Who exactly is ill-informed on Bahrain?
Morgan Roach, writing for the Heritage Foundation, says, "The Obama Administration".
Really? A mirror, rather than a stare at the White House, might be in order here. This is an article almost beyond serious consideration, so willfully does it embrace the prevailing myths of propaganda that (1) the opposition are violent, Molotov cocktail-wielding thugs and (2) disorder is wholly orchestrated by the leading opposition society Al Wefaq and radical Shia elements from outside Bahrain.
Roach is unwilling to concede anything to the opposition. She even repeats the old chestnut --- disproved by the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry --- that Iran is pulling the strings of dissent.
OK, it is one matter to note a very bad "analysis". For significance, what is needed is an examination of how this very bad "analysis" made it into print.
Two days before she published her screed, Roach had a brief exchange with the pro-regime activist M K Binateej on Twitter:
@ATEEKSTER: #Bahrain "pro-democracy" rioters attacking police few days ago. What if this happened in the #USA?
@morganlroach: @ATEEKSTER good point. They would never get this far in the US. Police would manage the situation more aggressively and restore order.
I simply cannot believe that Roach is so ignorant of excessive police actions in Bahrain. She does not even follow the regime's propaganda line and argues that security forces have been restrained in recent weeks --- there is no concession of any inappropriate actions (again, brought out in the BICI Report), since the protests began last February.
Timing is also important. Roach was in Bahrain from 20 to 27 January as a guest of the Good Word Society, which is chaired by Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa, an advisor to the Prime Minister. On 24 January, the day of the initiative "BahrainFist", in which some within the opposition turned to violence, Roach saw little: "Bahrain is not burning despite U.S. State Department travel warning to #Bahrain ahead of Feb. 14 [the first anniversary of the mass protests]."
The following day, however, Roach caught up with the regime's line and tweets an under-informed, skewed BBC article --- featuring an attack on a Bahraini policeman --- with the comment: "As if any more proof was needed to show that Isa Qassim [Bahrain's leading Shi'a cleric] and his ilk threaten Bahrain's peaceful society."
On 27 January, Roach apparently saw her first demonstration -- a pro-government one in front of the United Nations headquarters, from where she sent this picture:
It is true that police have not randomly attacked a pro-government rally, as they have opposition counterparts --- indeed, police officers have been pictured taking part in the pro-government demonstrations. But as for "violent", there is growing evidence that some government supporters are becoming extreme in their rhetoric and demands, for example, calling for opposition figures to be hung.
Roach's brief account of her Bahrain trip on Twitter, with the content the content of her article, display no intention of engaging the regime's framing of the situation in Bahrain as a battle between the decent al-Khalifa family and the crazed, Iran-backed Al Wefaq opposition. Moreover, Roach's clear ideological antagonism towards Barack Obama means she has to blame him for recent events in Bahrain, so she has to misrepresent the President's words.
In the speech Roach cites, Obama said:
"The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis."
Roach spins this as: "[Obama] effectively legitimized al-Wefaq’s influence when he urged Bahrain’s government to make additional reforms to appease al-Wefaq". This not only willfully --- or ignorantly ---ignores that many opposition leaders who have been detained are not connected to al-Wefaq; it also argues that asking for political prisoners to be released is akin to appeasement!
This highlights Roach's faulty moral compass, offered after she had spent a week in Bahrain. The complete absence of any quotes from anybody --- or even the acknowledgement that she had been in the country --- reveals an almost colonialist attitude towards the Bahraini people. This is evident in Roach's insistence that the al-Khalifa's run a "liberal" regime, and her argument that the status quo is far better than democracy or, as she prefers to describe the situation of one-person one-vote, "a tyranny of the majority".
Make of this what you will: whilst working at the Heritage Foundation, Roach is also a Research Associate at the "Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom". In 2008, she worked as an intern to British Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who was then Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment and is now Chairman of the Conservative Party's International Office.
And a further note: Roach's profile at Sweet Briar College, her alma mater, opens with the sentence: "Morgan Roach studies and writes about Africa, the Middle East and transatlantic relations ...". On that page, there is an image not of Roach, but of a young black woman.
This image is on several other pages on the Sweet Briar College website, including those of the Leadership Certificate Program, "Who's Who Among Students", the Omicron Delta Kappa sorority, and another student. all contain this picture.
Who is the African-American woman whose photograph has been appropriated? It does not matter, at least for Roach, just as it does not matter what the real "Bahrain" is. The superficial image --- in this case, that of the pro-government unnamed facing a violent, foreign-directed opposition --- is what matters.