Bahrain Pulls a Qaddafi
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, March 16, 2011
It is heartbreaking to see a renegade country like Libya shoot pro-democracy protesters. But it’s even more wrenching to watch America’s ally, Bahrain, pull a Qaddafi and use American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement — as we stay mostly silent.
In Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters — and in the last few days it has gotten much worse. Saudi Arabia, in a slap at American efforts to defuse the crisis, dispatched troops to Bahrain to help crush the protesters. The result is five more deaths, by the count of The Associated Press.
One video from Bahrain appears to show security forces shooting an unarmed middle-aged man in the chest with a tear gas canister at a range of a few feet. The man collapses and struggles to get up. And then they shoot him with a canister in the head. Amazingly, he survived.
Today the United States is in a vise — caught between our allies and our values. And the problem with our pal Bahrain is not just that it is shooting protesters but also that it is something like an apartheid state. Sunni Muslims rule the country, and now they are systematically trying to crush an overwhelmingly Shiite protest movement.
My New York Times colleague Michael Slackman was caught by Bahrain security forces a few weeks ago. He said that they pointed shotguns at him and that he was afraid they were about to shoot when he pulled out his passport and shouted that he was an American journalist. Then, he says, the mood changed abruptly and the leader of the group came over and took Mr. Slackman’s hand, saying warmly: “Don’t worry! We love Americans!”
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