In a recent post titled "America Tries its Best," former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to PolicyMic pundit Anna Therese Day's critique of American foreign policy in Bahrain and other Arab countries. The following is Day's rebuttle.
Rice defends American support of the repressive Bahraini regime as well as American foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt. “To those in Egypt today who question the United States' commitment to their democratic future, I say that if we let you down, it was not for a lack of trying to hold you up,” Rice says.
Bahrain, though, should draw special attention.
Though only a tiny island, Bahrain holds paramount importance to American economic and security interests. Home to America’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain serves as a base for America’s on-going military operations in the region and as a hub for the massive regional oil markets.
America has undeniable hard-power interests in maintaining a sustainable, long-term relationship with Bahrain, and, as Rice mentioned in her piece, “authoritarianism is not sustainable” and “freedom can be delayed but not denied.” In the case of Bahrain, a country in which the opposition is not only the majority, but also one of the most sophisticated and moderate movements of the Arab Spring, these principles most certainly hold true. America’s passive support for the vast and well-documented abuses of the Bahraini government is as inhumane as it is short-sighted, and thus, I will reiterate the question I originally posed to Rice: Why don’t the principles outlined in your 9/11 piece apply to Bahrain?
Torture has been a tactic of the United States throughout the War on Terror. It was Rice and the Bush administration that solidified it as a policy, accelerated its use, and had the audacity to defend it publicly. The majority of Americans do not support torture, and torture as a means of information gathering is ineffective (as it contaminates the pool of credible intelligence) and dangerous (as it sets a chilling precedent regarding the treatment of our own soldiers). While aid from the State Department supports civil society in Egypt, a far greater contributor to the mass mobilization of the Egyptian people was, for example, video footage that surfaced, illustrating the torture of Hosni Mubarak’s security apparatus, including the sexual assault and humiliation of Egyptian prisoners.
This is the reality of torture. The United States did not passively support these crimes; the Bush administration (unfortunately continued by the Obama administration) not only actively endorsed these policies through America’s Extraordinary Rendition Program, but also rewarded this behavior through a steady flow of insulating military aid. The Bush administration’s claim that “they hate us for our freedom” was, at best, dangerously and wrongly simplistic, and, at worst, deliberately deceptive, unspeakably inhumane, and irreversibly reckless with American national interests in the Arab world.
Furthermore, Rice’s insistence that “America tries its best” only adds insult to injury.
Whether passively supporting state crimes in Bahrain or actively overseeing torture in Egypt, the American foreign policy establishment has ignored the reasonable overtures of moderates throughout the Middle East for decades. It is hopeful to read that the lessons of these moderates — that security and democracy are not mutually-exclusive — have finally reached the ears of such a prominent American foreign policy leader as Rice, albeit after the conclusion of her term.
The trial of Rice’s colleague, Bahraini opposition leader Matar Ibrahim Matar (whose case I discussed in my initial question), is Tuesday. He will be tried in a judicial system that has harshly sentenced over 100 Bahraini activists, doctors, and other professionals in the last week alone — a vacuum of justice operating with impunity, insulated by American government support I hope that Rice will do everything in her power as a prominent world figure to ensure a fair trial for Matar and the hundreds of Bahrainis like him, while also doing her part to forge a new discourse in American foreign policy that reflects her words: “for 60 years, the U.S. sought stability at the expense of democracy ... We should have known better.”
Photo Credit: Anna Day