Monday, March 28, 2011

The hypocrisy of governments that let protesters be murdered in Bahrain while talking of the responsibility to protect and freedom to protest in Libya

There is a stench of utter hypocrisy and double standards emanating from the British, French, Canadian and US governments on the murder of unarmed protesters by dictatorships in the Arab revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. We know that in Bahrain the dictatorship’s forces have been murdering unarmed protesters and medical staff trying to treat them, just as Gaddafi’s forces have in Libya. Yet British Foreign Minister William Hague claims that Libya and Bahrain are “qualitatively different” because the King of Bahrain has offered dialogue with the protesters. Hague said that ““Yes Bahrain is a different case from Libya, it’s clearly a different case…In Bahrain the Government has offered a national dialogue to the opposition forces, they have offered a referendum on a constitution, you don’t see Colonel Gaddafi offering a referendum on a future constitution.” (1)

You miss out, William, that, as with Gaddafi’s government (which has also repeatedly offered “dialogue” or negotiations with the rebels) this was while the King of Bahrain was (and is) still having unarmed protesters and medical staff killed and using riot police to beat up hospital staff and to prevent wounded protesters getting treated (2) – (3). So Bahrain is not one tiny bit different from Libya, other than the failure of hypocrites like you, Clinton and Obama to do anything to stop murder by a dictatorship there or in Yemen or Oman or Egypt (and soon likely in Saudi).

The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain within sight of the Pearl Roundabout where most of the killings have taken place. Obama or Clinton could easily have asked UN Security Council authorisation to put some marines in to protect the protesters from the police and military (4). Have they? Have they fuck. That and similar mass murder by government forces in Yemen and Oman has gone without anything but empty words from Clinton and Hague about “deep concern” and how “both sides should show restraint” (as if unarmed protesters and the armed people murdering them are equally responsible for their deaths) (5) – (6).

Clinton claimed that “We’re particularly concerned about increasing reports of provocative acts and sectarian violence by all groups.”  (7). What “sectarian violence by all groups”? Sunni and Shia protesters demonstrated against a dictatorship together – and Bahraini police and soldiers killed them. That simple. So could you and William see your ways to please stop lying through your teeth please Hillary? Or have you become two more conscience-less robots, for whom truth is whatever suits the most powerful at the time?

So all the talk about the Libyan intervention showing that the “responsibility to protect” principles (developed by an expert panel for the UN in 2001) have finally been taken seriously and enforced is bollocks (8). The US and it’s allies are intervening where regime change would suit them (Libya, with the world’s tenth largest oil reserves and a government that haggles too much on it’s share of oil profits) while not even threatening to intervene where it’s allies are murdering protesters and medical staff. It’s business as usual.

I completely support the ‘responsibility to protect’ principles under which a government’s sovereignty is not absolute but depends on it protecting the lives and welfare of it’s people by providing basic services, disaster relief and not massacring them (9). If it fails in any of these ways or does target it’s own people, other governments are justified in intervening to help them. What we have so far is just the usual opportunism though – applying the principle where it suits big business and governments’ interests and not bothering where it doesn’t.

When an actual Rwanda or Bosnia takes place - or the slow motion ethnic cleansing by air and artillery strike in Gaza and the West Bank, there is no interest in intervention from the “international community” states led by the US. There’s no interest from them in humanitarian intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo either as long as the massacres, torture and gang rape of civilians, as well as their use as slave labour for mining by militias trading with multinational firms in the Democratic Republic of continue to make big profits for US and European based multinational companies doing deals with those militias – as they have for decades now (10) – (11).

 (To be fair in Bosnia the US did eventually intervene from the air, after spending several years blocking UN action to ensure the UN looked useless and the US-led NATO had a role. Their Croat allies ethnically cleansed thousands of Serbs from the Krajiina region in the final offensive that ended the war, backed by NATO air forces. The US ambassador to Croatia at least came out of it with some credit – he drove with a convoy of Serb civilians to try to stop Croat attacks on them (12) – (13)).

When the Israelis killed a thousand Palestinians – over 700 of them civilians often in deliberate targeting of civilians and ambulances – in a few weeks in December 2008 to January 2009, as revenge for the death of one Israeli civilian killed in rocket attacks before the offensive, by a Palestinian terrorist group, the US and British governments responded, as they had during Israeli bombing of the whole of Lebanon in 2006, in which ambulances and civilians were again targeted, by refusing to back a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the assaults. In the Lebanon war they were even sending the Israeli military plane loads of extra bombs to drop on those ambulances and civilians, in case they ran out (14) – (17).

