Representative James McGovern and Senator Ron Wyden have introduced joint legislation calling on the U.S. to suspend the sale of American-made weaponry to Bahrain, in light of that country’s violent, heinous crackdown on citizens protesting their leaders.
The bill provides a clear list of the extensive human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the autocratic Bahraini government since February 2011.
These include the killing of at least 32 people (3 of whom were in detention), torturing detainees, limiting due process in military courts, holding political prisoners, failing to prosecute government officials accused of human rights violations, imprisoning doctors for treating political opponents, destroying mosques, and discriminating against Shi’ites. It’s exhaustive and disturbing. The congressmen note that Bahrain is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against torture.
Due to these accusations, the U.S. State Department said that Bahrain warranted “human rights scrutiny” on June 15, 2011.
Yet on September 14, 2011, as the bill includes -with no formal investigation or no sign that the Bahraini government has ended these policies – the U.S. Defense Department proposed to congress a deal to sell $53,000,000 worth of military arms to Bahrain.
There is no better juxtaposition to encapsulate U.S.’s hypocrisy when it comes to human rights. While one department is criticizing Bahrain for attacking its citizens, for using tear gas canisters “against peaceful protesters [which] contained markings which showed they were manufactured in the United States,” another department is requesting that we sell more weapons to this brutal regime for millions of dollars.
This is not, unfortunately, a surprise. As many noted when the U.S.-led NATO invaded Libya, we were ignoring violent crackdowns in several other countries in the region, Bahrain included. There are several reasons: the U.S. keeps its Fifth Naval Fleet in Bahrain, we’ve used it as a “launching pad” for other wars, and most importantly, our major ally Saudi Arabia is right next door. Therefore, the U.S. remained deafeningly silent as Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain in March 2011.
To its credit, the Obama administration has announced it will “delay” the sale pending a local human rights investigation, though the administration has not said it will cancel the sale altogether. Several human rights groups have documented these atrocities in Bahrain, so if the investigation finds no violations, it will be hotly contested.
According to an AP report, an expert on the region, Kenneth Katzman, “said Saudi Arabia and its close Gulf allies had made clear they would not let the Bahraini government fall, only to be replaced by majority Shi’ites.” The U.S. may make the same decision.