal family to step down and others want a republic. In all cases Bahrainis are peacefully asserting their call for the social and political rights that Washington has repeatedly suggested we all deserve, no matter who we are or where we live.

And yet yesterday troops from Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain to crush the demonstrations, ostensibly under the rubric of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC is a regional bloc comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is largely concerned with economic cooperation, not military intervention. Thus the Saudi invasion (which is being followed by a smaller contingency from the UAE) comes as a shocking development. Especially considering that the United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Bahrain only two days before the invasion, which means that Washington is either complicit in this act of war, or even worse, orchestrated it. That we are enabling dictators to militarily crush an extraordinarily peaceful and democratic protest is yet another illustration of Washington’s hypocrisy.

Can you even begin to imagine the reaction from Washington if Hizbullah or the Islamic Republic of Iran sent forces into Bahrain to assist the demonstrators in achieving their democratic goals?

Headlines from Western newspapers contribute to the hypocrisy. The Boston Globe talks about foreign forces entering Bahrain to “assist rulers” and “restore order” rather than to kill democracy. And this despite quoting a Bahraini spokesperson who refused to confirm that the Khalifah regime even requested the foreign interference. The likelihood is that the decision was made by the United States and her ally Saudi Arabia. After all the American corporatocracy does not promote democracy only occupation. We occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. We send the Israelis billions of dollars in military aid to occupy Palestine. And now our petrodollars are enabling Saudi Arabia to occupy Bahrain.

Obviously the Kingdom is nervous that if Bahrainis are successful in their revolution this will inspire the oppressed Saudi Arabian Shi’i minorities who live in areas rich with oil reserves. Not to mention mobilize Saudi Arabians more generally, a population that lacks even the most fundamental of political rights. We are talking about one of the few countries in this world where women still cannot vote. And this is Washington’s favorite ally, all because of oil. I am ashamed to say that the American government is against freedom.
But on the other side hypocrisy also flourishes. While many of us respect populist leaders like Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for standing up to imperialism and defying neoliberal capitalism, these are all societies that ultimately suffer similar kinds of economic inequality as the United States. Furthermore, although the Islamic Republic is remaining true to its principals of social justice and supporting today’s popular revolutions throughout the Middle East (before Syria), Castro and Chavez are now siding with the brutal dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, ignoring the atrocities he is committing against his own people. Chavez and Castro obviously care more about politics than human lives. This follows the same black and white mentality of “you are either with us or against us.”
By Ian James
Washington Post
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
CARACAS, Venezuela — As Moammar Gadhafi finds himself increasingly isolated internationally, he still has at least a few friends far away.
Latin America’s most prominent leftists rallied early to his defense and have stayed there even as former friends, neighbors and countrymen have abandoned the embattled Libyan leader and urged his ouster.
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega have been foremost in opposing U.S. and NATO military involvement, and in suggesting that reports of atrocities by Gadhafi’s troops are overblown or unproven.
“The United States is proposing a war over Libya because they want Libyan oil,” Chavez said Sunday. He praised the African Union for appointing a commission of leaders to travel to Libya for talks — an effort in line with his own peace proposals.
Chavez’s calls for mediation reflect both his affinity for Gadhafi and his ambition to be a global player, rallying nations against the United States.
But his critics say Chavez has no credibility to promote mediation because he has ignored abuses by Gadhafi’s regime. And his stance is also uncomfortable for some of his allies and political supporters, who side with the uprising and say it’s time for Gadhafi to go.
Latin America’s staunchest leftists long ago embraced Gadhafi as a fellow fighter against global U.S. influence, and they instinctively reject any U.S. intervention almost anywhere.
Both Castro and Chavez have repeatedly suggested the U.S. is stirring up trouble in Libya to grab its oil and say Libyans should settle their own internal conflict.
That stance has put them at odds with some of their friends. The left-leaning governments of Argentina and Brazil have condemned Gadhafi’s crackdown on opposition. And even some followers of Castro and Chavez have been recoiling from their positions.
Comments posted on Cuban government websites and some articles on the pro-Chavez website aporrea.org have objected to backing for Libya’s eccentric strongman. One article on aporrea.org titled “Neither Gadafi nor imperialism!” argued that Chavez’s government should “support the revolutionary masses of Libya” that have risen up to topple the “capitalist dictator.”
A group of Venezuelan Marxists led by writer Domingo Alberto Rangel and lawyer Jose Ramon Velasquez issued a statement last week condemning Gadhafi’s “brutal repression” of the civilian population.
The government, meanwhile, released a statement backed by more than 260 artists and intellectuals in Venezuela and elsewhere opposing foreign military intervention and supporting Chavez’s mediation proposal.
Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Chavez’s approach and “his evident lack of concern about Gadhafi’s abuses owe to a combination of misplaced south-south solidarity and a desire to take a position contrary to the United States’ almost for its own sake.”
“Chavez’s stance certainly gives a lot of new fodder to his many international critics,” Isacson said. “Especially among more moderate Latin American leaders, Chavez’s Libya stance increases the political cost of maintaining warm relations with him.”
The Chavez-Castro stance also is at odds with that of many Arab states. The Arab League is promoting a no-fly zone to prevent more air strikes by Gadhafi’s forces.
The African Union, however, said it had formed a committee of heads of state who will travel to Libya to try to resolve the crisis.
“We condemn the disproportionate use of force,” said Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for African Union chairman Jean Ping. “We are taking this issue of Libya very seriously.”
Chavez also praised the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been wary of a military intervention, and said he expects Russia and China to weigh in against foreign military involvement.
While Chavez has reaffirmed his friendship with Gadhafi, he has not endorsed the Libyan crackdown on the opposition, merely suggesting it is being misreported and that he hopes the civil war ends soon.
More enthusiastic was Nicaragua’s Ortega, who expressed solidarity with Gadhafi and called the fighting a battle to keep Libya intact. Ortega’s ties to the Libyan leader go back to the 1980s, when Gadhafi was a supporter of the leftist Sandinista government.
Before fighting erupted in Libya, Chavez and Gadhafi had been trying to boost integration between South America and Africa.
When Gadhafi visited Latin America for the first time in 2009, he joined Chavez at a summit in Venezuela. The Libyan leader stood out with his dark sunglasses, African robes and entourage of women bodyguards, but he stressed the same themes as Chavez: socialist ideals and a need to stand up to world powers.
Through an interpreter, Gadhafi told his friend: “We’re on the same front, in the same trench against the same enemy.”
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