NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Meet the Hypocrites: U.S. foreign policy

Ear­li­er tonight, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma laid out his case jus­ti­fy­ing the need for U.S. mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Libya, where coali­tion forces under the  aus­pices of a Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tion have been knock­ing out the air defens­es of its bru­tal dic­ta­tor. The Unit­ed States and its allies are work­ing to pre­vent Muam­mar al-Gaddafi from con­tin­u­ing to kill the cit­i­zens of his coun­try who protest his regime.

These actions have had the effect of bol­ster­ing the oppo­si­tion forces in their efforts to over­throw the gov­ern­ment.

In Bahrain, it’s a some­what dif­fer­ent sto­ry. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khal­i­fa has found him­self the sub­ject of protests by his peo­ple, and he too has resort­ed to vio­lence. But unlike the Libyan strong­man, the Bahrai­ni king  has received a lit­tle help from his friends: the Sau­di roy­al fam­i­ly.

Local res­i­dents say they saw Sau­di troops dri­ving across the cause­way that links the two coun­tries ear­ly on Mon­day.

There was no offi­cial com­ment on the pres­ence of the troops, but a Sau­di offi­cial said “the force will work under the direc­tions of the Bahrai­ni gov­ern­ment and pro­tect vital facil­i­ties like oil and pow­er.”

The Sau­di troops are in addi­tion to the bru­tal crack­down that began a cou­ple of weeks ago in Bahrain’s Man­a­ma Square.

So what’s the dif­fer­ence between the sit­u­a­tion in Libya and the sit­u­a­tion in Bahrain? The hypocrisy of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment with regard to a gov­ern­men­t’s vio­lence against its cit­i­zens.

On the one hand, there is Muam­mar al-Gaddafi, a bru­tal dictator/terrorist who has been a thorn in the side of  civ­i­lized soci­ety for the bet­ter part of the past thir­ty years. He’s been con­sid­ered a pari­ah by West­ern nations since the 1970’s for the bru­tal repres­sion of his cit­i­zens and involve­ment in state-spon­sored ter­ror­ism. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has now decid­ed to pro­tect Libya’s cit­i­zens, a deci­sion that seems very rea­son­able giv­en the cir­cum­stances. Cer­tain­ly, there is very lit­tle pub­lic sym­pa­thy for Libya’s tyrant.

But let’s not for­get that in 2009, Sen­a­tor John McCain led a del­e­ga­tion to Libya where, among oth­er things, Amer­i­can mil­i­tary equip­ment was deliv­ered to the regime. The vis­it was after the now-famous meet­ing between Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleeza Rice with Gaddafi, fol­low­ing Libya’s removal from the list of states spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ists.

In August 2009 he led a del­e­ga­tion of sen­a­tors, includ­ing fel­low hawks Lind­sey Gra­ham and Joe Lieber­man, on a trip to vis­it the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Dis­cussed dur­ing the vis­it was deliv­ery of — get this — Amer­i­can mil­i­tary equip­ment to Gad­hafi (a man with Amer­i­can blood on his hands no less).

On the oth­er hand, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khal­i­fa has employed sim­i­lar vio­lent tac­tics against his cit­i­zens and invit­ed the Sau­di army to back him up.

It should come as no sur­prise that the king has received train­ing and instruc­tion by the Unit­ed States Army. From his offi­cial gov­ern­ment biog­ra­phy:

On June 21, 1972, H.M. the king joined the US Army Com­mand and Staff Col­lege at Fort Leav­en­worth, Kansas, the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.

[…]

He was award­ed the mil­i­tary hon­or cer­tifi­cate from the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca for his achieve­ments in mil­i­tary affairs since 1968 and his name was enlist­ed in the col­lege’s lieu­tenant hon­ors list.

Seems we may have heard the sto­ry of an Amer­i­can trained/educated/backed for­eign leader before (Sad­dam Hus­sein, any­one?) So why would the Unit­ed States look the oth­er way in one case but employ air strikes in the oth­er?

Per­haps the rea­son the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion looks the oth­er way is because Libya only exports two per­cent of the world’s oil while Sau­di Ara­bia is an ally (we have a major air bade in Riyadh) who is the world’s largest exporter of oil. And as late as 2009, the Unit­ed States was still the world’s largest con­sumer of oil, accord­ing to the U.S. Ener­gy Infor­ma­tion Admin­is­tra­tion.

It’s no won­der many Bahrai­ni pro­test­ers are angry with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and his team.

“I know there are clash­es between your inter­ests and your val­ues. Where is your democ­ra­cy val­ues? Where is it? We want to see these val­ues,” he said.

Where are our val­ues, indeed? Either we sup­port free speech and the rights of peo­ple to redress their griev­ances, or we don’t. Con­sid­er­ing those val­ues are includ­ed in our Con­sti­tu­tion, which politi­cians of all stripes like to rev­er­en­tial­ly quote,  it’s fair to say that Amer­i­cans sup­port these fun­da­men­tal rights.

So why not engage in Dar­fur, where the Sudanese gov­ern­ment has sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly killed count­less civil­ians for years? What about Myan­mar (Bur­ma)? It’s not like there aren’t oth­er repres­sive regimes in the world.

Rea­son­able peo­ple will argue whether or not the Unit­ed States should get involved in the inter­nal pol­i­tics of anoth­er nation, even when a repres­sive regime kills its own cit­i­zens who exer­cise such rights. Cer­tain­ly our nation can­not and should not police every human rights vio­la­tion in the world. How­ev­er, before mak­ing deci­sions to com­mit mil­i­tary per­son­nel and equip­ment to such a cause, the Pres­i­dent has an oblig­a­tion to deter­mine whether that action is con­sis­tent with Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy actions, not just rhetoric.

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2 Comments

  1. 100% agree.… where are the Cus­to­di­ans of HUMAN-RIGHTS?
    The US, UN, NATO and EU are selec­tive about their con­cept of free­dom and democ­ra­cy.
    The entire Bahrain and Yemen has been tak­en hostage by the dic­ta­tors… unfor­tu­nate­ly those bru­tal dic­ta­tors have full sup­port of the US.
    Please help the peo­ple, they are dying while you read this.

    # by Ayesha :: March 28th, 2011 at 8:47 PM
  2. I think the world lead­ers are much more inter­est­ed in Libya because forc­ing Kad­hafi to resign will increase their pop­u­lar­i­ty among the vot­ers and improve their rep­u­ta­tion. I remem­ber the sud­den increase in pop­u­lar­i­ty of Mar­garet Thatch­er after the Falk­lands war was won by Great Britain. David Cameron may hope for a sim­i­lar result if the oper­a­tion in Libya is final­ly suc­cess­ful.

    # by David :: March 29th, 2011 at 12:22 PM