Documents obtained by Justin Elliott at ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Obama administration has been supplying arms to the government of Bahrain even while that government has been engaged in brutally suppressing pro-democracy voices.
Despite Bahrain’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the U.S. has continued to provide weapons and maintenance to the small Mideast nation.
Defense Department documents released to ProPublica give the fullest picture yet of the arms sales: The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.
Defense Department spokesman Paul Ebner declined to offer any more detail. “We won’t get into specifics in any of these because of the security of Bahrain,” said Ebner.
The Obama administration has stood by Bahrain’s ruling family, who are Sunni, during nearly two years of protests by the country’s majority Shia population. Bahrain is a longtime ally and the home to a large American naval base, which is considered particularly important amid the current tensions with nearby Iran.
So while the Obama administration has been publicly hailing the Arab spring as advancing democracy, when it comes to countries that are US allies like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia that are ruled by despots, the administration helps those governments suppress the democracy movements.
In this effort they are either hailed by the so-called liberal media or the issue is studiously ignored. For example, Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly helping the US by providing the military muscle to suppress the Bahraini democracy movement. In return the US media were only too happy to suppress news of the fact that the US had a military drone base in Saudi Arabia. As Matt Taibbi writes:
[I]t also recently came out that the New York Times, among other papers, sat on knowledge of the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia for over a year because, get this, the paper was concerned that it might result in the base being closed.
As old friend David Sirota noted, Times ombudsman Dean Baquet blazed a burning new trail in the history of craven journalistic surrender when he admitted the paper’s rationale in an interview. “The Saudis might shut [the base] down because the citizenry would be very upset,” Baquet said. “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.”
It is remarkable how a news organization can be so solicitous of the government’s needs.