Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Repeating the Mistakes of the Past in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain & Saudi – Backing murdering dictatorships to the end will backfire on the US UK & France

The US government and it’s allies are about to end up on the wrong side of history by backing dictatorships to the last gasp as they kill their own people, as they did with the Shah of Iran in 1979;  and so ensuring, as in Iran, that the new governments will have every reason to be hostile to them for decades to come, as in Iran.

They’re also increasing support for the Islamic extremists they claim to be trying to weaken – nothing boosted Khomeini more than the US backing the Shah as he had his own people killed.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter, on a visit to Iran, made the following statement in a speech to the Shah – the western backed dictator of the country. “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world”(1).

Two years later the Shah had been overthrown and replaced by a government hostile to the US, which gained much of it’s support from the US government backing the Shah to the last moment, even as he had his army shoot hundreds of unarmed protesters dead (2).

Carter, like Obama, was seen as a dove and a progressive, but backed a dictatorship carrying out massacres to the last, just as Obama and Clinton are doing in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. (There’s even a widespread myth on the right in the US that Carter didn’t back the Shah to the end).

Earlier this year, just before Mubarak was overthrown by pro-democracy protesters in Egypt, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saidOur assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people” (3). Meanwhile Mubarak’s police were shooting protesters dead in the street, torturing others and Mubarak fell – and so did the US government’s favoured successor Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s Vice President and notorious torturer in chief.

Now the US government and it’s allies are backing General Tantawi (Mubarak’s Defence Minister for 20 years) and a military regime – and even as it’s on the point of falling, they’ve not ended military aid, political support or ‘crowd control’ arms supplies to it. There are similar situations in Bahrain and Yemen, where the US and it’s allies have only called for the dictator Saleh to stand down in favour of his Vice President – following their usual practice of dropping figureheads when they become a liability but continuing support for dictatorships under their deputies.

The US, British and French governments pose as defenders of freedom and democracy, but in fact only back the overthrow of dictatorships where those dictatorships are hostile to them (e.g Syria) or demanding an increased share of oil profits from NATO governments’ oil companies (Libya).

The focus on Libya and Syria is partly about distracting attention for backing for other NATO government backed dictatorships as they massacre pro-democracy protesters ; and partly about distracting from mass unemployment and inequality permitted by governments bought up by senior bankers, big companies and billionaires at home.

The contrast between US, British and French government statements and the tone of media coverage of the torture and killing of protesters in Syria and Libya could not be more different to their statements on exactly the same situations in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, where they support the dictatorships.

In the first case the calls for military action and the end of the dictatorships never end – in the latter the most that’s ever called for is a dictator to be replaced by their Vice President or one of their Generals – maintaining the dictatorship, the torture and the killings under a new figure-head. British arms sales and training of militaries in many of these dictatorships has never ended either (the only exceptions being a suspension of British arms sales to Bahrain, Libya and Syria). US military aid to Yemen and Egypt has never ended either, despite constant killings of unarmed protesters by those countries’ militaries.

British government claims that it is not arming dictatorships are shown to be lies by it’s granting of arms export licences to Egypt this year and it’s invitations to representatives of the Egyptian, Saudi and Yemeni dictatorships and their militaries in September this year.


General Tantawi - Mubarak crony and his current replacement as dictator of Egypt

In Egypt , British Prime Minister David Cameron pretended that the Mubarak’s Generals taking over from Mubarak and Suleiman was democratisation and visited Egypt, Kuwait and other dictatorships to proudly promote British arms sales to the dictatorships of these countries while making the ridiculous claim that “small democracies like Kuwait” need help to arm themselves (4) – (6).

Kuwait has never, ever, been a democracy. Even the US State Department’s reports say it’s an absolute monarchy with a token parliament that has no power whatsoever – and Human Rights Watch reports show that it’s record on human rights and democracy has been getting worse, not better (7) – (12).

As the Egyptian military pile up the bodies of democracy protesters they’ve killed in Tahrir Square, Amnesty International reports that the Egyptian military government has used exactly the same methods as the Mubarak government used – torture, jail without fair trial, killings of opposition supporters by the military, the police and hired plain clothes thugs – but on a larger scale (13) – (14).

The army is trying to whip up violence against the Coptic Christian minority in order to be able to claim that it has had to step in to restore order and protect minorities from extremists – but Coptic Christian marchers in the last march supposedly attacked by Muslim extremists say it was hired government thugs and the army who were firing at them and killing them and running them over with armoured personnel carriers – claims confirmed by videos of those events (15).

