An old saying goes “friends are the family you choose”. If that is the case, the United States’ “family members” in the Middle East need some lessons in justice and human rights. And who better to push for those lessons than the U.S. (Not going to hold my breathe on this one.)
Here’s a quick roundup of recent events:
- Israel arrests a 14 year-old American citizen, beats a false confession out of him, and now he faces up to 20 years in prison for the heinous act of rock throwing.
- Bahrain’s citizens will now face a 5 year prison sentence and a $26,500 fine for the ruthless act of insulting the king or any of the country’s national symbols.
- A Kuwaiti opposition leader is headed to prison for insulting the country’s emir by stating he would not stand silent while the emir took “Kuwait into the abyss of autocracy”.
It goes without question the punishments in all three cases do not even begin to fit the crimes, if you even consider any of these actual crimes.
The problem is the United States’ government chooses not to punish these countries in any way and by doing nothing is condoning these actions. If people wonder why folks in the Middle East have a negative perception of the U.S., this is just a small taste of why that animosity exists. The citizens of these countries are fully aware of the relationship between their governments and the United States, such as:
- The more than $3 billion in aid given to Israel by the United States.
- The resuming of arms sales to Bahrain after violent government suppression of pro-democracy protests and the harboring of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in their waters.
- The foreign military sales contracts worth over $8 billion between the U.S. and Kuwait.
It’s difficult for Americans to understand why dissident citizens of these countries equate us so closely to their oppressive governments because, frankly, we have no idea what it is like for our government to be so reliant on another greater superpower for so much economic aid. But the perception is there and for good reason.
The United States tries to sell the idea we believe in democracy and equal rights for all around the world but the actions of our government tell a different story. You can’t sit on the sidelines and pretend you aren’t aware of such egregious human rights abuses when doing business with these governments. That might have been a believable position in the time before the Internet and the easy flow of information.
It’s now no longer believable or acceptable (as it never should have been). The time for change in this area came a very long time ago and the need for constant pressure on our elected officials should be growing by the day.
And everyday that goes by where a change in the behavior of the U.S. government doesn’t happen is a day with the potential to create more hatred of Americans by people we continue to simply ignore.