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Why the "Obama Doctrine" won't help the Shia majority in Bahrain

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Why the "Obama Doctrine" won't help the Shia majority in Bahrain

Franklin Lamb

Beirut

Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi passed through Beirut a couple of weeks ago and gave a terrific lecture at AUB entitled "P reliminary Historical Observations on the Arab Revolutions of 2011 ."

In response to a student's question, Khalidi disputed that there was any "Obama Doctrine" worthy of that label and he predicted the White House would be much more tolerant of human rights abuses in Bahrain than say, in Libya and some other countries whose despotism indexes are no worse than the 200 year ossified Al Khalifa dynasty's war against its majority Shia population.

  After his talk I reminded Rashid in our brief encounter that we had not crossed paths since that fateful summer of 1982 in West Beirut where we and our mutual friend, American journalist Janet Stevens, who had introduced us, all shared a similar experience of trying to do research amidst the Israeli bombing and intermittent electricity and water cuts and for that period when Israeli forces, on orders of Ariel Sharon, cut all the power and water to the trapped civilians in West Beirut. In those, now sometimes romanticized "summer of "82 days" Khalidi was an intense hard working young man and his 1982 research was published in his 1983 volume, Under Siege: P.L.O. Decisionmaking During the 1982 War.

It was during this period that Janet (Rashid was in no way involved!)   and I committed at least four felonies (I was just following orders!) and broke into the abandoned AUB cafeteria &   AUB storage rooms and liberated maybe 500 cases of AUB bottled water and   perhaps 50 large cartons filled with that nasty orange powdered drink stuff called Tang.

Janet put me in charge of about 100 Fatah fighters who, wisely assuming the Israeli's would think twice before bombing AUB had set up a base under the Bayan trees on campus and we all used to share the AUB beach and swim together.   The PLO fighters were under orders from their Commander Abu al-Walid, who was one of those in charge of the defense of West Beirut not to damage the AUB campus or enter AUB buildings.   So the fighters demurred to the breaking and entering part of our operation and waited outside.

Janet and I were under no such orders.

  Our guys quickly distributed the liberated humanitarian supplies and for days afterwards there were plenty of tykes running around West Beirut with orange mouths and cheeks carrying plastic bottles of fresh spring water.

  It was only after the 20 year Statute of Limitations ran and I was living in Kerr Hall on campus that my conscience got the better of me and I finally blurted out my crimes to the AUB President. He laughed with delight and on behalf of AUB excused our egregious war time sociopathy. That being said, I heard not long ago that the US Embassy is looking into trying to open a case against me since USAID paid for the AUB water and the nasty Tang and the Embassy is still insisting on accountability.

  On the issue of Ariel Sharon's cutting off of water and electricity during the hot summer to West Beirut in order to punish the trapped civilian population for their presumed support for the PLO in defending an Arab capitol, the US government was furious. President Reagan and his secretary of State George Shultz, and Middle East envoy Morris Draper claimed they yelled at and threatened Israeli PM Menachem Begin to immediately restore water and power to West Beirut.   Begin kept promising Reagan that the utilities would be quickly restored and Draper told Begin that Beirut was becoming like the Warsaw Ghetto. Begin replied that Draper's comparison was a "blood libel against every Jew everywhere." Begin used that turn of phrase more than once during 1982, once to Reagan's face.   Philip Habib later reported that he called Begin every day and Begin always claimed there were "technical problems' but that Sharon promised his that the utilities would be restored by the next day at the latest.

It did not happen.

  Not until Janet Stevens, working with Palestinian colleagues discovered the truth behind what Begin told Reagan were "technical problems" and she informed journalists in the bar of the Commodore Hotel, where many journalists spent their time (thinking the Israelis would not bomb the western journalists "shelter"--they actually did shell in twice during the summer) waiting for others to bring in the news of the day so they could get on the PLO maintained telexes to their editors and "report from the Front." We noticed that some of them actually started dressing like Robert Fisk, a real war correspondent right out of that Humphrey Bogart movie.

  What Janet explained to the rapt reporters was that Israeli commanders and their   right wing Phalangist collaborators, with Sharon's, if not Begins approval, were making plenty of fast cash selling truckloads of water to trapped West Beirutis and the business soon expanded to Bekaa hashish. By late July some of the Israeli checkpoints along the green line between East and West Beirut were manned by stoned Israelis such that the PLO was able to bring in truckloads of needed relief supplies including ammunition and weapons even after the power and water were eventually restored. The late Lebanese Patriot, George Hawri, head of the Lebanese Communist Party, worked to maintain this lifeline with the help of friends from the Bekaa and years later relished each retelling of the story. The Israeli troop's blurry condition may have contributed to several routs they experienced by PLO forces and the loss of more than 25 tanks and APC's near the Beirut racecourse just east of the green line. 1982 was not the last time Israeli troops eagerly traded weapons and intelligence for drugs in Lebanon.

What Khalidi remains critical of, like many observers, is what he sees as the Obama administration's claimed "American values imperative" being made a mockery of whenever American "interests" are brought up to justify cherry picking which brutal despots get the "moderate' or "reformer' label while others are no-fly zoned and targeted for elimination for being "genocidal."

The Obama administration hypocrisy toward the unarmed civilians being killed in Bahrain is flagrant and runs deeply counter to American values.

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