In a breathtaking display of absurdity, US secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and Britain’s Foreign Minister William Hague were among senior Western delegates to address the annual conference on “regional security” held in Bahrain at the weekend.
These officials pontificated about regional threats, conflict, international law, human rights and so on; meanwhile out on the streets of Bahrain, not far from the venue, peaceful protesters calling for democratic freedom were being bludgeoned by regime police thugs.
How absurd can it get? Like a comedy double act, Hagel and Hague were enthusing about high-minded democratic principles to their unelected, dictatorial hosts, the Al Khalifa rulers, surrounded by representatives of the other Persian Gulf Arab dictatorships, prime among them the absolute, tyrannical monarchy of the House of Saud.
And yet outside, ordinary Bahraini civilians yearning to see these same principles put into practice were getting their heads cracked open by uniformed thugs acting under the orders of the very same despots applauding Hagel and Hague. Talk about inside-out, upside-down doublethink.
When Bahrain’s mainly Shia majority rekindled their decades-old protests against the unelected Khalifa crime family in February 2011, it was the Saudi-led [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council that marched into the tiny island to crush the pro-democracy movement.
The GCC military force is perversely, but aptly, named “a defense operation”. For its purpose is not the defense against some alleged, non-existent threat from without, but the imminent threat from within.
That threat is the spread of democracy in the region, which would sweep away the unelected super-wealthy families that rule over Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain – the six member states of the [Persian]GCC.
The Saudi-led invasion of Bahrain in March 2011 to wipe out “the contagion” of democracy in the oil-rich region was given the green light by Washington and London, with whom the Saudi rulers consulted days before sending in the troops and tanks.
Saudi forces still remain in Bahrain – albeit covertly, wearing Bahraini uniforms – where they continue to brutally attack pro-democracy demonstrators every week, as they have done for the past nearly three years.
And it’s not just protesters on the streets that are killed and injured. Saudi-backed Bahraini forces attack whole villages and family homes with night raids and poisonous gas, many of the occupants, including infants and elderly, having died from suffocating fumes.
Thousands of Bahraini families have been ripped apart, as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters are hauled off to jails and torture centers. The prisoners are denied any legal rights, convicted on the basis of tortured confessions, and many of them imprisoned for life.
Prisoners who have incurred disabilities and diseases from their trauma are also denied basic medical attention, putting their lives at risk. Such detainees include the photographer Hussain Hubail, suffering cardiac problems, elderly political opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, who is battling cancer, and human rights defenders Abdulhadi al-Singace and Naji Fateel, both of whom have become paralyzed from their physical beatings.
The same vicious assault on pro-democracy civilians goes on in Saudi Arabia where some 30,000 prisoners of conscience are rotting away behind dungeon bars, as well as in the other Persian Gulf states, although to a lesser extent.
The US and British governments are fully apprised of the systematic violations and torture carried out by their Persian Gulf dictator allies. Let’s be under no illusion. It’s not just that Washington and London are merely aware of the abominations and turn a blind eye; these Western governments are colluding in the ongoing barbarity.
Addressing the Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain at the weekend, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said: “I am under no illusions, like all of you, about the daily threats facing this region, or the current anxieties that I know exist here in the [Persian] Gulf.”
Indeed, Hagel is “under no illusions”. The threat to security that he alludes to is not the fairytale, fictional threat attributed to Iran.
The very real danger is that of democracy taking hold in the Persian Gulf. Whereby the people of the region might be able to avail of the vast oil wealth for genuine social development instead of the billions of dollars being funneled into the hands of crony royal families who in turn squander these billions on American and British weaponry.
The abundantly evidenced risk to security in the region is from the US and British-backed Arab tyrannies fuelling terrorism in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, as well as brutally repressing their own people.
When Hagel and Hague and their despotic clients talk about “defense” what they are referring to is the defense of dictatorships against democracy in the Persian Gulf and the protection of multi-billion-dollar weapons contracts to American and British companies (who in turn buy political prostitutes like Hagel and Hague to do their bidding).
There is zero evidence of any other kind of threat, certainly not from Iran, except in the figment of twisted, propagandized imaginations. By contrast, the evidence for American and British-backed despotic terrorism (including that of nuclear-armed Israel) is glaringly real in the form of thousands of lives killed, maimed, displaced and rotting away in ghettoes and jails.
But cracks in this absurd façade are appearing and widening. The Omanis have given notice that they are no longer willing to participate in this ludicrous charade, saying at the weekend that they will not be part of any Persian Gulf military club, probably knowing that its pretext is patently untenable.
Also, Western and international public awareness is becoming increasingly indignant and intolerant of the parody. Why are billions of dollars being spent on planet-destroying weapons and manufacturing terrorism when so many urgent social needs are being trampled on at home and abroad?
Ordinary people around the world know that the threat to peace, security, democracy and prosperity is not Iran or any other alleged bogeyman.
They know the real and imminent danger stems from elite Western-dominated capitalism and its satellite terrorist-sponsoring regimes in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf dictatorships.
The truth is both arresting and liberating. Western ruling cliques and their despotic “allies” – under the control of corporate fascism – are now seen more acutely than ever as the enemies of democracy and peace.
The absurd pretence otherwise is well and truly over.