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Age of Obama
Barack Obama's presidency

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George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06

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From free trade to the Kosovo crisis.

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The Invasion of Bahrain

By Craig Murray
March 16, 2011

Editor’s Note: In the Western press, the Saudi invasion of Bahrain is politely called a “troop movement” or an “arrival” – and the reaction from Washington and other Western capitals is similarly muted, even as Bahrain’s Sunni king authorizes the violent crushing of pro-democracy demonstrators from the Shiite majority.

Selective outrage is now back in vogue – for instance, “Democracy Now” was almost alone in reporting how another brutal U.S. ally, Uzbekistan, has just expelled Human Rights Watch. In this guest essay, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray comments on the double standards being applied to rebellions in the Arab world:

The hideous King of Bahrain has called in troops from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait to attack pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain.

Can you imagine the outrage if Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi called in the armies of Chad. Mali and Burkina Faso to attack the rebels in Benghazi?

But do you think that those in power in the West, who rightly condemn Gaddafi’s apparent use of foreign mercenaries, will condemn this use of foreign military power by oil sheiks to crush majority protesters in Bahrain? Of course they won’t.

A senior diplomat in a Western mission to the United Nations in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.

We also had the Murdoch family’s Sky News rationalizing the Saudi invasion of Bahrain by telling us that the Gulf Cooperation Council has a military alliance agreement under which a state can call in help if attacked. But that does not mean attacked by its own, incidentally unarmed, people.

NATO is a military alliance. It does not mean British Prime Minister David Cameron could call in U.S. troops to gun down tuition-fee protesters in Parliament Square.

But this dreadful outrage by the Arab sheikhs will be swallowed silently by the West because they are “our” bastards, they host “our” troops; they buy “our” weapons -- and they sell "us" oil.

I do hope this latest development will open the eyes of those duped into supporting Western intervention in Libya, who believe that those who control the Western armies are motivated by humanitarian concerns.

Bahrain already had foreign forces in it – notably the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Do you think that Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama will threaten to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy demonstrators if armies from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf sheikdoms are let loose on them? I don’t think so.

Whether the military invasion of Bahrain will have any effect on the railroading of public opinion behind military intervention in Libya remains to be seen.

I will be fascinated to hear, for example, whether Menzies Campbell and Phillippe Sands, who wrote an op-ed for The Guardian entitled “Our Duty To Protect The Libyan People,” also believe the West has a duty to pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain – to protect them from attacks by the military forces of the king and his foreign allies.

We know from Iraq and Afghanistan, Serbia, Lebanon and Gaza that the “collateral damage” from the initial bombing of Libyan air defenses would kill more people than are dying already in the terrible situation in Libya.

While a no-fly zone would bolster rebel morale, most of the actual damage rebels are sustaining is from heavy artillery; so, without a no-tank, no-artillery and no-gunboat zone, a no-fly zone will not in itself tip the military balance.

It appears that getting rid of Gaddafi may be a longer slog than the West would like, but an attempt at a quick fix will lead to another Iraq and give Gaddafi an undeserved patriotic mantle. It was former UK Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles, who said Western military intervention in Libya should be avoided above all because of the law of unintended consequences.

One consequence has happened already, unintended by the liberals who fell in behind the calls for military attacks on Gaddafi. That campaign created cover for the foreign military suppression of democracy in Bahrain.

For Clinton and Obama, it is a win-win: advancing U.S. foreign policy both on Libya, where Gaddafi has been a longtime American nemesis, and on the oil-rich Gulf, where democracy is still viewed as a threat to stability. People of good heart should weep.

Craig Murray was Her Majesty's ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. However, when he objected to the UK's use of information extracted by the most sadistic methods of torture by Uzbek authorities, Murray was fired. For his personal courage in the face of this retaliation, he received the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in 2006. In accepting the award, Murray said, "I would rather die than let someone be tortured in an attempt to give me some increment of security." [For more on Murray's case, see's "How a Torture Protest Killed a Career."]  

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