There have been various moments since the start of the Arab Spring where the level of blatant, outright support for Middle Eastern dictatorship on display should have embarrassed Obama and his team, but yesterday was a highlight.
The Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa visited the White House, meeting with Obama and his National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. The President “reaffirmed the strong US commitment to Bahrain,” praised the King’s supposed “efforts to initiate the national dialogue” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), and looked forward to (some fictional) “compromise to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”
This reaffirmation of support on behalf of the American people to a Bahraini government brutalizing its own citizens who are fighting for their own dignity should warrant terrified gasps and accusing disbelief. But no, not in the Imperial City. This is protocol.
This is the same Bahraini government who has been gunning down unarmed activists with live ammunition, unleashing “live rounds, metallic pellets, rubber bullets, and teargas” at protestors for months, and violently supressing this eruption of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations at every turn. This government, Obama’s close friend and ally, arrested and sentenced doctors and nurses who treated protesters injured by the horrible repression, and followed up by declaring martial law and stepping up unprovoked attacks on civilians. Protests have still not moved the country toward more freedom and democracy and thus the Bahraini people remain enslaved under a harsh criminal regime.
All this, and the only thing the Hope & Change Candidate can say is that his support is strong and reaffirmed, and that the regime’s perfunctory lifting of martial law and entirely rhetorical credence to “national dialogue” is a positive step in the right direction.
Centrists and establishment types try to justify this as necessary for long term stability and in the best interests of America – those code words for empire – while simultaneously sympathizing with poor Obama and how hard it must be for him to have to be diplomatic with Bahrain. But the truth is that so long as the U.S. continues to meddle in the affairs of every single Middle Eastern country experiencing these revolutionary changes, the prospects for positive change for the millions of people living there are dim. The truth is, this kind of support for repression and tyranny needs to start eliciting the gasps and condemnation it warrants.