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The Humbugs of Despotic Qatar

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

I want to welcome the Emir of Qatar, and we have just completed a very useful conversation. I expressed to him my appreciation of the leadership that the Emir has shown when it comes to democracy in the Middle East.

President Obama, White House press release, April 16, 2013.

Now, he himself [the Emir of Qatar] is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.

President Obama, White House, caught on an open microphone by NBC, telling the truth for once, April 16, 2013.

The President reiterated his desire to continue to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Qatar, and relayed his warm wishes to the Amir.

White House press release, July 9, 2013

Voutenay sur Cure, France.

The Emir of Qatar, the supreme ruler of his tiny, mega-rich and totally undemocratic country, was at the time of his April love-in with Obama a man called Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.  On June 25 he handed over to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, second son of number two of his three current wives. Until his enthronement he was, among other things, chairman of the Supreme Education Council. No surprise there, because almost everyone in power in the dictatorship that is Qatar is called Al Thani. And new monarch Tamim is obviously pretty clever, because he was commissioned as an army lieutenant in 1998 and in addition to his educational supremacy made it to deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces ten years later.  Obviously a military genius.

It seems that all Al Thanis must be brilliant leaders and administrators, because the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs is now Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani (the previous man, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, didn’t get on with the new Emir); the Interior Minister is Abdullah bin Khalid Al Thani; the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning is Abdul Rahman bin Khalifa Al Thani; the Minister of Business and Trade is Jassim bin Abdul-Aziz Al Thani; and the Director General of Public Security and Chief of Police is Hamad bin Khalid bin Hamad bin Abdullah bin Jassim bin Muhammed Al Thani . . .   And there are going to be many more where they came from because the last supreme ruler had 24 kids and the new supreme ruler’s two (so far) wives have produced six (so far), and he’s aged only 33 . . .   But he’d better watch his back, because the man he fired has got 25.

It’s understandable that the Al Thani family wants to improve the birth rate,  because Qatar has only 220,000 Qatar-born citizens and the rest of the 1.9 million people living there are foreigners.  Most are laborers and domestic servants from Asian countries who exist in conditions akin to slavery — their lives are as hellish as these of manual workers in all the other stinking rich Gulf States — and they’re definitely not included in Obama’s giggling ignorant reference to a “per capita income of $145,000 a year.”

In Qatar there are also thousands of US and European financial dabblers who live high lives and enjoy vast salaries.  The Gulf is full of grubby little serfs,  little gobs of western bling-bling who spend their time ignoring dictatorship and profiting from the largesse of the Al Thanis and other intolerant despots.  Humbugs, the lot of them ;  just like Obama who ignores the State Department’s report on Qatar of May 24, 2012 which records that the main human rights problems in the year examined were   the inability of citizens to peacefully change their government,  restriction of fundamental civil liberties, and pervasive denial of workers’ rights. Despite the constitution’s establishment of the right of association, the monarch-appointed government prohibited organized political life and restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.

Yet a few days ago the US President “reiterated his desire to continue to strengthen the partnership” with the dictator of Qatar.  What does this say to the world about America’s standards?  Last November a Qatari poet charged with “insulting” the royal family was sentenced to life imprisonment. How can anyone believe that Obama — or America — can stand for freedom when he smooches a tyrant who behaves like this?  (The poet, Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, was held in solitary confinement for months before his trial, which was held in secret.  Shades of Bradley Manning.)

***

Don’t shed a tear for the just-evicted prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, because being out of a job isn’t going to worry him. He doesn’t become upset about very much, as evidenced by his behavior when he was involved with that well-known bunch of British bribers, the gutter-dwelling gun-runners, BAE Systems.  Sheikh Hamad had helped arrange a very smelly weapons deal (‘Project Nile’), in which, as stated by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, “BAE made a secret ‘commission’ payment of £7 million [10 million US dollars] . . . deposited in an offshore account operated by Grindlays Bank in Jersey, in the name of two anonymous trusts called Yaheeb and Havana. The money was part of a £100m hoard Sheikh Hamad’s bankers kept for him in the Channel Isles.”  Britain, a country that has, alas, completely lost its moral bearings, didn’t prosecute anyone for all this criminal jiggery pokery, because it has sold its soul to Mammon, and  “Sheikh Hamad offered the Jersey authorities a ‘voluntary reparation’ of £6 million,” which to him isn’t even pocket change. His yacht, one of the largest in the world, cost $400 million, and he can buy almost everything — and anyone.

But there’s one junior Al Thani who might not be quite such an intellectually outstanding leader as the rest of the extended family, and his recent little peccadillo in London has not of course been reported in the media back home. The British tabloids liked it, naturally, and one recorded that

Police seized a ‘glow-in-the-dark’ supercar from a London street after its wealthy Qatari owner was stopped for not having a license or the correct insurance. The £350,000 ($530,000) Lamborghini was impounded near Harrods in Knightsbridge yesterday. It is understood its owner is 24-year-old Nasser Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family.

That about sums it up concerning the whole squalid lot : they have wealth and power without style, decency or sense of responsibility. They fit in very well to new modern vital Britain which is obsessed to the point of pathetic absurdity with sport, greed and celeb ‘culture’ and is just the place for the Al Thanis to use their unearned money to mint even more of the stuff.

None of the Al Thani family has ever had to actually work, you understand.  They just sit there and watch the cash roll into the banks while the world’s largest deposit of gas comes out of the ground they happen to own.  The world pays a fortune for gas, and the autocratic Al Thani regime of Qatar laughs all the way from its sandy tank.

Harrods is not just a parking space for the cars of Al Thani rich kids;  it is a large and expensive but nowadays down-market London shop that is full of people kidding themselves they’re getting quality.  It’s owned by the Al Thanis, as is most of the London Stock Exchange and a vast amount of other London property including the ludicrously blingful ‘Shard’ tower. The Qatar royal family’s gas money has been invested in many unfortunate countries which kid themselves that in some way they benefit by having these creeps own their companies and real estate.  Certainly there are individuals in Britain and America who have raked in vast amounts of cash from the Qatar monarchy — but ordinary US or UK citizens have no reason to thank the Al Thanis for anything except driving up their cost of living.

The Al Thanis have invested a bit of cash at home, of course, and spent over a billion dollars building the Pentagon’s al Udeid and al Sayliyah military bases.  In early 2003 it was obvious that Bush Washington was about to go to war on Iraq, and the new Qatar base was the most important command installation built for that purpose.  It was all deadly secret, of course, but when passing through the region in that period I met a charming and somewhat indiscreet foreign military person who described the place, and told me who was there — and they weren’t only Americans.  There were military from other nations who had been sent there by their governments in the strictest secrecy because the citizens of these countries (the main ones being Britain and Australia) could not be told by their governments that they were about to join the US in its war.  Most democratic :  just like Qatar. Little wonder they all get on so well.

The US bases in Qatar now house thousands of military and semi-military people who direct clandestine offensive operations against Iran and throughout the vast Empire of US Central Command. The bases are so important to the spreading of US-style freedom and democracy around the world that Obama must keep them although, as he said in April, “There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar.”

And if you want an even more sickly laugh, reflect on the July 9 White House press release telling the world that the President of the freedom-loving United States of America and the supreme ruler of Qatar  “affirmed that the United States and Qatar will remain actively engaged with all sides in Egypt to promote a quick and responsible return to a sustainable, democratically elected civilian government.”   Just like the one in Qatar, perhaps, where there is rule by an autocrat, and, as the State Department says, there is “restriction of fundamental civil liberties.”

Humbug all round.

Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com

More articles by:

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

CounterPunch Magazine

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