The Manama Dialogue held in Bahrain at the weekend – attended by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, among other senior Western officials – is presented with gravitas and self-importance as a forum to «earnestly» discuss «security issues» in the Middle East and beyond.
In reality, the event – held in the Bahraini capital, Manama – is nothing but a talking shop of fake concepts, hollow posturing and boilerplate verbosity. A talking shop, complete with garish window dressing and manikins, to hide the gruesome nature of the real Western political business that goes on in the basement of the oil-rich region.
Like the general position of Washington and London towards the Persian Gulf Arab regimes, the Manama Dialogue is all about selling propaganda and deception to cover the most brutal facts of life, sold with the guise of genial, virtuous vendors.
One of these brutal facts is that the Western governments are fully complicit in the repression of their Persian Arab clients against their own people. Another brutal fact is that it is Western governments and their Persian Arab clients who are fuelling insecurity and violence across the Middle East, as in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, by covertly supporting extremist regime-change mercenaries, such as Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, both of which are linked to Al Qaeda.
Yet another brutal fact is that the Persian Gulf is one of the most militarized and insecure locations in the world, partly because of Western support for illicitly nuclear-armed Israel, and partly because of reckless weapons sales by America and Britain to the tinderbox region.
Nevertheless, senior representatives of the war-dealing Western states have the audacity to address a conference in the region on «peace and security».
Like a parallel universe, speakers and delegates were ensconced in a plush hotel by their Bahraini hosts to hold forth on democracy, rule of law and terrorism. Meanwhile, a few kilometres away from the venue, the Western-backed Bahraini regime was deploying its riot police to club and gas peaceful pro-democracy supporters. The protesters were trying to exercise their universal right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression – the same human rights that Washington and London repeatedly declare they are champion retailers of.
These rights have been systematically denied to Bahraini civilians for the past three years (and before) by the US and British-backed absolute monarchy in Bahrain. Since February 2011, when the pro-democracy movement rekindled in the Persian Gulf kingdom, regime forces have killed nearly 100 civilians, some of whom died under torture during detention; hundreds have been maimed with grotesque injuries, such as the loss of eyes and limbs from shot gun pellets; infants and elderly have been poisoned in their homes from the deliberate, excessive use of tear gas; and thousands of families have been plunged into misery because fathers and sons have been locked up in jails without a semblance of due legal process. All this barbarity is done with the tacit support of Washington and London, and with the shameful indifference of the Western news media.
For a tiny population of only 600,000 native Bahrainis (an expatriate foreign worker population is of the same size) the toll of brutality and suffering inflicted by the Khalifa regime has been immense. And in this fierce assault on the mainly Shia population, the Bahraini rulers have been fully assisted by Saudi Arabia, which sent troops into the neighbouring island back in March 2011 to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations. Saudi troops have remained in Bahrain ever since – albeit covertly, by donning Bahraini uniforms. Washington and London are fully apprised of the situation. In fact, it was the US and Britain that gave the green light to the House of Saud to embark on the crushing of protests in Bahrain, just as the Saudi rulers have been doing in their own Eastern Province and other parts of that oil-rich kingdom.
It is instructive to compare and contrast what is happening in the Ukraine and the official Western response. The protests in Kiev have evidently been driven by a determined minority, using violent and organized subversion, and calling for the overthrow of the elected authorities. This is not the exercise of international human rights, as in Bahrain; in the case of the Ukraine, it is a call to sedition.
Furthermore, the agitating groups in the Ukraine, such as the Fatherland Party and the neo-fascist Freedom Party, are known to have well-established logistical links to foreign agencies that are committed to fomenting regime change in targeted nations. These agencies include the American CIA and the benign-sounding National Endowment for Democracy. Certainly, the methodical tactics of disruption deployed recently against government buildings in Kiev strongly imply a covert military input…
To upbraid the Ukrainian state for responding with a heavy-hand in the face of this wanton subversion against its sovereign authority, as Western governments have charged, is at best naive and at worst blatant propaganda to distort the real situation.
Apparently, innocent civilian bystanders were caught up in the melee and incurred injuries. There were, however, no deaths, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov later issued a public apology for police conduct. Since the height of the commotion a week ago, the demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital have subsided. This pattern again implies that the protests and public were manipulated for an ulterior agenda – an agenda that was not merely about expressing dissent against the government’s EU rejection, but rather was more sinister in scope, namely to destabilize the state.
The contrast with Bahrain could hardly be more lucid. Here the «authorities» are an unelected regime comprised largely of one family – the al Khalifas, headed by a self-appointed king, Hamad bin Issa al Khalifa. His hereditary successor will be his eldest son, Crown Prince Salman. The Bahraini regime rules by absolute decree with the guise of a consultative «parliament» that is «elected» through a heavily gerrymandered process.
The Bahraini regime and its foreign supporters – Washington, London and Saudi Arabia – have claimed that the largely peaceful pro-democracy protests are manipulated by foreign agents. It is claimed that these agents include Shia Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah. The US and British governments do not reiterate this too often or loudly because they know full well that the accusation is an utter figment of imagination. There is not an iota of evidence for the involvement of Iran, Hezbollah or any other foreign agency in the Bahraini demonstrations. These protests have been sustained for nearly three years simply by the civilian population’s own desire to have the right to democratically elect a government, rather than being lorded over by a corrupt and venal crony family racket.
Unlike the Ukraine, Bahrain is a simple and straightforward case of democracy being brutally denied to a civilian population that has remained peaceful despite relentless provocation from an unelected regime.
The double standards and hypocrisy of the Western governments and the mainstream news media as shown by the differing response to events in the Ukraine and Bahrain is glaring. A short-lived bid to sow chaos in the Ukraine by a provable foreign-backed subversion against an elected government is given the highest profile by Western governments and media as «a noble bid for democracy against an autocratic regime». Whereas in Bahrain, a sustained pro-democracy movement by unarmed, peaceful civilians against a brutal, unelected autocrat is, well, simply ignored by the West.
Indeed, Bahrain is not merely ignored by the West. It is indulged and tacitly backed to the hilt by Washington and London. The attendance of such prominent figures as Chuck Hagel and William Hague at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain at the weekend – during which they spouted platitudes about security, democracy and rule of law – is the US and British government’s way of reassuring the Bahraini and Saudi regimes of their ongoing support to crush democracy.
Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel announced during the weekend forum that the US has no intention of scaling back its military presence (read: arms sales) in the Persian Gulf despite the recent diplomatic detente with Iran. «Diplomacy, must be backed up with military power,» Hagel told delegates. The Pentagon chief also disclosed that the US was going ahead with the sale of 15,000 anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia worth $1 billion. These missiles will probably end up in the hands of Al Qaeda militants waging a war of terror against Syria for the Western-backed objective of regime change in that country. Ironically, and ludicrously, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned delegates that «extremists» operating in Syria (with the covert support of the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia among others) present a grave security threat to the Middle East region and Europe.
Outside the Manama conference, where peaceful protesters were having their heads cracked open by Bahraini riot police, one banner held up by the crowd read: «Why do Western governments not support calls for democracy in Bahrain?»
What a cruel joke. Western governments do not support democracy in Bahrain – or anywhere else for that matter – because they make money from oil and arms sales by supporting dictatorships, and from crushing and subverting democracy. Bahrain and the Ukraine are just two examples of the general concept. Despite their polished and preening rhetoric, Washington and London are nothing but the salesmen for subversion and deception.