Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, President Barack Obama delivered his usual barrage of myth and mendacity concerning the role of the US in the world.
Some commentators have since swooned at the possibility of dialogue between Iran and US and a new era of diplomacy – all because of a few positive-sounding words uttered by the American president.
So, let’s test the veracity or reliability of a few more of Obama’s words as applied to the real world.
“The hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation. And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria,” he told UN delegates.
Almost every word and claim made by the American president in his entire speech can be rebutted with facts to show that he is either woefully ignorant of history or, more sinisterly, is a deluded liar. It is galling to have to listen to someone lecturing the rest of the world on the peace-making principles of the UN, and especially when that someone is the figurehead leader of the world’s biggest terrorist state.
We haven’t time to repudiate all of Obama’s grandiloquent nonsense, but let’s focus on the sample above. In every case, Iraq, Bahrain and Syria, the US has fomented, sponsored and exploded sectarian violence. That is, the opposite of what Obama claims.
No one is pretending that the Middle East does not have a history of latent sectarian tensions. But the US illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, beginning in 2003, and the overtly sectarian counterinsurgency tactics was like plunging a knife into scar tissue and twisting it open, with predictable bloodletting between Sunni and Shia, and the fleeing of thousands of Christians from an historic homeland, never to return.
Iraq has been turned into an internecine charnel house because of American “hard work”. This violence is an integral part of the US using sectarianism to destabilize Syria for the purpose of regime change there. In this “hard work”, Washington has called upon the divide-and-rule expertise of the old colonial powers, Britain and France, as well as the terrorist competence of the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Israel.
On the third location – Bahrain – where Obama proclaimed to the world that the US is trying to forge freedom and democracy and resolve sectarianism, the reality is again the diametric opposite to the American myth. Indeed, in many ways, Bahrain is a particularly clear proof of the real mendacious and destructive intent of US foreign policy.
The cause of democracy and freedom in Bahrain has been bludgeoned by the Al Khalifa monarchy precisely because of unswerving support from the US, as well as Britain and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain smashes the sugarcoated words of Obama about American idealism into blood-spattered shards.
Bahrain’s 700,000 national population is comprised of 70 per cent Shia, who demand an elected government. For decades, not just since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, the population has been calling for this democratic right. Yet this peaceful demand has been met with slaughter and vicious repression – all within only a few miles from the US Navy Fifth Fleet base on the tiny Persian Gulf island.
Bahrain’s coterie of unelected royal rulers, who happen to be Sunni and who historically invaded the island 230 years ago with the help of the British Empire, has succeeded so far to stave off this righteous, basic democratic demand only because of the staunch support it receives from Washington and London.
This support to crush democracy, not forge it as Obama makes out, takes the form of military equipment, such as the sale of shot guns, poison gas and British-made Typhoon fighters jets as discussed last month in 10 Downing Street between UK premier David Cameron and Bahraini King Hamad. It involves diplomatic shielding of the Bahraini regime from international justice, despite the occasional disingenuous “concern” over human rights issued by Washington and London.
The Western imprimatur to bludgeon democracy and freedom in Bahrain is also seen in the repressive expertise with which the Bahraini regime fuels conflict between the Shia majority and the remaining Sunni community. In this, the Bahraini regime has benefited much from the former colonial power Britain in the use of divide-and-rule tactics. The callous turning of blind eye by Washington and London to the systematic violation of the Shia in Bahrain is a crucial approval for the regime to do its worst.
A state of emergency exists in Bahrain in all but name, after the Khalifa rubber-stamp so-called parliament instated a raft of special powers to persecute anyone deemed to criticize the regime, including the mere expression that the despotic regime should stand down and give way to democratic government. All marches and gatherings are banned, thus denying basic freedoms of speech and assembly.
Furthermore, the regime’s paramilitary police force, backed up by Saudi personnel, break into hundreds of homes every week, beating and arresting the occupants. Often these police raids are conducted by masked armed commandos in civilian clothes.
Those detained are not heard of for weeks and months, denied legal counsel and family visits. They are thrown into the Khalifa torture dungeons where they are subjected to the most horrendous physical and mental abuse, such as hanging for days from the ceiling by the wrists.
Invariably, the detainees sign confessions without even knowing what they are confessing to. Then a Khalifa judge will hand down years of imprisonment based on these torture confessions.
Take the case of Rihanna Al Musawi. This mother of three children was first arrested because she was protesting against the unfair imprisonment of political leaders and human rights activists. Rihanna had the temerity to take her peaceful protest to the Formula One Grand Prix circuit where her protest T-Shirt might have been picked up by international television cameras. That was in April. For the past six months, she has been subjected to relentless torture in prison, including being stripped naked and threatened with rape. She faces trumped up terrorism charges and a lifetime in prison.
The Bahraini regime has tried to keep its crimes secret by especially targeting journalists, photographers and bloggers. Journalist Nazeeha Saeed was hauled into custody and tortured, including electrocution and whipping on her back. This was because she reported to international news outlets the horrific killing in cold blood of civilian protester Isa Abdullah Hassan back in February 2011 during the initial protests. Hassan was killed when a policeman fired a gun at point blank to his head. When Nazeeha Saeed was brought into custody, her interrogators kept accusing her of making a false television report on the death.
Another witness to the Bahraini regime’s ruthless crackdown is photographer Hassan Matooq, who was jailed for three years. His “crime” was that of compiling images showing the injuries incurred by peaceful protesters at the hands of the state security forces.
Dozens of other Bahraini journalists and photographers have been targeted by the Khalifa regime, including Mohammed Hassan and award-winners Ahmed Humaidan and Hussain Hubail. As with thousands of other Bahrainis, these individuals have undergone the barbaric Khalifa torture apparatus inflicted with scientific efficiency – techniques that the Americans and British torturers learnt in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya and Northern Ireland. Bahraini sources verify that British personnel are present at these torture sessions.
The reports and images of activists and journalists depicting the daily onslaught of repression in Bahraini villages have earned them particular venom for their powerful testimony. Their persecution is the regime’s way of trying to rob the voiceless of any voice whatsoever.
This is American and British-sponsored sectarianism and repression, as practiced in Bahrain. It is deliberately aimed at terrorizing the constituency for democratic change in Bahrain – the Shia population. For the US and Britain, the last thing these governments want to see in the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East more generally, is democracy and peaceful coexistence between Shia, Sunni, Muslim and Christian, or anyone else.
That’s why Obama’s grandiloquent words at the UN need to be tested against the real world. They are cheap and meaningless when measured against the suffering that US policies actually inflict in practice. Bahrain is proof that President Barack Obama’s lofty claims of forging democracy and freedom and resolving sectarianism are but a sick joke.
Just remember when you finish reading this, the torture of those Bahrainis mentioned above will continue for the rest of today, tomorrow and for years to come, all because of American and British “support”.
And yet here’s an unbearable irony, in reference to possible dialogue with Iran, Obama had the cheek to say that Iranian words must be backed up with meaningful and transparent action.
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