I have always been pretty skeptical about the Arab Spring in the Middle East. The way the US pretended that we had allies in Libya who wanted “freedom” against Gaddafi was especially implausible. We basically armed terrorists; perhaps even with the same weapons they used to kill our ambassador.
Gaddafi was not a good guy, but taking sides between him and terrorists makes no sense. It makes even less sense that he had been received by the West because he responded to our calls to renounce weapons of mass destruction. He did what we asked and then we killed him at a time when we are allegedly trying to get another nation to give up their plans to develop WMD.
But as much as I think it was evil to support armed jihadists against the secular dictator, I think it would have been just as evil to sell arms to the dictator while he was persecuting his own people with soldiers and weapons. But that is exactly what we have been doing in Bahrain. The only real difference is that, rather than a secular ruling regime, the royal government of Bahrain is Sunni Muslim oppressing a majority of Sunni that the rule.
When Bahrain experienced some “Arab Spring,” we sold them some “lawnmowers” so the regime could mow them down. ProPublica reports:
“Despite Bahrain’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the U.S. has continued to provide weapons and maintenance to the small Mideast nation. Defense Department documents released to ProPublica give the fullest picture yet of the arms sales: The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.”
This was stuff was sold through the Pentagon at a time not to different when we were instituting regime change in Libya because Gaddafi was attacking “his own people.” Throwing our weight behind dynastic ruling regime is an odd way of supporting democracy. Perhaps we’d be more credible if we could at least pretend to have a single standard of behavior.
Since the ruling dynasty of Bahrain is Sunni, our support for that government is pretty much the same as our support for Saudi Arabia. Does our state department think that, when we claim to support democracy in the Middle East, other people are unaware of our hypocrisy?
The State Department claims to have denied a few toys to Bahrain, and the Pentagon insists that all its gear is designed for fighting external threats, not the Shiites chafing under Sunni royalty. But there is reason to doubt that the Bahrain government or their US supporters would admit the truth if they did help Bahrain crack down on protestors.
“There have been reports that Bahrain used American-made helicopters to fire on protesters in the most intense period of the crackdown. Time magazine reported in mid-March 2011 that Cobra helicopters had conducted "live ammunition air strikes" on protesters. The new Defense Department list of arms sales has two entries related to “AH-1F Cobra Helicopters” in March and April 2011. Neither the exact equipment or services being sold nor the delivery timetable are specified.”
So maybe that is just a coincidence. But it still seems strange that we must offer an unelected, authoritarian regime support of any kind,