Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why No Outcry over These Torturing Tyrants?

Why No Outcry over These Torturing Tyrants?


by Robert Fisk


Published on Saturday, May 14, 2011 by The




Distributed by Common Dreams



Christopher Hill, a former US secretary of state for

east Asia who was ambassador to Iraq - and usually a

very obedient and un-eloquent American diplomat - wrote

the other day that "the notion that a dictator can

claim the sovereign right to abuse his people has

become unacceptable". [The King of Bahrain has so far

avoided the criticism of Western leaders. And why is

that? (Reuters ) ]


Unless, of course - and Mr Hill did not mention this -

you happen to live in Bahrain. On this tiny island, a

Sunni monarchy, the al-Khalifas, rule a majority Shia

population and have responded to democratic protests

with death sentences, mass arrests, the imprisonment of

doctors for letting patients die after protests and an

"invitation" to Saudi forces to enter the country. They

have also destroyed dozens of Shia mosques with all the

thoroughness of a 9/11 pilot. But then, let's remember

that most of the 9/11 killers were indeed Saudis.


And what do we get for it? Silence. Silence in the US

media, largely silence in the European press, silence

from our own beloved CamerClegg and of course from the

White House. And - shame of shame - silence from the

Arabs who know where their bread is buttered. That

means, of course, also silence from al-Jazeera. I often

appear on their otherwise excellent Arabic and English

editions, but their failure to mention Bahrain is

shameful, a dollop of shit in the dignity that they

have brought to reporting in the Middle East. The Emir

of Qatar - I know him and like him very much - does not

need to belittle his television empire in this way.


CamerClegg is silent, of course, because Bahrain is one

of our "friends" in the Gulf, an eager arms buyer, home

to thousands of Brit expatriates who - during the

mini-revolution by Bahrain's Shia - spent their time

writing vicious letters to the local pro-Khalifa press

denouncing Western journalists. And as for the

demonstrators, I recall a young Shia woman telling me

that if only the Crown Prince would come to the Pearl

Roundabout and talk with the protesters, they would

carry him on their shoulders around the square. I

believed her. But he didn't come. Instead, he destroyed

their mosques and claimed the protests were an Iranian

plot - which was never the case - and destroyed the

statue of the pearl at the roundabout, thus deforming

the very history of his own country.


Obama, needless to say, has his own reasons for

silence. Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet and the

Americans don't want to be shoved out of their happy

little port (albeit that they could up-sticks and move

to the UAE or Qatar anytime they wish) and want to

defend Bahrain from mythical Iranian aggression. So you

won't find La Clinton, so keen to abuse the Assad

family, saying anything bad about the al-Khalifas. Why

on earth not? Are we all in debt to the Gulf Arabs?

They are honourable people and understand when

criticism is said with good faith. But no, we are

silent. Even when Bahraini students in Britain are

deprived of their grants because they protested outside

their London embassy, we are silent. CamerClegg, shame

on you.


Bahrain has never had a reputation as a "friend" of the

West, albeit that is how it likes to be portrayed. More

than 20 years ago, anyone protesting the royal family's

dominance risked being tortured in the security police

headquarters. The head of it was a former British

police Special Branch officer whose senior torturer was

a pernicious major in the Jordanian army. When I

published their names, I was rewarded with a cartoon in

the government newspaper Al-Khaleej which pictured me

as a rabid dog. Rabid dogs, of course, have to be

exterminated. It was not a joke. It was a threat.


The al-Khalifas have no problems with the opposition

newspaper, Al-Wasat, however. They arrested one of its

founders, Karim Fakhrawi, on 5 April. He died in police

custody a week later. Ten days later, they arrested the

paper's columnist, Haidar Mohamed al-Naimi. He has not

been seen since. Again, silence from CamerClegg, Obama,

La Clinton and the rest. The arrest and charging of

Shia Muslim doctors for letting their patients die -

the patients having been shot by the "security forces",

of course - is even more vile. I was in the hospital

when these patients were brought in. The doctors'

reaction was horror mixed with fear - they had simply

never seen such close-range gunshot wounds before. Now

they have been arrested, doctors and patients taken

from their hospital beds. If this was happening in

Damascus, Homs or Hama or Aleppo, the voices of

CamerClegg, and Obama and La Clinton would be ringing

in our ears. But no. Silence. Four men have been

sentenced to death for killing two Bahraini policemen.

It was a closed military court. Their "confessions"

were aired on television, Soviet-style. No word from

CamerClegg or Obama or La Clinton.


What is this nonsense? Well, I will tell you. It has

nothing to do with the Bahrainis or the al-Khalifas. It

is all about our fear of Saudi Arabia. Which also means

it is about oil. It is about our absolute refusal to

remember that 9/11 was committed largely by Saudis. It

is about our refusal to remember that Saudi Arabia

supported the Taliban, that Bin Laden was a Saudi, that

the most cruel version of Islam comes from Saudi

Arabia, the land of head-choppers and hand-cutters. It

is about a conversation I had with a Bahraini official

- a good and decent and honest man - in which I asked

him why the Bahraini prime minister could not be

elected by a majority Shia population. "The Saudis

would never permit it," he said. Yes, our other

friends. The Saudis. (c) 2011 The Independent Robert Fisk


Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The

Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books

on the region, including The Great War for

Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

No comments: