Lots of news organizations have picked up on the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the Crown Prince of Bahrain after his family gave millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. “Good friend of ours,” as a Foundation official put it.
But no one has yet explored the possible foreign policy consequences of that gift. Bahrain violently put down its Arab Spring, not long after those contributions.
And Clinton had very little to say against the Bahrain repression of nonviolent protesters.
Here’s the New York Times report on the latest email drop involving Clinton at State:
The emails, drawn from [aide Huma] Abedin, included an appeal by Douglas Band, a Clinton Foundation executive, for Mrs. Clinton to meet with Bahrain’s crown prince, whose family had contributed millions of dollars to the foundation.
“Good friend of ours,” Mr. Band wrote.
Ms. Abedin, after expressing Mrs. Clinton’s reluctance to schedule a meeting “until she knows how she will feel,” then wrote back to Mr. Band to offer the crown prince an appointment the next morning. She encouraged Mr. Band to let the prince know, “if you see him,” though she said the State Department had also contacted him through official channels.
That exchange was in 2009, according to Judicial Watch, which released the emails. The rightwing organization says that Clinton declined to meet the Crown Prince except when he went through the Clinton Foundation:
Included among the Abedin-Band emails is an exchange revealing that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within forty-eight hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman promised to set up the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP) for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI.
Bahrain’s timing was fortuitous. The Arab Spring in Bahrain, which attracted more than 100,000 peaceful protesters, was put down violently in February-March 2011 with the assistance of the Saudis. Remember when Saudi troops crossed the causeway? Wikipedia:
Clinton was asked about Bahrain during a press conference in Cairo on March 15, 2011.
Well, we call for calm and restraint on all sides in Bahrain. We’re particularly concerned about increasing reports of provocative acts and sectarian violence by all groups. The use of force and violence from any source will only worsen the situation and create a much more difficult environment in which to arrive at a political solution.
So our advice to all sides is that they must take steps now to negotiate toward a political resolution. The security issues are obviously important because there has to be an environment of stability and security in order for these talks to proceed. But it is important that everyone abide by that. And we know that the Government of Bahrain requested assistance from their fellow members in the Gulf Cooperation Council. We regret that the dialogue that was attempted had not started, and we call on all sides immediately to begin that dialogue and to look for ways to compromise to arrive at a peaceful resolution.
Her remarks seem to blame the democracy protesters for “provocative acts.” Clinton began her remarks that day by celebrating the Egyptian revolution of a month before:
I want to begin by saying very clearly and directly to the people of Egypt that this moment of history belongs to you, that this is your achievement and you broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy, and the United States and President Obama and I will stand with you as you make this journey.
Bahrain went ahead with a full-on crackdown on the democracy protests. Wikipedia says 80 died in the crackdown, and journalists were imprisoned and tortured.
Clinton had plenty of time to reflect as she prepared her 2014 memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices. The 495-page paperback version includes only a brief, confusing criticism of the Bahraini repression. In the original hardback edition, some 100 pages longer, Clinton does say more about Bahrain. She says she didn’t criticize the Bahraini monarchs because she needed their help to build an international coalition to go into Libya and “prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.” She wrote, “We continued to speak out in the months that followed, emphasizing that mass arrests and brute force were at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and would not make legitimate calls for reform go away.” (Why did she remove even this mild criticism from the paperback version?)
So here’s the question. Did the Bahraini monarchs contribute to the Clinton Global Initiative just as you would buy an insurance policy, in case they were to eventually need diplomatic support from Secretary Clinton? And would the U.S. have spoken out more forcefully against the Bahraini repression at the time if the Clinton Foundation had never existed?