FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bahrain Arms Deal

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

— Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

The question is why the United States was even thinking of selling arms to Bahrain.  The answer can be found in the fact that the United States is the number one arms supplier in the world and to maintain its status it cannot be judgmental about the conduct of its customers.  If standards of conduct were the operable criteria, the United States’ customer base would be reduced if not eliminated.  As it is, sales of arms simply jeopardize the lives of some who live in the customers’ countries as well as those with which they may come into armed conflict, conflicts that might not take place were the adversaries not armed by the United States and other weapons supplying countries.

On March 19, 2011protestors took over Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain.  Two days before the take over and acting under orders from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the army had used live ammunition to crack down on the Shiite dissidents who were demanding changes in how the country was governed.  Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, where the revolts against the establishment were quick and successful, in Bahrain the monarchy brutally put down the revolt, assisted by its neighbor, Saudi Arabia. (As reported in the Los Angeles Times, on March 15  “hundreds of troops from Saudi Arabia and police officers from the nearby United Arab Emirates . . . entered Bahrain at the request of the ruling family. . . .”)  Thanks to his own quick, if brutal response, and the assistance of Saudi Arabia,   King Hamad continues to rule.

In Egypt and Libya and more recently Syria, the Obama administration said the conduct of their respective leaders had resulted in the loss of their right to rule.  In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the Obama administration urged the Kahlifa family  and the demonstrators to negotiate their differences.  The fact that Bahrain is the headquarters for the U.S.  5th Fleet was probably not the reason for the different approach.

Although King Hamad successfully put down the revolt he was sufficiently concerned about reports of brutality by government forces that four moths after the events took place he appointed a commission to  investigate.  The commission was headed by Professor Cherif Bassiounim a professor of international criminal law and a former member of U.N. human rights panels.  The report was released on November 23, 2011.  According to the Associated Press, in the press conference at which the results of the commission’s findings were announced, Mr. Bassiouni said when the revolt began, the government undertook midnight raids to create fear and engaged in purges from workplaces and universities. A number of Shiite mosques were destroyed. Those jailed  were blindfolded, whipped, kicked, given electric shocks and threatened with rape to extract confessions.  The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said more than 40 deaths of protestors  occurred.

Although it is likely that someone in the United States government was aware of the appointment of the commission, it did not wait to find out what the commission would discover.  Instead, on September 14 the Pentagon told Congress it intended to sell more than 44 armored Humvees and 300 TOW missiles to Bahrain.  Some outside the administration who had followed events in Bahrain were alarmed.

Shortly after the notice was sent out Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote the Secretary of State and observed what she might have observed without his prompting.  He wrote  that: “Proceeding with the announced arms sale to Bahrain without modification under the current circumstances weakens  U.S. credibility at a critical time of political transition in the Middle East.”   In what might be described as an “oops” moment,  the administration said it was delaying the arms sale until the Bassiouni commission report was released and it had had a chance to review the report.  Some might wonder why it took a letter from a Senator to get the State Department to delay its actions.  The answer can be found in more than the zeal of the United States to stay in first place in the arms sale business.   It can be found in a  government audit that was released on November 19, 2011,  The audit found “inadequate monitoring of American weapons sales to Persian Gulf countries with questionable human rights records or recent clashes with protesters.” According to the Washington Post, the GAO’s report  expressed concern about “how the U.S. government ensures the proper use of military equipment” sold to, among other countries, Bahrain.  It observed that “[s]uch vetting is especially critical given Bahrain’s use of its security forces to quell public demonstrations.”

Commenting on the GAO report, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said:  “We need to ensure that the equipment is not being diverted to third parties, and that those groups and units who are the intended recipients are not implicated in human rights violations.” Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen got it right.  The disturbing thing is that the State Department didn’t.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
Paul J. Ramsey
What Trump’s Travel Ban Reveals About His Long-Term Educational Policy
Norman Pollack
Two Nations: Skid Rows vs. Mar-a-Lago
Michael Brenner
The Great Game: Power Politics or Free Play?
Sam Gordon
Falling Rate of Profit, What about Some Alienation?
Jack Random
Sidetracked: Trump Diaries, Week 8
Julian Vigo
The Limits of Citizenship
James Graham
French Elections: a Guide for the Perplexed
Jeff Mackler
The Extraordinary Lynne Stewart
Lee Ballinger
Chuck Berry: “Up in the Morning and Off to School!”
Binoy Kampmark
Romancing Coal: The Adani Obsession
Nyla Ali Khan
Cultural Syncretism in Kashmir
Chad Nelson
The Politics of Animal Liberation: I Can’t Quit You Gary Francione
Weekend Edition
March 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Reynolds
Israel and the A-Word
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail