Massive protests are planned for tomorrow, August 14, in Bahrain. The dictator and king of Bahrain, also a close friend and ally of the United States, issued this warning ahead of the planned demonstrations: “The government will forcefully confront suspect calls to violate law and order and those who stand behind them through decisive measures.”
You might think, does it violate the law to protest? Yes, it does. The authoritarian government in Bahrain, which has brutally crushed genuine democratic uprisings for more than two years, banned all demonstrations. It is also illegal to “incite hatred” against the security forces (whatever that means), and people can be thrown in prison for calling the king a “dictator” on Twitter (something that has happened to at least eleven people).
The regime uses the Western buzz word “terrorism” to describe anyone they want to suppress, as a list of tyrannical decrees in July showcased:
2. Revoking the citizenship of those who carry out terrorist crimes and their instigators.
3. Inflicting tough penalties on those who incite all forms of violence and terrorism.
4. Inflicting severe punishment on all kinds and forms of violence and terror crimes.
5. Drying up all sources of terrorist financing.
6. Banning sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.
“The Bahraini regime’s repression has not let up,” I wrote last month in the Huffington Post. “Human rights groups have documented killings, beatings, torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, harassment, the destruction of more than 40 Shia mosques… on and on.”
Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, the Bahraini regime has received almost $90 million in direct U.S. aid, but the direct military equipment and training Washington provides exceeds that amount by leaps and bounds. America supports this dictatorship with anti-riot gear, small arms, short-range ballistic missiles, rocket-launchers, Blackhawk helicopters, air-to-air missiles, Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, on and on and on, worth billions and billions. “Approximately 250 Bahraini military students attend U.S. military schools each year,” according to a Congressional Research Service report.
In September 2011, seven months after the crackdown began, the Obama administration announced “a proposed sale of 44 ‘Humvee’ (M115A1B2) armored vehicles and several hundred TOW missiles of various models, of which 50 are to be ‘bunker busters,'” CRS reports. Months earlier, as Time magazine reported Cobra helicopters conducted “live ammunition air strikes” on protesters.
In FY2014, Bahrain is set to receive another $11 million in aid.
After succumbing to pressure to stop aiding Bahrain during its authoritarian repression, President Obama announced in May 2012, after a visit to the White House by Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman, “that, despite continuing concerns about Bahrain’s handling of the unrest, it would open up Bahrain to the purchase of additional U.S. arms for the BDF, Bahrain’s Coast Guard, and Bahrain’s National Guard.”
In December 2012, posters of President Obama with the word “Criminal” emblazoned across his face were put up throughout the Shiite neighborhood of Sitra in Bahrain. Above the photograph was the title “Terrorism is an [sic] U.S. Industry.”
So we know what U.S. policy has been towards Bahrain in the midst of this harsh crackdown. What has the Obama administration actually said about this crisis? Not a word – at least not for a long time. And nothing about the impending “forceful confrontation” tomorrow.