Even after this the US government didn’t end military aid funding to the Egyptian military.

The face of General Tantawi, the head of the grandly named ‘High Military Council’, has already been put up on posters across Cairo calling on him to stand for President in the promised elections, supposedly due to popular acclamation. The posters are being promoted by a group calling itself ‘Egypt First’ which is an obvious front group for the military (16).

 This flies in the face of military promises that they would field no General as a candidate in elections. On the HMC’s record so far elections will involve arresting opposition candidates and using the police and hired thugs to attack opposition campaigners and voters to ensure a Tantawi win – just as under Mubarak, who held similar elections.

In Egypt as in Yemen they have never called for an end to the dictatorships – only for a change of figurehead at the top of them when it became clear that Mubarak and Saleh had become liabilities rather than assets (scroll down to sub-heading ‘Suleiman the torturer as Mubarak Mark II ?’).

The pretence is that getting rid of the dictator and replacing him with his vice President or his Generals is democratisation. Of course it’s not. General Tantawi is the new ruler of Egypt and plans to rig the next election with continuing jailing, torture and killing of pro-democracy protesters and opposition party supporters and candidates in exactly the same way Mubarak ran elections.

Yet government approved British arms sales to Egypt have never ended; and Egyptian officials were invited to an arms fair in London this September (17) – (19).

Tantawi was Mubarak’s Defence Minister for 20 years and his days are now as numbered as Mubarak’s. The Egyptian military will not survive this – and British and American backing for them will backfire badly if it continues as they will end up facing a government made up of the friends and colleagues of people the Egyptian military jailed, tortured or killed.


Photo: Dead and wounded protesters killed in Yemen by US and British trained and funded military units

In Yemen, where the US and British trained and funded military killed dozens of unarmed civilian protesters in the last few weeks – as they have every week since the Arab Spring began – there is no end US and British support for the military units doing the killing. The BBC reported in March thatWhile some other military units have joined the opposition, the elite US- and British-trained troops, headed by Mr Saleh's son and nephew, remain loyal to the president.(20)

In September Amnesty International reported thatsecurity forces used snipers and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) against protesters marching to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.,,Around 26 people were killed on Sunday.’ (21)

AP reported 20 more killed on 20th October (22).

On 25th October AFP reportedIn Sanaa and in Yemen's second largest city Taez at least 15 people were killed, according to medical officials and tribal sources…..A seven-year-old child and a woman were among seven people killed in Taez, after what residents said was random shelling by government forces of neighbourhoods.’ (23).

The Arabic Al Arabiya newspaper reported that this was due to ‘mortars and artillery, hitting a hospital and a square where anti-government demonstrators were taking part in the Muslim Friday prayers’ (24)

On November 11th the US government’s Voice of America news service reported thatYemeni government forces have killed at least six civilians in Taiz, the country's second largest city….Medical officials and witnesses say the civilians were killed early Friday after forces renewed shelling in Taiz, where protesters have been calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure.’ (25)

Yet US military aid to Yemen has continued through almost a full year of this ; as have British arms sales which have also more than doubled in value from £300,000 worth in 2010 to £800,000 in 2011 ; and there’s not a word from the British or American or French governments on ending military aid to Yemen, never mind taking military action to stop the massacre of civilians there which has now been going on for 9 months; plus Yemen’s dictatorship was also invited to arms sales events in London in September this year (26) – (29).

(The £800,000 of arms or dual-use equipment sales to Yemen in 2011 were exported on a single licence, presumably so that British government spokesmen can say they reduced the number of export licences approved in 2011 to one, to sound as if less arms have been exported).

The most the US and it’s allies have come up with is a UN resolution based on a plan created by the Saudi dominated Gulf Co-Operation Council calling for Saleh to step down in favour of his Vice President and some waffle about the “need for dialogue” between the protesters and the government – in other words, as in Egypt, the US government and it’s allies have an aim of keeping the dictatorship but switching dictators to get rid of the one that’s become a liability (30) – (31).

While demanding Saif Al Gaddafi be handed over for trial for war crimes, the US government and it’s allies put forward a UN resolution that gives President Saleh and his allies total immunity from prosecution after months of having unarmed demonstrators killed every week (32).

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

In Bahrain – another absolute dictatorship that has been torturing, jailing and killing pro-democracy protesters, the US government and it’s allies have similarly never called for the dictatorship to go, never called for action to stop the killing, Instead, as in Yemen and Egypt they call for “restraint from both sides”, express “deep concern” – and keep on backing the dictatorship.

