US Encourages Democracy In Yemen, Then Turns Deaf Ear

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>A small delegation of CODEPINK peace activists travelled to the beautiful country of Yemen in June (and yes, despite the images in Western media of a dangerous country overrun by terrorists, it is a country rich with culture and a welcoming population). 

That last part – Iryani's inclusion of drone strikes as a root cause of extremism – seems to be lost on the Obama administration (as it was with the George W. Bush team). In what has come to be a trademark "kill-first-analyse-later-only-if-challenged" intervention style, Obama has authorised nine drone strikes in Yemeni territory since July 28, in a kneejerk response to intercepted Internet "chatter" suggesting an imminent terrorist attack against Western targets somewhere in the world. 

"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> The Washington Post
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>So, basically, the US government is pre-emptively retaliating in response to a vague threat by infiltrating another country and killing people without any certainty of who they are, whether they are involved in an internal struggle or trying to kill Americans, or if their murder would actually have any effect – "just to buy time".


mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>When we were in Yemen, we met with many families whose loved ones were injured or killed by drone strikes – becoming "collateral damage" as the United States (sometimes with the Yemeni government's overt or covert cooperation) killed anyone suspected of affiliation with al-Qaeda, along with their unfortunate companions and neighbours. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>It was 9 am on a Tuesday and Ahmed Abdullah Awadh was at home with his 26-year-old son, Majed, in the small village of Ja'ar in southwestern Yemen. Suddenly, they heard a loud explosion. The house of Awadh's neighbour, a man he described as "an ordinary taxi driver," was hit. Everyone in the largely residential neighbourhood, including Awadh and his son, ran to see what happened and help rescue anyone who was hurt. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>"Majed was burned over 50 percent of his body," recalled Awadh through an interpreter. "But there is only an emergency clinic in Ja'ar, and they said he was too seriously injured to be treated there. The nearest hospital is in Aden, and the main road was closed. It took four hours to get there. I held him in my arms while we were driving, and he kept bleeding. On the third day in the hospital, at 2:30 am, Majed's heart stopped and he died." 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni engineer who lost his cousin and brother-in-law in a drone strike in August 2012, published an open letter mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>"We had no warning. Our local police were never asked to make any arrest. Your silence in the face of these injustices only makes matters worse. If the strike was a mistake, the family – like all wrongly bereaved families of this secret air war – deserve a formal apology. To this day I wish no vengeance against the United States or Yemeni governments. But not everyone in Yemen feels the same. Every dead innocent swells the ranks of those you are fighting." 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>One family we met told us that their 17-year-old son had been imprisoned on a trumped-up charge by former Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, kept in a tiny cell and terribly abused. While in prison, he met some members of al-Qaeda and decided to join them in anger at his government – not at the United States. Yet, he soon became fodder for US drones. mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Yemenis vote 'no more drones' mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Should the United States be free to intervene in Yemen, a country with which it is not at war, and assassinate anyone it suspects of terrorist affiliations, along with the unlucky individuals who happen to be around them? 

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to criminalize drone strikes and all other forms of extra-judicial killings. Under the governing rules of the NDC, once the conference completes its work in about a month's time and a new constitution is drafted, the ban against drones is required to become law. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>"Despite all of Washington's recent commitments and actions in supporting the transition towards democratic elections in Yemen, the drones did nothing but edge Yemenis in the opposite direction," wrote Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist, in The Independent mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>There are other ways to ensure our national security, although it requires more thought and effort in the short term: 1) Improve the quality of our intelligence, and work with the Yemeni government to arrest and try those individuals who are actually linked to terrorist plots against the United States. Leave action against those who have internal disputes to Yemen. Yes, that was difficult in the past when the country was led by former President Saleh, who tried to curry favor with both the United States and al-Qaeda. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>If the United States truly supports and wants to encourage democracy as every American politician claims, then it is time to put our "money where our mouth is". Real political leadership and courage requires listening to and respecting the voice of the people, not just the transitional leaders, most of whom are hold-overs from the old regime and firmly in our orbit. Let's give them a chance to run their own country. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Global Exchange and mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>. 

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