If you read one article this weekend, let it be this piece on U.S. counter terrorism operations in Yemen. It’s easy to zone out when the news speaks of drone strikes, but this article makes it all to clear that U.S. policy–under Bush and Obama–has not only left a trail of civilian blood, but also seething resentment at President Saleh, whose hold on power now hangs by a thread.
And while American officials are eagerly awaiting the Libyan dictator to step down, they are biting their nails at the prospect that Saleh, who is just as unscrupulous in killing his own citizens, might be the next dictatorial victim to the wave of democratization spreading through the region.
“The prospect of Saleh’s departure is a source of great anxiety for the White House, but the United States has unintentionally played a significant role in weakening his regime. For more than a decade, US policy neglected Yemen’s civil society and development, focusing instead on a military strategy aimed at hunting down terrorists. These operations not only caused the deaths of dozens of civilians, fueling popular anger against Saleh for allowing the US military to conduct them; they also fed Saleh’s corruption while doing nothing to address Yemen’s place as the poorest country in the Arab world, which proved to be major driving forces behind the rebellion.”
The article sharply rebukes the Obama administration’s muted condemnation of what was widely believed to be state-sponsored murder of protesters, accusing the United States of being too wrapped up in its counter terrorism efforts and its dependence on the current Saleh regime.
“Without a guarantee that a successor government will grant US forces such access (such as unilateral missile strikes), peaceful protesters being gunned down will not be a top priority.”
Everyone should read this article, which goes into painful detail about the extent to which the United States carried out fatal military strikes in Yemen, while their undemocratic leaders gleefully watched. We wouldn’t fire missiles into France, because we know the French government would be enraged that we were killing their civilians (even if they were suspected terrorists). We wouldn’t authorize messy assassinations in Canada, because we know the Canadians would flip out over a breach of sovereignty. But we do these horrible acts in Yemen because we know that theirs is a government that doesn’t feel responsible to its people, because in reality, it is not.
This article made me furious, both as a supporter of democracy and as an American citizen. I am ashamed that I didn’t realize the full extent of our involvement in Yemen, and I am extremely disappointed in President Obama, whose promises of change ring especially hollow in the war on terror. This unfortunate photo, recently snapped in Washington, DC, succinctly captures my frustration over our country’s chronic shortsightedness in Yemen and the greater Middle East.
At the end of the day, the pretty banners about supporting freedom and human rights are only going to get crushed by the United States’ true goal of stagnant stability.