June 29, 2012

U.S. Double-Standard On Display In Bahrain

Yesterday Bahrain's monarchy released its first details on a clandestine network of bomb-making plants, exposed by a series of raids conducted earlier in June. Tariq al-Hassan, the country's public security chief, said his personnel are searching for three men that accumulated "more than five tons" of material used to make explosives, along with the wires and plastic tubing that are associated with pipe-bombs.

"The explosives were designed to cause severe injury, a high death toll, serious destruction to property and fear in the minds of the public," Hassan warned. 

Concerned as the monarchy is for its own supporters' safety, be they civilian or policeman, King Hamad Isa bin Al Khalifa and his hardline officials are visibly salivating over a treasure trove of propaganda. Mired in daily protests against a determined opposition movement and needing new ammunition, the revelation of several "terrorist dens" will soon manifest into another "justifiable" crackdown on Bahrain's streets. This information also leveraged the monarchy's threat of an Iranian takeover - easy meat, given the Senate's similar focus - into another U.S. defense of Bahrain's monarchy.

One group's terrorist den is a government's gold mine. 

The State Department's Victoria Nuland opened Thursday's press briefing by telling reporters: "The Bahraini Government’s discovery of several facilities for producing highly explosive bombs is of deep concern. We commend the Government of Bahrain for its counterterrorism efforts and for conducting a thorough and professional investigation that has eliminated a serious threat to Bahrain and to its people. There is no justification for any party holding such material, the use of which would exact an enormous human toll and severely escalate tensions in the country. Violent acts are counterproductive to the reconciliation efforts, which are crucial to building a prosperous, secure, peaceful future for the people of Bahrain." 

Such blatant propaganda does contain a kernel of truth at its core. If deployed in an offensive matter and directed against indiscriminate targets, the use of high-grade explosives will yield no benefit for any layer of Bahrain's opposition. The entire youth movement and political opposition will continue to endure a synchronized criminalization due to the actions of a few men, and the government could intensify its use of force. However the conceptual application of explosives and other weapons is justified by Bahrain's oppressive environment. As a basic rule, non-violent struggles of fourth-generation warfare (4GW) should attempt to remain peaceful until they must resort to low-intensity violence - a point that Bahrain's opposition passed when Saudi Arabia intervened in March 2011. 

At this juncture, force becomes an integral component of mobilizing the opposition and catalyzing its forward movement.

The Obama administration is essentially demanding that protesters don't fight back against their government's repression. While this position is understandable from a counterrevolutionary mindset, ordering Bahrain's opposition to remain peaceful in the face of state terrorism illustrates a vast disconnect from the reality of asymmetric warfare. No foreign power outside Iran is defending Bahraini protesters at the international level and isolation necessitates independent action. The Obama administration issued no reaction to the Friday assault of Al-Wefaq's leadership as they marched with flowers in hand. Nuland would dodge initial questioning and never return to the latest arrest of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who just spent three weeks in a jail cell. He was finally released on Wednesday with all five cases (most related to "illegal" protesting) delayed until further notice. 

Similarly, activist Zainab al-Khawaja suffered a leg injury on Wednesday after a policeman targeted her at point-blank range with a tear gas canister. Her injury was ignored by Nuland. 

Rajab and al-Khawaja, daughter of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, have both accused the government of detaining them simply to obstruct their organization of protests inside and around Manama. Upon release, Rajab dutifully promised to "keep defending the peoples' rights" and will likely be arrested again in the future. Meanwhile Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority clarified that al-Khawaja has yet to submit a police report (as if she trusts the police), before concluding that "precaution should always be exercised" by Bahrainis "taking part in unauthorized demonstrations." Since King Hamad believes his country sits outside of the Arab revolutionary wave, he naturally expects "authorized" demonstrations to fill Bahrain's streets. 

The cumulative effect of a bomb-making cell will be applied as another source of counterrevolutionary pressure on Bahrain's multi-faceted opposition. Combined with the State Department's warning - prominently displayed by Bahraini state media - the monarchy is squeezing every ounce of juice from a few "terrorist dens" to slander all protesters as "terrorists." After Hassan labeled the discovery as "significant, as it indicates a new level of terrorist activity in Bahrain," Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa launched a comprehensive assault on anyone opposed to King Hamad's rule. He promised to "spare no efforts to track down terrorists round the clock," a campaign that could include "legislation holding parents accountable for their children’s acts and participation in acts of rioting and sabotage." 

Al-Khalifa's heavy reliance on nationalism suggests that Bahraini police will expand their sweep across the uprising: “Fighting organized crime is a patriotic duty which should engage all parties to send a strong message to perpetrators – your criminal acts are rejected and strongly condemned. The spirit of patriotic responsibility is the best catalyst for efforts being exerted to maintain security and stability – being the guarantor of development and the cornerstone of decent and stable living." 

Washington's silence over Bahrain's future crackdown can already be heard in the distance.

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