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March 2011, Week 4

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Wed, 23 Mar 2011 22:16:33 -0400
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Be Consistent—Invade Saudi Arabia

by Robert Scheer
Published on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 by Truthdig.com

It’s the black gold that drives nations mad and inevitably
raises the question of whether America and the former
European colonial powers give a damn about human rights as
the basis for military intervention. If Libya didn’t have
more oil than any other nation in Africa would the West be
unleashing high-tech military mayhem to contain what is
essentially a tribal-based civil war? Once again an
American president summons the passions of a human rights
crusade against a reprehensible ruler whose crimes, while
considerable, are not significantly different from those
of dictators the U.S routinely protects.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Moammar
Gadhafi must now go not because his human rights record is
egregious but rather because his erratic hold on power
seems spent. After all, from the London School of
Economics to Harvard, influential foreign policy experts
were all too happy until quite recently to accept Libyan
payoffs in exchange for a more benign view of Gadhafi’s
prospects for change under the gentle guidance of what
Harvard’s Joseph Nye celebrated as “soft power.”

But that revisionist appraisal of Gadhafi suddenly became
an embarrassment when this nutty dictator—whom few in the
world could ever understand, let alone warm to—was exposed
by defections from his own armed forces to be akin to
rotten fruit destined to drop. Libya’s honeymoon with the
West, during which leaders led by Tony Blair and George W.
Bush thought Col. Gadhafi might finally prove to be a
worthy partner more concerned with reliably exporting oil
than ineffectively ranting against Western imperialism,
has suddenly been abandoned as no longer necessary. As
with former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein before him, the
Libyan strongman now seemed an awkward relic of a time
that had passed him by, and easily replaceable. Not so the
royal ruler of Saudi Arabia and the surrogates he finances
in Yemen and Bahrain; their suppression of their peoples
still falls within acceptable limits because of the vast
resources the king manages in a manner that Western
leaders have long found agreeable.

But this time, in the glaring light of the democratic
currents sweeping through the Mideast, the contradictions
in supporting one set of dictators while toppling others
may prove impossible for the U.S. and its allies to
effectively manage. The recognition, widely demanded
throughout the region, that even ordinary Middle
Easterners have inalienable rights is a sobering notion
not easily co-opted. Why don’t those rights to
self-determination extend to Shiites in the richest oil
province in Saudi Arabia or for that matter to
Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza?

The fallback position for U.S. policymakers is the “war on
terror” standard under which our dictators are needed to
control super-fanatic Muslims. That’s why the U.S trained
the Republican Guard led by the son of the despised ruler
of Yemen as the counterterrorism liaison with Washington.
On Tuesday it was the tanks of the lavishly U.S-equipped
Republican Guard that stood as the final line of support
surrounding the Presidential Palace as calls for departure
of Yemen’s dictator increased in intensity. The U.S. was
still following the lead of Saudi Arabia, long a financier
of the Yemeni ruler.

The Saudi lead was made clearer in the kingdom’s support
for the royal family in neighboring Bahrain as Saudi
troops were sent in along with forces from the United Arab
Emirates to suppress Bahraini democracy advocates claiming
that freedom would enhance the power of the majority
Shiite population. The fraud here is to locate Shiite Iran
as the center of terrorism when it was the Sunni
monarchies that were most closely identified with the
problems that gave rise to al-Qaida. Not only did 15 of
the 19 hijackers on 9/11 come from Saudi Arabia but Saudi
Arabia and the UAE, along with Pakistan, were the only
countries to diplomatically recognize the Taliban regime
that harbored al-Qaida. In Bahrain the majority Shiite
population is dismissed as potentially under the sway of
the rulers of Iran without strong evidence to that effect.
Once again it is convenient to ignore the fact that Iran,
as was the case with Saddam’s Iraq, had nothing to do with
the 9/11 attack that launched the U.S. war on terror.

All of which elevates the question of how long will the
U.S. and its allies ignore the elephant in the room posed
by an alliance for human rights and anti-terrorism with
regimes in the Middle East that stand for neither? While
the jury is still out on whether the West’s attack on
Libya will prove to be a boon for that nation’s
population, at the very least it should expose the deep
hypocrisy of continuing to sell huge amounts of arms and
otherwise supporting Saudi Arabia and its contingent
tyrannies.

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