Don’t forget Bahrain

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by David Malone

While the world watches the fine results of building nuclear reactors almost upon a fault line, in one of the world’s seismically most active areas, but not thinking it necessary to build them to withstand the most severe event – while we all absorb the wisdom and forethought of that – events in Bahrain are getting less notice than they deserve.

Bahrain is like Saudi, its far larger neighbour, an absolute monarchy and one divided from many of its people not only by accumulated wealth and jealously hoarded power, but by religious conviction.  Like Saudi, Bahrain has a deep Sunni/Shiite divide.

For the last few weeks there have been pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. As there have been on and off for the last 30 years or more.  In Bahrain, as in Yemen, Saudi’s southern neighbour, and in Saudi itself, the desire is first and foremost for democracy.  And that frightens the Saudi elite which does not like or want democracy.  But in all three countries there is a volatile admixture of Sunni/Shia discrimination and unrest.
And this complicates already turbulent matters.

Today, 1000 Saudi and emirates troops in armoured vehicles and tanks entered Bahrain.  The royal rulers of Bahrain invited them, for the purposes of ‘restoring and maintaining order’ presumably from the ‘threat’ of democracy.  A Saudi soldier has been shot and killed by a protester.  And Iran has denounced the intervention of Saudi and the UAE in Bahrain.

Iran is not an Arab state. It is Persian.  Arabs and Persians are not the best of friends. Iran is also Shia while the Saudi and the others are generally ruled by Sunni elites.  How ironic if Iran comes to be seen as the champion of democracy while the West, greedy above all else for oil, sides with ruling elites who care nothing at all for democracy.

And we do not have much of a record of supporting democracy. In fact, our record shows we don’t really care much for democracy either.  It always amazes me how quick we in the West are, to assassinate left leaning leaders of other countries (the CIA murdered Allende) and install and support murdering right-wing dictators.  Saddam Hussein was one of ours, as was/is (we just can’t make up our minds) Gaddafi, as was Noriega in Panama, and Somoza in Nicaragua. And, of course, presidents of life are our favourites being democratic (presidents!) and absolute rulers (for life) like Mubarak in Egypt.

We are oh so willing to murder left leaders who nationalise our interests or won’t negotiate to give us what we want, but oh so scrupulous when it comes to even offering a hankie to mop up the blood when it is Gaddafi murdering his people.

We might be accused of double standards but that would be to dignify us with having any standards at all.