Friday, 18 May 2012

In the Company of Kings

Today, celebrating her 60 years on the throne, the British monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, hosted an event at Windsor Castle attended by several unsavoury characters, including the Kings of Swaziland, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Although the Bahrain tyrant, Hamid al-Khalifa, missed a later banquet at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's appetite for his frequent company seems undiminished in spite of his brutal suppression (much aided by his Saudi neighbours) of democracy protesters last year. Scores of people were killed, hundreds have disappeared (including a number of children) and even a number of doctors and nurses who treated injured demonstators have been jailed for lengthy terms.

Died for democracy:  and now his killer lunches with the Queen
But, Bahrain, like Dubai, exists pretty much to service the financial and recreational desires of the international elite, of which Elizabeth Windsor is one. And of course, she and Hamid love horse-racing. So the troublesome people asking for the right to vote in a country which has had the same Prime Minister (a relative of the King) since the 1960s matter not a whit to her.

It is remarkable how she gets away with it. Even critics of the visit like Dennis McShame and George Galloway have said the Government has let her down by not advising her to not invite this man. Yet, time and again, we hear the stories of how well-informed of the world she is, how she keeps up keenly with the news and supposedly interrogates her Ministers on their policies with a razor-sharp intellect.

Well, the tales are probably overblown, but there can be no doubt she is as aware as any about the blood spilled on the streets of Bahrain. The bottom line is neither our Royal Family nor our Government care. Unlike Libya, Syria and Iran, Bahrain, Saudi and the other Gulf monarchies dutifully fall into line when it comes to supporting the economic interests of the west. A number of these corrupt regimes, including the Bahrain one, were sustained by direct intervention by the British and American military in the 1950s and 1960s and have retained power in the teeth of popular opposition ever since only by means of repression and violence. The West, so willing to kill Iraqis and Libyans in the name of democracy, doesn't merely sit back in Bahrain and Saudi - we sell them weapons, patronise their desert luxury resorts and do business with their near-slave economies. Yet again, oil and money have trumped the aspirations and human rights of the local people.

And it seems as if Elizabeth Windsor does not care.

"A monarch, when good, is entitled to the consideration which we accord to a pirate who keeps Sunday School between crimes; when bad, he is entitled to none at all." (Mark Twain)

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