The Saudi military has played a big role in Bahrain – the Saudi monarchy sent them in to help crush the protesters out of fear of a) constitutional monarchy (apparently even this is too much like democracy for the Saudi monarchy) and b) a Shia uprising (much of Saudi Arabia’s oil is in parts of Saudi with a large Shia Muslim population, while the monarchy are radical Wahabbi Sunni Muslims.)

The British government and military have continued training and arming Saudi Arabia’s forces all through this, including in the use of sniper rifles, knowing Saudi troops may then use them in Bahrain, train the Bahraini military in turn, or use them on Saudi pro-democracy protesters if protests begin (33).

A British Parliamentary Select committee was reported as finding that ‘military trucks sent by the Saudis to help suppress demonstrations in Bahrain were British.’ (34).

Bahrain, Libya and Syria are the only countries in which arms sales from the UK seem to have been suspended.

Only look at what we’re doing in Libya and Syria

The war in Libya and the constant demands for action on the similar mass torture and killing of civilians in Syria have never been about protecting civilians or promoting democracy or human rights, but about overthrowing governments which were either not clients of the US and it’s allies (Syria) or which were demanding a higher share of profits from oil companies (Libya).

Gaddafi was a dictator who had civilians tortured and killed, so is Assad – but so are all the dictatorships the US and it’s allies back – in Saudi, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt.

The war in Libya served a propaganda function for NATO governments in distracting their past (and present) support for murdering, torturing dictatorships – from their past support for (and involvement in) torture by Gaddafi’s torturers ; to the French government’s offer to send riot police to help the Ben Ali dictatorship crush the first Arab Spring protests in Tunisia ;  and continuing support for the dictatorships massacring people right now in Egypt and Yemen (35).

Standard power politics – attacking governments who don’t do what they’re told and backing ones that do no matter whether they’re torturing and murdering civilians or not – is presented as if it was high principle.

Because we can’t do everything are you saying we should do nothing where we can do something?

This is the standard propaganda line of NATO governments when asked why they are overthrowing some torturing dictatorships that are massacring their people while actively supporting and arming others. Of course they could do something easily in the cases of the dictatorships they continue to support – they could condemn them, demand they stop killing, torturing and jailing their people, end all military aid and arms sales to them and demand free and fair elections. They don’t. They’ve temporarily halted arms exports to Bahrain and reduced the number approved to Egypt, which is welcome, but their only calls for change are for one dictator to step down in favour of another.

So, no, we’re not saying you should do nothing – we’re saying you should stop supporting dictatorships, torture and massacre in some countries while only selectively opposing them in a handful of others who aren’t your client regimes – and you should stop trying to dress up cold-blooded power politics that has no concern for human suffering or human life, never mind democracy or human rights, as if it was high principle.

Given the hugely different treatment of people and governments guilty of exactly the same crimes, can anyone really believe the NATO governments’ motivations really have anything to do with human rights, freedom or democracy?

Arms Fair events in London, September 2011, 9 months into dictatorships massacring protesters, most murdering dictatorships welcome

The Economist, Channel 4 News and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade all reported on that various arms fairs and arms sale events held by the British government and British arms companies in September this year. The governments invited included ‘Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Vietnam’ as well as Yemen (36) – (37).

Every single one is either a dictatorship or a one party state (Vietnam) with the exception of Nigeria, which is technically a democracy, but in practice a plutocracy where foreign firms can effectively hire government troops and private security forces to attack anyone who opposes them – and massacres of unarmed civilians by government forces are regular occurrences.

Are the profits for a few arms companies worth the torture and deaths of so many people? Will they be worth it if they alienate people from the majority in these countries who will form the new governments in these countries and so harm our foreign and trade relations with them for decades to come, as happened in Iran? Is it worth it if by backing dictatorships that murder their own people we boost support for radical Islamists at the expense of more moderate democrats?


Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

(1) = Freedman, Lawrence (2008) 'A Choice of Enemies', Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2008, Ch 4, page 66

(2) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, NY, 2005 paperback, Ch5, p127-140

(3) = Reuters 25 Jan 2011 ‘US urges restraint in Egypt, says government stable’,


 (4) = Independent 22 Feb 2011 ‘Cameron attacked for Egypt visit with defence sales team in tow’, , ‘David Cameron faced charges of hypocrisy last night after he arrived for a tour of the Gulf with some senior figures from the defence industry…. After leaving Britain early, Mr Cameron became the first world leader to visit Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled…. Mr Cameron is still taking a large delegation from business and industry, including eight representatives of defence firms attempting to secure contracts in the Gulf states. Among them are: Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems; Alastair Bisset, group international director at QinetiQ; and Rob Watson, regional director of Rolls-Royce.

