Tuesday, April 2, 2013

US capitalism's stooges in the Gulf states clamp down on dissent

Bush and Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed of the UAE
by Richard Mellor

Some of the Pentagon's best buddies in the Middle East are cracking down a bit.  I'm not talking about the Zionists whose brutality is well documented and funded by the US taxpayer but the medieval monarchies that Washington props up with our tax money.  After seeing such staunch friends of US capitalism like Hosni Mubarak fall prey to uprisings against autocratic rule, these 7th century feudal rulers threw a few hundred billion dollars at the masses in order to head off the possibility of the Arab Spring taking hold in the gulf states.  Most of these states rely on a lot of foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled which does present some problems in Saudi Arabia which has the world's highest level of youth unemployment outside of sub-Saharan Africa according to the Wall Street Journal. 

But the sheiks are getting a bit nervous.  As we saw during the Arab Spring, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook played a significant role in organizing protests and keeping activists connected and the rest of the world tuned in.  There are some one million Twitter users in the gulf states as well as Facebook users which has potential to upset the apple cart for the thugs that control these societies with US military backing.  Bahrain is a perfect example where peaceful protests for democratic reform were met with a brutal response from the monarchy and an invasion by Saudi troops at the request of Washington.  The 30,000 US troops in Bahrain were no guarantor of democratic rights there.

All the gulf states are clamping down on social networking sites and punishing dissenters who use them to criticize the regimes. Kuwait, the family run nation state that the US went to war to defend, just sentenced one twitter user to 5 years for "defaming" the ruling prince.  Another user, Rashid al Enizi got two years for tweeting that the ruling Sheik Sabah was "The coward that ran away after issuing an order." Dangerous stuff indeed. The reason for the attack was that his Shiekness had issued a decree limiting parliament's powers and then left the country for a nice vacation, no doubt to Monte Carlo or Las Vegas where these characters can use prostitutes, gamble and maybe drink and smoke a little something he'd have you whipped or even beheaded for back home perhaps.  Hence the "coward" label.  You can't call a macho Sheik with absolute power including over women a coward and get away with it.

Charles the first of England lost his head for dissolving parliament some 350 years ago.  Propping up such regimes in the 21st century tells us something about politics.  Economics and politics are inextricably linked.  Greece was a democracy but not for slaves.  We live in a democracy, a bourgeois democracy.  We get to vote every two or four years for one or the other candidates of Wall Street.

In Qatar a poet who put a video of himself on YouTube reading a poem praising the revolution in Tunisia that removed the the US's  stooge there was charged with "insulting the country's ruler and inciting the overthrow of the ruling family" according to the WSJ.  On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 15 years.  How nice. The ruling family of Qatar are the owners of al Jazeera, the Arabic and English language news service that was set up after the BBC's Arabic Language station was closed down. al Jazeera has won numerous awards and can be viewed in many countries although there is pretty much a blackout in the US.  No cable company airs al Jazeera here I don't think.  Still, al Jazeera doesn't have much credibility being owned by a ruling monarchy that hands out life sentences for supporting uprisings in other countries that demand more openness and democratic rights. Despite this weakness, for information, al Jazeera is far superior to US news outlets which are among the most censored and opinionated in the world.
Insult this friend of the US: get 15 years in the slammer

The support the US gives these regimes is one reason for the anti-American feeling that has grown over the past period and that has found expression at times in violent religious extremism.  The US media does on occasion publicly criticize it's friends in the gulf states but rarely in the mass media as opposed to their publications aimed at their own class like the Wall Street Journal which provided much of the information in this blog post.

The other destabilizing factor in the region of course is US support for Israel and this apartheid state's treatment of Palestinians. The fear mongering about Iran is a smoke screen and its hard to believe many Americans believe it but the media is so controlled and general knowledge about what is actually going on in the world so poor, that the US bourgeois feel very confident that their version of global events will prevail.

As Americans feel the effects of a declining world power, albeit one that can still blow all of us to pieces and will if not stopped; and having to pay for US capitalism's predatory foreign policy through declining living standards, cuts in social services, education transportation, public parks etc. we will be forced at some point to intervene.

Here in the US there are thousands upon thousands of small groups around various issues that have arisen since the Great Recession hit in 2007.  There are numerous groups around housing and foreclosures, health care, police brutality and opposition to environmental degradation like the Keystone XL pipeline and Fracking.

There will be an explosion at some point in this country as the inequality gap continues to grow and attacks on living standards persist in order to pay for US imperialism's global wars in defense of the corporations and the market.  One of the reasons for the delay I believe is that there is presently no social force of any real significance that can link all these individual forces of opposition together and provide an outlet for the tremendous anger and frustration that exists beneath the surface of US society.  Organized Labor can play this role but the Union hierarchy is a staunch defender of US capitalism and has the same world view as the bosses, with an army of full timers (many of them leftists or ex leftists of one type or another) the heads of organized Labor act to hold back and suppress any movement that threatens this world view.

Since the Battle in Seattle in 1999, US capitalism has increased its domestic surveillance and beefing up of police and security forces. As the UK Guardian reported in a piece about anti-drone Hoodies that can protect the wearer from thermal imaging, there is expected to be more than 20,000 drones in the skies over America in the next 15 years. These will be owned by law enforcement, security firms and private individuals of some wealth.

The Guardian: "In the UK, several police forces are already experimenting with drones, and not just for thermal imaging. "They can be equipped with things called IMSI-catchers that will work out the mobile phone numbers of any people in a certain area," explains Richard Tynan, research officer at campaign group Privacy International. 'If police deploy these things for crowd control there's no issue with them figuring out every single person who's in there – and their mobile phone numbers. They can also intercept calls and send out false messages. It's not just the police either. Cybercriminals can use these, or even business opponents. This technology already exists.'"

All this weaponry and the laws aimed at foreign terrorism will be used and is being used against youth and workers in the US as the movement against the offensive of capital and the placing of the US working class on rations intensifies.

We will see our "US Spring"

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