Libya and Bahrain: contrasting Western attitudes

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Rabi' al-Thani 27, 1432 2011-04-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 2, Rabi' al-Thani, 1432)

The West’s hypocrisy stands exposed yet again in the contrasting policies toward uprisings in Libya and Bahrain. The US and allies Britain and France pressed the UN Security Council on March 17 to impose a no-fly zone on Libya.

The West’s hypocrisy stands exposed yet again in the contrasting policies toward uprisings in Libya and Bahrain. The US and allies Britain and France pressed the UN Security Council on March 17 to impose a no-fly zone on Libya. In Bahrain, on the other hand, 2,000 troops, mainly Saudis from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), were rushed in on March 13 where they promptly perpetrated a bloodbath against unarmed peaceful civilians. The Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati troops also invaded hospitals dragging the wounded from their beds and throwing them in the streets. Doctors were also beaten up. Despite such barbarism by Western-backed Middle Eastern tyrannies, the US and its allies remain unmoved. The lives of Bahrainis are clearly unimportant compared to their vested interests. The people of Bahrain are asking for the same rights as people elsewhere in the Middle East: dignity, freedom and fair elections.

In Libya’s case, the West’s wrath has been directed at Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. True, Qaddafi is neither a democrat nor loved by his people but the manner in which he has been targeted while ignoring the brutality unleashed by Saudi and Bahraini troops on unarmed civilians in Bahrain clearly exposes Western hypocrisy. Is Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain or Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia any less brutal or corrupt than Qaddafi?

Immediately after the Security Council vote, US President Barack Obama started issuing threats: Qaddafi must immediately comply; he must stop all attacks against civilians and he must withdraw his troops from areas recaptured from the rebels. Obama also borrowed language from his notorious predecessor George Bush: “these demands are not negotiable.” Obama, the president for change, has now surpassed even Bush in resorting to raw force despite US woes in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which have bankrupted the US economy.

Numerous targets were hit in the first cruise missile strikes on Libyan cities on March 19. The date coincides with the Western crusade launched against Iraq in 2003 resulting in 1.5 million deaths. Neither Obama nor his British and French counterparts are likely to lose any sleep over the killing of Arabs; they have honed their murderous skills over hundreds of years. The latest assault on Libya is merely a continuation of the colonial enterprise launched behind the veneer of a Security Council resolution. The crucial question is: what right do Western rulers have to decide who should rule in Libya or anywhere else?

There is mounting evidence that the Saudi invasion of Bahrain was part of a larger plan involving both Raymond Davis, the CIA undercover agent who murdered two Pakistanis at point blank range in Lahore, Pakistan on January 27, as well as an attempt to prevent their own shaky hold on power in Riyadh. The Saudis were permitted to invade and occupy another country in exchange for securing the release of Davis. The murders became a bone of contention between an irate Pakistani public already seething under US drone attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent people, and the US whose CIA operative shot dead two Pakistanis in broad daylight in a busy street in Lahore. The Saudis arranged for blood money to be paid to relatives of the deceased in exchange for Davis’s release. The much-maligned Shari‘ah law was invoked to get Davis off the hook. So, Shari‘ah is OK if it facilitates the release of an American murderer but not OK if Muslims want to apply it in their lives?

The other point is also significant. The Saudis do not want disturbances spreading to the kingdom, at least not in any significant way. There were demonstrations in al-Qatif on March 10 and in Riyadh and Jeddah on March 11 but these were ruthlessly suppressed. The Saudis would rather fight their battle for survival in the streets of Manama than shooting Saudis in the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah. The Saudis view any challenge to the status quo in the region as a threat to their hold on power. Any change is also seen as benefitting Islamic Iran whose growing influence the Saudis fear.

The uprising in Bahrain and now gathering momentum in Yemen sends shivers down the Saudis’ collective spine. They fear their grip on power becoming loose. But it is Bahrain that worries the Saudis the most. The tiny Gulf state has a Shi‘i majority ruled by the oppressive Khalifa family that is closely linked with the Americans whose naval Fifth Fleet prowls the Persian Gulf from there. This explains why the Americans have been so lukewarm in supporting the struggle of the Bahraini people.

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