(5) = 21 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron arrives in Egypt to meet military rulers’, , ‘David Cameron has flown into Cairo amid tight security, becoming the first world leader to visit Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president in the revolution 10 days ago….Cameron is due to meet Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's minister of defence, who is the head of the supreme council of the armed forces….Arms sales are expected to be on the agenda throughout the week, and Cameron insisted there was no contradiction in promoting trade and pushing for political reform, the two themes of the rest of his Middle East trip.

(6) = 22 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron hits out at critics of Britain's arms trade’,

(7) = US Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs  ‘Background Note : Kuwait’,

(8) =

(9) = Human Rights Watch 21 Jul 2010 ‘Operation Roll Back Kuwaiti Freedom’,

(10) = Human Rights Watch 11 Dec 2010 ‘Kuwait: Permit Peaceful Political Gatherings  - Security Forces Violently Disperse Parliamentarians and Professors’,

(11) = Human Rights watch 31 Jan 2011 ‘Kuwait: Free Speech and Assembly Under Attack’,

(12) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2011: Kuwait , ; ‘Freedom of expression markedly deteriorated in 2010. The government continued criminally prosecuting individuals based on nonviolent political speech, denied academics permission to enter the country for conferences and speeches, and cracked down on public gatherings. In April state security forces summarily deported over 30 Egyptian legal residents of Kuwait after some of them gathered to support Egyptian reform advocate Mohammed El Baradei.

In May prominent writer and lawyer Mohammad al-Jassim was detained for over 40 days and charged with "instigating to overthrow the regime, ...slight to the personage of the emir [the ruler of Kuwait],... [and] instigating to dismantle the foundations of Kuwaiti society" over his blog posts criticizing the prime minister. A judge released al-Jassim in June and adjourned the case until October.

(13) = Independent 22 Nov 2011 ‘Dozens die, the cabinet teeters – and chaos rules’, , ‘At one point, the police appeared to fire live rounds in the direction of protesters…. five activists could then be seen…carrying a limp middle-aged man…Dr Magdy also said he had seen one dead body, of a person who appeared to have been hit by a live bullet directly through the spleen. "All we're asking for is our freedom," said Hassan Hani… Disturbing footage has since been uploaded on to the internet showing troops and police violently beating a man who appeared to have already been unconscious. Another showed an apparently lifeless protester being dragged across the square and dumped next to a pile of other bodies.

(14) = Amnesty International Nov 201 ‘Egypt: Military rulers have 'crushed' hopes of 25 January protesters’,,‘Egypt's military rulers have completely failed to live up to their promises to Egyptians to improve human rights and have instead been responsible for a catalogue of abuses which in some cases exceeds the record of Hosni Mubarak, Amnesty International said today in a new report…. The report's release follows a bloody few days in Egypt that has left many dead and hundreds injured after army and security forces violently attempted to disperse anti-SCAF protesters from Cairo’s Tahrir square………. “By using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protest and expanding the remit of Mubarak's Emergency Law, the SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the January 25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Acting Director.

(15) = BBC News 10 Oct 2011 ‘Egypt clashes: Copts mourn victims of Cairo unrest’, , ‘Thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians have gathered for the funerals of protesters killed during clashes with security forces in Cairo on Sunday. Many mourners expressed anger at the army, which they blame for the deaths.The protesters say they were attacked by thugs before the security forces fired on them and drove military vehicles into the crowds.’

(16) = Reuters 26 Oct 2011 ‘Posters back Egyptian army chief for president’,

(17) = CAAT Country Data Egypt - Approved UK export licences’,, shows 6 approved arms export licences to Egypt in first quarter of 2011

(18) = 21 Jul 2011 ‘MP attacks Hague over review of arms sales to Arab regimes’, , ‘Senior MPs have delivered a severe rebuke to the government over its approval of the sale of a wide range of arms, including sniper rifles, machine guns and "crowd control goods" to countries in the Middle East and north Africa……….Britain supplied the weapons despite official guidelines stating that exports of equipment that could be used for internal repression must be blocked. In a damning report earlier this year, the Commons arms export controls committees demanded an urgent review of exports to "authoritarian regimes worldwide"………..They referred specifically to the Mubarak and Gaddafi regimes in Egypt and Libya, to Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Observers said military trucks sent by the Saudis to help suppress demonstrations in Bahrain were British.’

