Monday, September 05, 2011

Abandoned by the Arabs. Forsaken by the West. Forgotten by the world.

By William Fisher

As we listen to the nightly news, we hear about Arab uprisings in Libya and Syria (a lot because these stories are current and they hold the promise of showing some really gruesome images); post-revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt (much less exposure because there aren't many bloody images to show; and a group of other countries (where practically nothing of a breaking-news nature is happening, so the MMM can safely ignore them).

But what about Bahrain? Bahrain has all the blood, death, torture, injustice, conflict, international involvement, and cruelty of a current-day Syria or Libya.

So why is there "radio silence" about this Shia majority country? After all, it would seem to have meet all the basic requirements for exposure in mainstream media. The self-appointed Sunni King has ordered his security goons to fire live ammo at peaceful protesters. He has killed scores of them. He has arrested more than 50 doctors, nurses and other health workers for caring for those wounded in the demonstrations. He has effectively closed the main hospital where they were being treated. He has demolished the monument in Pearl Square, where protesters had gathered.

He has gone after the press, the teachers, the students, and the lawyers as well, to say nothing of Bahrain's incredibly courageous human rights volunteers. Hundreds of faculty and students have been fired from the University of Bahrain. The head of the teachers' and nurses' unions were arrested in the middle of the night, jailed, and staged a 12-day hunger strike before their jailers were forced to free them on bail.

While all this was going on, the King was making noises about a "dialogue", and the Crown Prince was dispatched to Washington and European capitals to persuade these governments that all the King's men were doing all they could to bring the conflict to a peaceful and productive end.

The Crown Prince told them he was worried about Bahrain's image among tourists.

And Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, and others, bought this flagrant bit of PR BS.

From among this panoply of powerful Western nations, there were none -- NONE -- who spoke out in favor of the people's right to peacefully protest.

President Obama and various State Department folk met with the Crown Prince, and Washington remained silent. After all, Bahrain has great strategic importance to America, since it is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

Guess who didn't remain silent? Right! Saudi Arabia.

And that should give you a pretty accurate clue about why America remained silent. Oil!

Bahrain is SA's neighbor. SA’s Eastern oilfields are a mere hour-and-a-half from Bahrain -- and the largely Shia communities located there. For the Saudis, too close for comfort.

The Saudis also made a big deal about the influence of Shia Iran in the affairs of Shia Bahrain. The King alternately described the demonstrators as Iran-inspired operatives or as criminal street gangs.

And to show it was deadly serious, the Saudis mobilized several thousand
troops and, along with soldiers from the United Arab Emirates, rumbled across the causeway that separates the two nations and into the thick of the conflict. These two countries were operating under the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of Persian Gulf countries organized to protect from hostile attack.

One of those countries is Qatar. Which is also the owner of Al Jazeera television.

Throughout the Arab Awakening, I have been getting my news through a combination of BBC television, Al Jazeera, and The Real News Network. There is no question in my mind that Al Jazeera's coverage of the Middle East and North Africa was more comprehensive, more insightful and more accessible -- and arguably more courageous -- than any of the other networks.

Its coverage of the fight in Bahrain was exceptional -- until. Until the channel's Qatari owners figured out that Qatar was very close to Bahrain, and very much a country with many similarities to Bahrain.

Thereafter, Al Jazeera’s visual coverage of Bahrain was virtually gone. Verbal coverage was down to a few words here and there. It was over, much to the consternation of Al Jazeera staff members who put out so much effort, energy and talent to tell this compelling story.

Luckily for us, before the lights went out, these staffers put together a documentary film on their work in Bahrain. It is entitled, "Shooting in the Dark," and it is one of the most compelling pieces of film I have ever seen.

I'm including a link to the full-length film below, and I hope you will find the time to watch it.

I promise, Bahrain will never ever have the same meaning for you.