Would a No-Fly Zone Over America Save the Democracy Movement in Bahrain?

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March 17 2011 10:39 PM

Would a No-Fly Zone Over America Save the Democracy Movement in Bahrain?

It can't compete with the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear-meltdown sequence in Japan, or the civil war we're about to start dropping bombs onto in Libya, and, honestly, after nuclear disaster and air strikes, it's totally reasonable for the news-following public to watch some college basketball, but, still: Bahrain . It does also matter, Bahrain.

The helpful thing, if you're overwhelmed by so much news going on at once, is that Bahrain is roughly the same story as Libya—only instead of pro-democracy protesters being murdered by a terrorist-sponsoring monster of a dictator who has been on America's enemies list for ages, the pro-democracy protesters are being murdered by a government that is America's very own dear ally. And where Qaddafi brought in foreign mercenaries for support, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain brought in troops from our even more vital ally, Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, the New York Times reported on victims of the crackdown, from Salminaya Hospital in the capital, Manama:

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One man, Ahmed Farhan, 24, had dozens of shotgun pellet wounds in his back and a gaping head injury. The second man, a foreign worker from Bangladesh, had tire marks from having been run over by security forces, the doctors said. 

Yesterday, the military seized that hospital, the Times reported, as the forces of the dictatorship bore down:

[H]undreds of Bahraini troops, backed by helicopters and tanks, forcefully cleared the capital’s central square of demonstrators clamoring for reform. Three protesters and two security officers were killed.

[...]

The United States, which bases its Fifth Fleet here, has struggled to balance its strategic interest in placating Bahrain and its ally, Saudi Arabia, its fears that Iran is exploiting the anger of Bahrain’s majority Shiite protesters, and American democratic principles. American officials have held off backing the protesters while urging Bahrain’s leaders to exercise restraint. That advice was ignored.

[...]

After the square had been cleared of people, with military helicopters still hovering, uniformed police officers accompanied by men in civilian clothes could be seen smashing windshields of parked cars. Meanwhile, tanks rolled toward the financial district. It was last Sunday’s action by the protesters, taking over the streets leading to the financial district, that set the king on the path of smashing the movement. Bahrain calls itself "business friendly" and viewed that move as beyond the pale.

Do reread that last part:

It was last Sunday’s action by the protesters, taking over the streets leading to the financial district, that set the king on the path of smashing the movement. Bahrain calls itself "business friendly" and viewed that move as beyond the pale.

So basically, take all those proud feelings about the United States standing up for freedom and human rights in Libya and turn them inside out, and vomit into them. That's Bahrain.

Nicholas Kristof , in a column deploring the violence, wrote:

Today the United States is in a vise — caught between our allies and our values.

Are we? Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are the same rotten royalist dictatorships they've always been. And they've been on our side. The helicopters over the square were reportedly American-made Cobras, because the

flies what we sell them; the rifles on the ground are American M16s. Freedom and democracy are what we talk about. Values are what we do.



Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.