Daily archives: March 16, 2011

The Haynau Precedent

The vicious war criminal King of Bahrain will be among the guests at the royal wedding. There is a much honoured precedent for how we should deal with him.

After the European pro-democracy revolutions of 1848 were bloodily put down, one of the most vicious aristocratic oppressors, the Austro-Hungarian General Haynau, was visiting London. As he had used the military against unarmed protestors, including women, ordinary London people made plain he was not welcome. He was dragged from his carriage and beaten up in Park St, Southwark.

There is a monument to it. I was taught it at school as something to be proud of, as showing the British people’s disdain of foreign tyrants. But then I didn’t go to the same kind of school as David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

So I intend to form the Haynau contingent, a group of people dedicated to landing one squarely on the nose of the fat absolute monarch when he arrives in the UK for the wedding. I am looking for volunteers to join me. I am going to write to Scotland Yard, the Foreign Office and to the Embassy of Bahrain declaring this intention.

When the Emperor of Austria-Hungary launched a diplomatic protest at the treatment of General Haynau, Palmerston told him where to shove it. From Palmerston to William Hague – was there ever a starker illustration of the decline of a nation?

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You Don’t Have To Appease Dictators

Western collusion with vicious dictators is a policy choice. But it is also an individual choice by those who carry out the policy. The Arab Spring has put iinto context the stand I took over our support of the Uzbek regime and our collaboration in its brutality.

With that in mind, this BBC interview I gave with John Humphrys has a new resonance now. This blog also has thousands more readers every day than it did back in 2005, so it may well be new to most of you. I think now my concerns are much more widely understood by the public than they were then.

Listen here:
On The Ropes

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Bahrain: Crimes Against Humanity

Live rounds by security forces were used in a massive dawn attack on the protest camp at Pearl roundabout. The hundreds of injured have been denied access to the hospital, which is surrounded by military including Saudi military. Doctors are not allowed to leave to treat the wounded outside. This is a crime against humanity.

Both CNN and Al Jazeera have numerous eye witnesses to these events. CNN report that some doctors and patients have been beaten. Yet Hillary Clinton has just been shown calling for “restraint by all sides” and calling for an end to “sectarian violence from all groups”. This is the standard US response to an atrocity by one of its close allies. In Uzbekistan, when at least 700 pro-democracy demonstrators were massacred by security forces at Andijan, the State Department called for “Both sides to stop violence”.

So there you have it. People who wanted democracy are dying from gunshot wounds which could be treated if they were not denied medical attention, actually within sight of the ships of the US fifth fleet. I do hope US citizens reading this are feeling proud and patriotic today.

It is also interesting how keen apologists for the fat rich ugly King of Bahrain, including Clinton, are to cast this as “sectarian”. There are plenty of Sunni democrats also who do not wish to live in an absolutist monarchy. It is yet another variation on the theme “We have to support the dictator as there is no democratic alternative. The only alternative is theocracy”. Clinton is falling back on that bullshit – again just as in Uzbekistan.

There is no doubt that, as a matter of law, the denial of hospitil access to the injured demonstrators, following a planned attack on them preceded by the importation of foreign troops, puts the King of Bahrain in line for a cell at The Hague. How can Britiain be surprised at lack of UN support for a no fly zone in Libya, when our concern for democracy and humanity is so blatantly selective? Where is the travel ban on the King and his family, and the freezing of his assets?

There are moments of clarity when the doublespeak of governments is starkly exposed. This is one of those. It is plain that Obama did not mean a single word of the concern for democracy in the Muslim world he expressed in his “Cairo speech”. The US much prefers its pet dictators.

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