…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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Deafening Toll Of Nabeel Rajab’s Injustice

Deafening Toll Of Nabeel Rajab’s Injustice
21 August, 2012 – The Trench

Three weeks ago Michael Posner, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, paid a visit to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission with a deceptive blueprint under his arm. In addition to his normal duties, Posner has served as Bahrain’s de facto ambassador throughout the island’s 18-month democratic uprising. The Secretary would employ a number of arguments to shield King Hamad Bin isa Al-Khalifa’s monarchy from Congressional scrutiny, weaving criticisms of the government’s repression between an overarching defense of its actions. His general conclusion: Bahrain may share some similarities with Syria, Libya or Tunisia, but each country’s “unique history” must “shape U.S. policy accordingly.”

As if local history is the only force dictating U.S. policy on and around the island.

King Hamad has certainly played some parts of his counterrevolutionary hand with skill. While his modest security forces are not equipped to cause the same destruction as Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad’s armies, Hamad and his royal circle could employ a variety of lethal tactics to break the opposition’s will to resist. Instead they have chosen pellet guns [shotguns] and U.S.-made tear gas canisters over automatic weapons as their primary instruments. Beatings, night arrests and other non-lethal tactics also keep the island’s casualties, international pressure and media exposure to a minimum. Applying lessons from Western crowd control tactics – including the so-called Free Speech Zones abused by the Bush administration – Hamad’s government even contracted Western police figures John Timoney and John Yates to add to his performance’s realism.

Yet the King’s circle is prone to lapses in strategic thinking, particularly the entry of Saudi Arabian forces (along with Jordanians and Pakistanis) and the destruction of Pearl Monument. The monarchy believes in firmly prosecuting opposition activists to make examples of them, a tactic that simply contributes to their political influence and the country’s instability. Conversely, King Hamad’s government has thrown away every opportunity to establish a genuine dialogue with the opposition’s diverse network, holding all dissident parties responsible for the island’s political breakdown. State media’s interpretation of Posner’s speech illustrated the reckless mindset of both governments: “Bahrain is more stable than a year ago.”

Posner would claim that Bahrain’s violence has “reduced significantly” in recent months, but nothing could be further from the truth. That Bahrain’s violence sits at the opposite end of Syria’s spectrum is true, except relativity doesn’t negate the repressive environment that its opposition labors under. 2012’s casualties and injuries have maintained a similar pace as 2011, pushing the death count closer to 100, and police abuse remains a frequent occurrence. The island is only becoming more divided over time. Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, his daughter Zainab and other peaceful figures of the opposition remain incarcerated for political reasons, antagonizing Bahrain’s democratic movement and foreign supporters. Meanwhile a U.S.-backed dialogue with Al Wefaq and its allies drifts lifeless down a river of mistrust, and this collective marginalization is venting into the streets.

Now the harsh sentencing of Rajab threatens to top all of the King’s blunders and add more drag on U.S. policy.

Rajab and his family counted themselves among the few who weren’t surprised by last Thursday’s verdict, because even hardened observers of Bahrain’s uprising shook their heads in disbelief. Ego and fear offer a plausible explanation for the monarchy’s counterproductive behavior. Leaving aside the injustice of his three-year sentence, one each for three different charges of instigating protests and violence, imprisoning Rajab will not accomplish the government’s objective of restoring order. Hero-making makes for flawed counterrevolution and is thus perplexing at the strategic level: three years in prison equates to at least three more years of protests. Jail walls won’t stop his Twitter account or his followers from marching in his place.

Furthermore, Rajab’s harsh treatment at Jaww prison suggests that his appeal process is as fake as King Hamad’s commitment to democracy. …more

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