For nearly a decade the United States has used drones to target and kill suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. Among others, US drones have killed busloads of civilians, guests attending weddings, taxi drivers, diners at a birthday party, people attending funerals and men attempting to reason with AQAP members. When we complained about these practices, in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other places, one response was that it was better than carpet bombing like we did in World War II. That always seemed rather odd because World War II was a war, and the cities carpet bombed were ‘enemy’ cities.
I would say that, well, the places where the killer drones are operating are not places where it would be possible or ‘legal’ to carpet bomb. There would be no way to explain such a serious divergence from humanitarian law, the laws of war. They’ve made a fine point about targeting a globally dispersed enemy force, a point that I strongly disagree with though many are ready to buy it. One would think it would be beyond imagination to justify heavy bombing, carpet bombing in the same circumstance.
But Yemen has turned the world of ‘legal’ warfare on it’s head. Since last March, a Saudi led coalition of Gulf Emirates with US technical and political backing have been ferociously bombing Yemen on behalf of a presidential favorite who had allowed his mandate to expire without calling elections, and then fled the country in the middle of UN moderated negotiations to form a unity government with an unacknowledged opposition. Since they began their campaign of aerial bombing in March, the Saudi Coalition with US, UK and French assistance have laid siege to the country, bombing airports and seaports along with other civilian infrastructure, bombing civilians and fighters alike.
When the bombing began, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to condemn Ansarullah, the indigenous group defending the country in concert with much of the Yemeni military, from the foreign onslaught. The United States provides technical assistance to the attackers, and supports the blockade along with other western countries, So, yes, someone is carpet bombing in Yemen with US assistance. The US is, I’m told providing intelligence to the Saudi coalition, but I’m not sure how intelligent it could be given the realities of bombing schools, hospitals, water purification and power plants.
The drones over Yemen, flown from a now abandoned base there, supposedly targeted members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local Al Qaeda faction. The Saudi bombing campaign, however, is said to be targeting the ‘Houthis’ (read Ansarullah) the only group on the ground that was successfully battling AQAP. In fact, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has become a significant branch of the ground forces that are supporting the Saudi bombing campaign. Although I have written about this before, I hadn’t see the full irony until now.
This week a terrible storm, cyclone Chapala, made landfall over the city of Al Mukalla, wreaking havoc on the city. It was mentioned yesterday on NPR News that Al Mukalla is held by AQAP, and has been since near the beginning of the ‘war’. The people are not happy about this, but what can they do? The reporter said that this unhappy fact might actually work to their advantage following the storm because AQAP is an unannounced ally of the Saudi coalition and they are therefore more likely to receive aid. There is something oddly disturbing about the nonchalant manner in which these facts were pointed out.
I might, in my writing, make an irate claim (knowing it is true) that in March we had our drones killing people in Yemen in an attempt to destroy AQAP. Now we are supporting our allies to conquer Yemen with Al Qaeda at our side. Since we are supposedly still fighting our ‘War on Terror’ against Al Qaeda elsewhere, this is a contradictory outcome which is inexplicable from the standpoint of US interests as the people (of the US) understand them. What interest could we have in helping the fundamentalist, antidemocratic, socially out of sync Saudi regime destroy a widely supported indigenous movement for independence in a country that desperately needs support and development? How could this mission have caused us to reverse our global stance on ‘terrorism’ and back the same side as Al Qaeda in this war?
But when NPR News, the mainstream media of the educated and affluent middle class unquestioningly mentions that a city occupied by Al Qaeda might be lucky because that puts them on the same side as a US ally; lucky because this US ally does not honor international humanitarian law which would demand that victims of a catastrophic act of nature be allowed to receive aid no matter which side claims their allegiance, much less which side occupies their land. So they know that the US is allied with an outlaw, and by extension with the ultimate outlaw whom they claim is the reason for their Global War on Terror, and this is just business as usual. It doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.
I have to ask what the people who listen to this kind of analysis might be thinking. Yemen is being destroyed. Libya is a failed state, Iraq is crippled and Syria has been targeted by a vicious international mercenary force. AQAP, like Al Nusra and ISIS in Syria, is now empowered to control territory there with a wink and a nod from the US. We have supported the members of this coalition to provide foreign fighters and armaments and money to bolster the terrorists in Syria and before that, Libya. And yet, we continue to claim that Al Qaeda is the reason for the wars we are fighting. I guess you might say that the “Global War on Terror” is actually a global war OF terror with Al Qaeda as the primary beneficiary.
But there is no response. This does not process – does not process – does not-t-t-t-t – not – no – no – no