Thursday, December 1, 2011

You gotta blame someone

Last March protesters took to the streets of Bahrain demanding a voice in the governance of the oil-rich kingdom. Imagine that - in this day and age of democracy busting out all over, we have the vestiges of an era in which someone grabbed a bigger stick and declared himself to be king. How could that cause any problems?

As is wont to happen when an authoritarian regime is challenged, the security forces (providing security for whom?) were whipped into a frenzy and went into a murderous rampage against their own citizens. Now let's just think about that for a moment. Armed personnel (thugs?) in the employ of the government are ordered to beat, maim, intimidate and kill anyone who dare speak out against the regime. The same regime that puts on its smiley face and tells the people to be patient - that reform is in the works.

Nope. Wrong answer. What we have is a government that has lost all legitimacy. Once a regime turns its armed forces on its own citizenry, it has lost whatever moral authority it may have had in the first place. And any member of the security forces (or police or army or whatever the hell you want to call the thugs) that follows an order to turn his weapon on a fellow citizen is guilty of a crime.

But there's more. You see the Bahraini government decided that it wasn't enough to beat, maim and kills its own citizens. After all, the victims who were still breathing had to get medical treatment somewhere. With all apologies to Shakespeare, the king decided the first thing he needed to do was kill the doctors.

Punish the doctors, that's right. Forget about the dead and the wounded. Forget about the army pointing its weapons at the people it's supposed to protect (well, that's what we're told the military and police do - in reality their job is to protect the chosen few.)

Twenty doctors, nurses and medics were convicted of inciting the people to overthrow the government and were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison. Forget about the soldiers that shot, maimed and killed their fellow citizens - they went back to their barracks and got some commendation or ribbon to pin to their uniforms. But the medics who did what doctors do got the whip.

Maybe some of the medics wanted to see the government overthrown. Maybe some were part of the protests. Who cares? They were tried and convicted for tending to the wounded and trying to save their lives. They were punished for treating the citizens who were injured at the hands of their own government.

Bowing to international pressure (and to an international panel's report that found "abuses" in the government's crackdown on protesters -- I guess you could call killing protesters to be abusive. I prefer to call it murder), the medics were retried on Monday.

Maybe the regime tries to make nice and hope everything blows over. But you can't unring the bell. And, no matter how hard you scrub, you can't wash away the blood on your hands.

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