Craig Murray and Democracy Now report Clinton also showed her hypocrisy by smirking as her security detail dragged ‘Veterans for Peace’ member McGovern out of a press conference for making a silent protest by standing up with his back to her while wearing a ‘Veterans for Peace’ t-shirt (you can see this part on CNN) (18). Clinton’s heavies then beat McGovern up. Clinton was making a speech railing against Gaddafi’s oppression of the Libyan people – including his refusal to give them the right to free speech and the right to protest peacefully. She may not have had McGovern shot by snipers, but her actions don’t exactly show her as a great defender of free speech either.

 (1) = Foreign and Commonwealth Office 20 Mar 2011 ‘UN intervention in Libya: Foreign Secretary on BBC Radio 5’,

(2) = Bloomberg 21 Feb 2011 ‘Libya Violence Deepens as Protestors Claim Control of Second-Largest City’,

(3) Haaretz (Israel) 07 Mar 2011 ‘Gadhafi regime offers olive branch to rebels while fighting to regain control over east Libya’,

(4) = Al Jazeera 20 Feb 2011 ‘Bahrain protesters remain in square’,

(5) = Amnesty International 18 Mar 2011 ‘Yemeni authorities must act over sniper killings of protesters’,

(6) = William Hague MP, Hansard 17th Feb 2011 , ‘We urge all sides to avoid violence and for the police to exercise restraint. The Bahraini Government should move quickly to carry out their commitment to a transparent investigation into earlier deaths, and extend that to include today's events and any alleged human rights abuses.

I also said to the Foreign Minister that this is a time to build bridges between the different religious communities in Bahrain. I said that we would strongly oppose any interference in the affairs of Bahrain by other nations or any action to inflame sectarian tensions between Bahrain's Sunni and Shi'a communities. We recognise that Bahrain has made important political reforms alongside its growing economic success. We strongly welcome such steps within the context of the long friendship between Bahrain and the UK under successive Governments. I was assured in Bahrain last week and again this morning that the Bahraini Government intend to build on these reforms

(7) = US Department of State – Remarks by Sec. of State Clinton – Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Al-Araby 15 March 2011 ‘Remarks With Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby’,

(8) = LA Times 28 Feb 2011 ‘Clinton denounces Kadafi, calls on leader of Libya to step down’,

(9) = International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty Dec 2001 ‘The Responsibility to Protect’,

(10) = Human Rights Watch 01 Jun 2005 ‘D.R. Congo: Gold Fuels Massive Human Rights Atrocities’,

(11) = Guardian 22 Oct 2002 ‘Multinationals in scramble for Congo's wealth’,

(12) = NYT 13 Oct 2002 ‘America's For-Profit Secret Army’,

(13) Human Rights Watch 1996 Annual Report – Croatia,

(14) = See sources numbered (21) to (45) on the link below on Israeli forces targeting civilians in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank,

(15) = Human Rights Watch 13 Aug 2009 ‘White Flag Deaths  - Killings of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead’,

(16) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Israel/Gaza: Operation "Cast Lead": 22 days of death and destruction’,

(17) = BBC News 27 Jul 2006 ‘Beckett protest at weapons flight’,

(18) = CNN 15 Feb 2011 ‘During a speech about internet freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is interrupted by a heckler’,


TONY @oakroyd said...

Sums it up in some detail, Duncan. The policy in Libya seems to be one of 'humanitarian bombing'. Bah.

seamus macniel said...

greetings from "zhonghua" - where, despite my having a rather super-duper vpn - pressures of work and a course of study have seen me neglect my own blog. good post duncan! bahrain is a place i know well, having worked there for a year in 2003.

yes, the hypocrisy ..... and there were the brits bringing in the sunni al-khalifis to run their show a long, long time ago; a pattern tried and tested all over the planet and you just have to cross the causeway into the "magic kingdom" to see it in its full glory. the "magic kingdom"; how appropriate and there was the wonderful land of the wahabbis being conjured up out of the hejaz and what was effectively northern yemen. if a place doesn't exist "we" can make it appear abracadabra and haven't "we" done that time and time again?
the hypocrisy .... the hypocrisy ..... the hypocrisy ... and it makes it all the more difficult to seize the necessary moral high ground in this rather barbaric, quite uncivilised, world.