I find the following recent comments of reporter Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times jarring:
[I]t is just plain heartbreaking to be in modern, moderate Bahrain today and watch as a critical American ally uses tanks, troops, guns and clubs to crush a peaceful democracy movement and then lie about it. This kind of brutal repression is normally confined to remote and backward nations, but this is Bahrain! An international banking center. An important American naval base, home of the Fifth Fleet. A wealthy and well-educated nation with a large middle class and cosmopolitan values. To be here and see corpses of protesters with gunshot wounds, to hear an eyewitness account of an execution of a handcuffed protester, to interview paramedics who say they were beaten for trying to treat the injured – yes, all that just breaks my heart.
And Kristof also notes the religious sectarian subtext, and the excruciating human suffering:
Some of the victims, though not all, said that the riot police shouted anti-Shiite curses when they attacked the protesters, who were overwhelmingly Shiite. Sectarianism is particularly delicate in Bahrain because the Sunni royal family, the Khalifas, presides over a country that is predominately Shiite, and Shiites often complain of discrimination by the government. Hospital corridors were also full of frantic mothers searching desperately for children who had gone missing in the attack. In the hospital mortuary, I found three corpses with gunshot wounds. One man had much of his head blown off with what mortuary staff said was a gunshot wound. Ahmed Abutaki, a 29-year-old laborer, stood by the body of his 22-year-old brother, Mahmood, who died of a shotgun blast.
Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys again? And what do you suppose Thomas Jefferson would say about this?
Or Joseph Conrad?