Tuesday, March 08, 2011

March 8, 2011

The wise men cometh. Here comes the bling. On sale, democracy's dubious offspring.

It's all just a game.

Get the latest version of Freedomware -- blazing guns, star-spangled jetfighters and troops peddling elections and Kool Aid. Democracy expansion sets sold separately.

Get it on the cheap. Everything's a bargain.

"What I think the U.S. needs to do," said former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson speaking on Sunday in CNN, is "covertly arm the [Libyan] rebels. We should take that step. Develop a no-fly zone." (1)  Richardson was echoing the call of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said last week a no-fly zone may be established over Libya and that such a move would begin with attacks on Libya's anti-aircraft capabilities. (2)

Yet Richardson was not asked about the country -- the U.S. -- which not too long ago covertly funneled arms to Afghan mujahideen, which later morphed into the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other cuddly variants. Neither did CNN ask about the quagmires of Iraq or Afghanistan, where nine boys aged 9 to 15 -- the lads were gathering firewood -- were torn to shreds last week by NATO helicopter gunships. (3)

And so the world spins.

That was Jaime Espina's take, a journalist's wry view from Manila just hours after Mubarak stepped down from his post in February.

"Less than a day after Egyptians won back their country," Espina observed, Western powers and their mouthpieces were already telling Egypt "to do this, do that," in a pageant of blather intended to showcase the West's celebration of democracy. (4)

Edicts merged seamlessly with paeans as Washington led the ovation crew, mimicked by the able blowhards of CNN and BBC, all puffed up from sucking on the official line year after year after year.

"Egypt will never be the same again," thundered Obama. (5)

"The arc of history is bent towards justice once more," Obama boomed. (6)

And Western media gamely broadcast the babble.

But did they ask whether history's arc would have bent decades earlier if only the U.S. had not been bending things the other way, with an average, since 1979, of $1.3 billion channeled as annual aid to Mubarak's military? (7)

We are blessed by the televised coverage of the UN's democracy choir in action, fronted today by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague who is now asking for "international humanitarian assistance and support to the international arms embargo" -- and the imposition of a no-fly zone -- on Libya. Hague called on Gaddafi to "put an immediate stop to the use of armed force against civilians." (8)

There is admirable consistency here.

Earlier in February, Egypt in the limelight, it was UK Prime Minister David Cameron's turn at the compassion podium.

"If it turns out that the [Mubarak] regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence," squeaked Cameron, "that would be completely and utterly unacceptable... Any attacks on peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strongly condemn it." (9)

Such a shame the UK government will have to forego -- for a while -- the barrage of licenses it issued last year for the "export to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman of riot control weapons including teargas, smoke and stun grenades," including $296 million worth of licenses for small arms, crowd control ammunition and training, on top of military vehicles and thermal-imaging equipment made in the UK, all destined for, yes indeedy, Libya. (10)

Thank goodness Gaddafi is so creepy.

With luck he might just make us all forget about Bahrain, where over 20 percent of its people "have repeatedly taken to the streets, despite the threat of live fire, in a movement for the abolition of the autocratic government of King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, and its replacement with genuine democratic rule." (11)

Because regime change in Bahrain may be too tricky.

As a secret diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks explains, "Bahrain's national security strategy rests squarely on the presence here of NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet headquarters and Bahrain's close security partnership with the U.S. Unlike its Gulf neighbors, Bahrain does not enjoy the kind of oil revenues that might enable it to buy advanced weaponry on its own." (12)

And so, to promote a more equal co-fondling relationship, the US provides aid that will buy for Bahrain its weapons, from $3.9 million in 2008, the year the cable was issued, "to $8 million in 2009, then $19 million" in 2010. This year the request is for $19.45 million. (13)

And the tiny island nation is likely to get what it's asking for, for the tremors in Bahrain have rippled through Shia Muslim communities in Saudi Arabia.

Already, calls have been issued for 20,000 to mass up in Riyadh -- to demand, according to the region's leading reporter Robert Fisk, "an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud." (14)

"An indication of the seriousness of the revolt against the Saudi royal family," Fisk tells us, "comes in its chosen title: Hunayn. This is a valley near Mecca, the scene of one of the last major battles of the Prophet Mohamed against a confederation of Bedouins in AD630. The Prophet won a tight victory after his men were fearful of their opponents. The reference in the Koran, 9: 25-26, as translated by Tarif el-Khalidi, contains a lesson for the Saudi princes: 'God gave you victory on many battlefields. Recall the day of Hunayn when you fancied your great numbers.'" (15)  #


1.  "Richardson calls for no-fly zone over Libya," Rebecca Stewart, CNN.com, March 6, 2011.
2.  Ibid.
3.  "Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters," Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Rahimi, New York Times, March 2, 2011.
4. Paraphrasing with Espina's permission his Facebook status message on February 12, 2011: "Hmmm...and so the world spins. Less than a day after Egyptians won back their country, we have everyone else saying, 'Egypt must do this, Egypt must ensure that.'" 
5.  "Obama urges 'genuine democracy' in Egypt," Stephen Collinson, Agence France Presse, 12 February 2011.
6.  Ibid.
7.  "F.A.Q. on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does the Money Go—And Who Decides How It’s Spent?" Marian Wang, ProPublica, January 31, 2011.
8.  "UK says working on UN no-fly zone resolution on Libya," Reuters, March 7, 2011.
9.  "David Cameron condemns 'despicable' violence in Egypt," The Guardian-UK, 2 February 2011.
10. "Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Idex 2011," Robert Booth, The Guardian-UK, February 21, 2011.
11.  "The Collapse of the Old Oil Order," Michael Klare, TomDispatch.com, March 3, 2011.
12. Wikileaks.
13. "US Military Aid to Bahrain," Patty Culhane, MRzine.org, February 18, 2011.
14. "Saudis mobilize thousands of troops to quell growing revolt," Robert Fisk, The Independent-UK, 5 March 2011.
15. Ibid.


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