The US only supports democracy for some

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.


  1. slc1 says

    I always find it interesting how Prof. Singham is so concerned about US involvement with authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain while remaining studiously silent about the Iranian support for Assad in Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

  2. arno says

    Maybe that is because the US is a democratic state he is a citizen of, hence their dealings with authoritarian rulers is done in his name, too? Additionally, we can assume that his chances of influencing the US government by voices criticism of their actions is significantly higher than of influencing the Iranian government in the same way?

  3. Greg says

    Prof Singham is not an Iranian citizen. Iran doesn’t claim to be the voice of freedom in the world. And the US has supported dictators for decades, when it is in our best diplomatic or military interests.

  4. says

    Oh, slc1. The Iranian support you’re complaining about is “dog bites man”. American support for authoritarian regimes is “man bites dog” (at least for those people who haven’t been paying attention through the years).

  5. thebookofdave says

    Just a guess: he lives and participates in the civic life of only one of those countries. So he is biased toward holding one of them to the high standards demanded of its constitution, and feels privileged to appeal to compatriots’ self-interest in holding the government they helped elect accountable to those principles. It’s a double standard.

  6. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    I don’t see any problem with focusing criticism more often on the U.S. government than on the Iranian, even though I certainly don’t think that the U.S. government is anywhere near as destructive as the Iranian government would be if it held similar power. I don’t see the problem because, well…
    a) I’m an American, so I have a degree of moral responsibility for the U.S. government that isn’t true regarding Iran.
    b) Even if I weren’t a U.S. citizen,
    b.1)The U.S. is part of the whole “democracy and human rights” discourse in a way that Iran isn’t, and so is a more productive partner in the public discussion (criticism included), and
    b.2)the U.S. is potentially responsive to policy demands of the voters, so making said voters aware of what is being done in their (our) name is a necessary step towards changing destructive U.S. government policies.

  7. sumdum says

    Forget all of that. Isn’t this a clear ad hominem fallacy, attacking Singham’s character rather than his words?

  8. Shawn Smith says

    No, because an ad hominem fallacy is when you say an argument is invalid because the person making the argument is “bad”. If all you do is criticize a person, you aren’t using an ad hominem. Maybe I’m just an idiot, but all I saw in slc1’s comment was a criticism with no argument. He didn’t write “Professor Singham’s statement is wrong because he’s a liberal fascist.”

  9. left0ver1under says

    Don’t bother. slc is a known clown with rabid and unchangeable views on the Middle East. Facts go in one ear and out the other, with nothing in between to stop or slow them.

  10. left0ver1under says

    [T]he Obama administration has been supplying arms to the government of Bahrain even while that government has been engaged in brutally suppressing pro-democracy voices.”

    There’s nothing new about that. The US has been doing that for decades – Iran (during the Shah’s regime), El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Pakistan (Al Haq’s regime), Indonesia, and many other places.

    The most notable one was Cuba, where the US helped Batista arrest, imprison and mass murder the pro-democracy movement. The survivors who had wanted democracy (e.g. Fidel Castro) then turned to communism and support from the Soviets because the US had made peaceful opposition impossible. The same will happen in Bahrain, the moderates will turn to islamic fundamentalism and take over.

  11. says

    Slc1 does not understand that saying “A is doing wrong” does not mean “B is OK” if B is also doing wrong to a different degree. Nor is “B sucks, too!” a refutation of the statement A sucks!” Slc1 appears to me to be a typical authoritarian submissive, who readily adopts tribal exceptionalism instead of attempting moral reasoning.

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