lib_feat

Bomb the Casbah

Mar 21, 2011

The Libyans are coming! The air attack on Libya is a shell game—a distraction from the Saudi-led Arab counterrevolution gathering steam in the Persian Gulf.

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When Senator and failed presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) appeared on “Meet the Press” yesterday he laid bare the American double standard on democracy in the Arab World.

Kerry’s Democratic colleague Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) was being pressed by moderator David Gregory on a seeming contradiction between America’s interventionist attitude in Libya and its indifference to last week’s Saudi-led invasion of Bahrain to brutally suppress pro-Democracy protesters. “Senator Levin, there is a double standard at work here. I mean, how do you not look at the region…”

Kerry interrupted: “No.”

Gregory kept going: “…and say, well, the United States did not intervene on behalf of Shiites who were being repressed by a Sunni monarchy in Bahrain when Saudis sent in troops, but we’re choosing Libya to take this stand…”

“But can I just add that I profoundly disagree with that,” Kerry interjected.

Levin offered his answer: that because there is an international consensus on Libya that it was a special case. Kerry, apparently felt that Levin’s answer was insufficient: “Well, I have a couple of points to make…” Concision has never been Kerry’s strong point, I suppose.

“Number one, the president has been crystal clear about Bahrain. He has said that the violence needs to stop in Bahrain. The crown prince of Bahrain has offered to have a mediation, to have a national dialogue. And the truth is that, in Bahrain where there is a 70 percent Shia population, you have a certain amount of mischief being made by Iran and by Hezbollah, and it’s simply not the same situation…”

Kerry didn’t provide any evidence for his contention that Iran and Hezbollah are causing “mischief”—whatever that means—but he seemed insistent that because Bahrain is overwhelmingly Shia and Shia Muslims share a religious and cultural heritage with Iran, that the democratic wishes of its people must be subverted.

The basis for Kerry’s accusation is Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s on-going veiled accusations against Iran. But, as America’s Iraq War experience with “Curveball” and WMDs showed, relying exclusively on the intelligence of parties with ulterior motives is never a good idea. And just because someone is Shia, isn’t sufficient reason to deny them their inalienable democratic rights. According to the New York Times “in an overnight report posted on the official Bahrain News Agency, [the King] said that a ‘fomented subversive plot,’ brewing for 20 or 30 years, had failed.” In other words, a civil rights movement had been brutally crushed.

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Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest recipients of US military aid and in October sealed a deal with the Obama administration which is the largest arms sale in history. $60 billion worth of weapons to suppress democracy throughout the Middle East.

Initially, the Obama administration claimed (somewhat preposterously) that it received no warning that Saudi Arabia would invade Bahrain but that was later refuted by an anonymous US official who confirmed that they had indeed “received word” the Saudis were going in. Last week, the president himself said that he had “deep concern” about the Bahrain’s crackdown on dissent but over the weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that: “It’s a priority for the US administration to work with partners in the Gulf region against the concern over the behavior of Iran.” [sic]

“Commenting on the deployment of troops from the Peninsula Shield Force in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the wake of violent protests, Clinton said it was a sovereign right for Bahrain to seek help from GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member states under the joint defense treaty they had signed.”

So America has two separate standards of democracy in the Arab World, one for tinpot dictators like Gaddafi and another for US client states, no matter how brutal they are and no matter how much money they’ve poured into spreading Islamic extremism, like the Saudis. This is without mentioning that there are actual anti-American Islamists in the valorized rebel force in Libya.

The bipartisan obsession with Iran and the fear that overwhelmingly poor and downtrodden Shia Muslims gaining their democratic rights poses a threat to the world, sounds eerily like the mistake America made during the Cold War of lumping every popular movement into the “Communist” camp. Whether it was the Viet Minh in Indochina, Salvador Allende in Chile, the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, Gough Whitlam in Australia, or even Nasser in Egypt, that skewed lens sowed years of violence and terror and created enormous antipathy towards America.

After centuries of repressing Arab populations, America, Britain and France can now conveniently claim the mantle of fighting for freedom, while a few thousand miles away in the Gulf, their proxies are carrying out their neo-colonialist dirty work.

After his spats with American in the 1980s, Gaddafi is a convenient boogeyman for the West to resurrect. Like clothing trends, wars are becoming so retro. You half expect the McFly-sized Nicholas Sarkozy to yell “the Libyans are coming! the Libyans are coming!” and then jump into a Delorean and race off at 88 miles per hour. A past where, like the present, the Libyans are the bad guys and US foreign policy sucks.

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