Barack Obama has a big decision to make: should he approve the sale of $53 million worth of U.S.-made weaponry to Bahrain, the oil-rich American ally in the Persian Gulf.
Before he approves the sale, The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof writes this weekend, Obama should consider how American made weapons, like teargas canisters, are already being used in the streets of Bahrain to quell pro-democracy protesters. In one instance Kristof painstakingly details, in his column and on camera, Bahraini police armed with U.S.-made weapons killed a 14-year-old boy who had grown inspired and emboldened by the pro-democratic mood sweeping Bahrain and its allied states.
People here admire much about America and welcomed me into their homes, but there is also anger that the tear gas shells that they sweep off the streets each morning are made by a Pennsylvania company, NonLethal Technologies. It is a private company that declined to comment, but the American government grants it a license for these exports — and every shell fired undermines our image.
In August, Ali joined one of the protests. A policeman fired a shell at Ali from less than 15 feet away, according to the account of the family and human-rights groups. The shell apparently hit the boy in the back of the neck, and he died almost immediately, a couple of minutes’ walk from his home.
The government claims that the bruise was “inconsistent” with a blow from a tear gas grenade. Frankly, I’ve seen the Bahrain authorities lie so much that I don’t credit their denial.
Accompanying the column is a jarring short video, including some of the protest footage shot by the boy, Ali al-Sheikh, before he was killed. Kristof ends with a challenge to Obama. Shouldn't the U.S. government insist that the Bahrain government cease these sorts of attacks on its citizens before allowing them to buy any more American weapons?
Unrest continues in Bahrain, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. Police fired tear gas at crowds morning an elderly man they believed had died after complications from inhaling tear gas discharged at previous protests. Clashes between the protesters and the country's leadership have been steady, The Post reported.
The unrest Sunday is the fourth straight day of clashes between opposition supporters and security forces along a main highway west of the Bahraini capital Manama. At least 40 people have been killed since February, when Bahrain’s Shiite majority started campaigning for more rights from Sunni rulers in the Gulf kingdom that is the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.