(19) = Channel 4 News 13 Sep 2011 ‘Arms fair opens in London amid protests’ , ,‘The countries invited from "authoritarian" regimes, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit are: Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Vietnam.’


(20) = BBC 26 Mar 2011 ‘Saleh departure in Yemen: A matter of 'when', not 'if'’, , ‘second last sentence reads ‘While some other military units have joined the opposition, the elite US- and British-trained troops, headed by Mr Saleh's son and nephew, remain loyal to the president.’

(21) = Amnesty International 19 Sep 2011Yemen violence surges as protesters are killed’, , The Yemeni authorities must immediately stop the killing of peaceful protesters by security forces, Amnesty International said today following reports that dozens of people have been shot dead in the capital Sana'a since Sunday….Hundreds more are said to have been injured after security forces used snipers and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) against protesters marching to demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.,,Around 26 people were killed on Sunday. The continuing violence has seen more killed in Sana'a today.

(22) = AP 22 Oct 2011Clashes in Yemeni capital kill 20’, , ‘Clashes between Yemeni government troops and a renegade army unit killed at least 20 people, including three civilians, in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, officials said.’

(23) = Al Arabiya 11 Nov 2011 ‘At least 15 Yemenis killed as Saleh’s loyalist forces shell southern city of Taez’,

(24) = AFP 25 Oct 201115 dead as Yemen truce fails, Saleh says ready to go’, , ‘In Sanaa and in Yemen's second largest city Taez at least 15 people were killed, according to medical officials and tribal sources…..A seven-year-old child and a woman were among seven people killed in Taez, after what residents said was random shelling by government forces of neighbourhoods. The interior ministry said four policemen also died.

(25) = Voice of America news 11 Nov 2011 ‘Yemeni Government Forces Kill 6 Civilians’,

(26) = AFP 05 Apr 2011 ‘No plans to suspend military aid to Yemen: US’,

(27) = Reuters 05 Apr 2011 ‘U.S. urges Yemen transition, no aid cut-off-Pentagon’,

(28) = CAAT Country Data Yemen, ,(shows £800,000 worth of arms export licences approved in 2011 – more than twice the value of approved arms exports in 2010)

(29) = Campaign Against the Arms Trade  (CAAT) 09 Sep 2011 ‘Government tries to hide embarrassing truth about arms fair invitees’, Thursday, 8 September, the government supported events promoting arms sales to countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.’

(30) = AP 15 Nov 2011 ‘UN envoy: Yemen president should transfer power’, , ‘Yemen's embattled president must speed up reforms and begin a transfer of power according to a plan backed by the international community, said a U.N. envoy on Monday. …..Jamal Benomar visited Yemen for a week to promote a Gulf-backed proposal that calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

(31) = 23 Nov 2011 ‘Yemen president arrives in Saudi Arabia to sign power transfer deal’,

(32) = Amnesty International 22 Oct 2011 ‘UN Security Council resolution on Yemen falls short ’,

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

(33) = Observer 29 May 2011 ‘UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring’, , ‘Britain is training Saudi Arabia's national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain – in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles… In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in "weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training". The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a brigadier…. Bahrain's royal family used 1,200 Saudi troops to help put down demonstrations in March.

(34) = 21 Oct 2011 ‘MP attacks Hague over review of arms sales to Arab regimes’,

Only look at what we’re doing in Libya and Syria

(35) = Independent 27 Jan 2011 ‘World Focus: France favoured autocracy as a bulwark against radical Islam ’,

Arms Fair in London, September 2011, all murdering dictatorships welcome

(36) = Channel 4 News 13 Sep 2011 ‘Arms fair opens in London amid protests’ , ,‘The countries invited from "authoritarian" regimes, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit are: Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Vietnam.’

(37) = Campaign Against the Arms Trade  (CAAT) 09 Sep 2011 ‘Government tries to hide embarrassing truth about arms fair invitees’, Thursday, 8 September, the government supported events promoting arms sales to countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.’

1 comment:

Raimo said...

I am from Finland. I have read many things from internet sites only, of which TV and newspapers don't tell. Actually censorship in the mainstream media makes my country a dictatorship, ruled by the political and economic elite.

Finland is a corrupt country. Nobody can have a public post without being a member of a political party. In Finland all high-ranking officials, who earn 5000 euros a month or more, are members of political parties.

No one can criticize the elite in the mainstream media. Any one who criticizes leading politicians, will lose his or her job.

Finland as well as neighboring Sweden and Norway are dictatorship countries.