Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yemen: More Resistance

Given how well it worked in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, why not Yemen?

According to a U.N. official, "Despite all counterterrorism efforts, al-Qaeda in Yemen has not retreated."

Let me translate that:

Despite Washington's sabotaging of the democracy protests and queering of the "election" process to ensure retention of the dictatorship (albeit without the dictator), so that drones strikes on anti-government militants that the government swears are "al Qua'ida" can continue, organized military opposition to the government continues.

The only surprise is that anyone is surprised.

And now, according to USA Today, "The Pentagon is planning to restart programs that would fund military training and equipment in Yemen, nearly a year after they were shut down because of escalating chaos in the embattled country." Presumably, the programs are being restarted because of escalating chaos in the embattled country.

Is there an Alternative?
We are clearly seeing in Yemen a repeat of what has, since 9/11, become the automatic application of brute American force to resolve fundamental socio-political issues in Muslim societies. Clearly, this approach does not work.

the American military presence post-withdrawal is a very tenuous and uncertain proposition. By every reckoning, it is just a wild-goose chase for America....American military presence, come as it will predictably as a foisted tool, is sure to further destabilise this unfortunate land. [Frontier Post 3/11/12.]
With simultaneous displays of violence in Palestine, Yemen, and Afghanistan by the Washington-Tel Aviv axis, this description of how Washington's policy of conflict resolution by violence cuts to the chase:

The United States continually pours funding into the Afghan National Police force, into these Afghan National Security Forces, into forces that will secure the TAPI pipeline, for instance, and the Afghan Local Police, the Arbakai. And it’s as though the only kind of security is that which comes from one group having heavier arms and more weapons and ammunition and so-called training than another. But what about health security and food security? And what about the fact that it’s claimed by numerous human rights groups that children in Afghanistan are starving to death at the rate of 250 per day, according to some?
The United States has, I think, done its best to secure the potential for a roadway, the pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, 450 bases that might be maintained, huge prisons. They’re still spending $100 million on construction of a new prison near the Bagram Air Force Base. And meanwhile, the conditions in Afghanistan are deplorable. People have endured a very harsh winter, as Democracy Now! has covered several times. And the rage that people understandably feel when $2 billion is being spent per week on maintaining an occupation, while people within Afghanistan are desperate just to try to find food to feed their families, it’s something that all of the surveillance and the analysis that the United States studies simply won’t understand. [Democracy Now 3/12/12.]

Washington's policy of violence is failing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine, and now Yemen. [See the Guardian's marvelous graphical summary of Arab protests for an overview of the last year's events.] Shedding light on what may be the actual political dynamics in Yemen, one local newspaper observed:
Yemeni politicians and analysts accused the ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of using Al-Qaeda to intimidate some Western countries with the aim of keeping his relatives in their military positions. [Yemen Post 3/11/12.]

The military killing of enemy combattants without addressing the underlying socio-political grievances that give them their popularity is the sweeping away of protest waves on the ocean of popular anger. When the killing of combattants is performed in the context of repeated murder of innocent civilians, it is not just futile but extraordinarily counter-productive. 

Yemeni rights organizations condemned the alleged U.S. airstrikes, calling them illegal. HOOD, a prominent Sanaa-based rights organization, said that no one has the right to kill another person without first bringing that person to trial. 
"This is illegal and dozens were killed without given a chance to prove their case. We are against any U.S. attack in Yemen," said Mohammed Nagi Allow, HOOD's president. [CNN 3/12/12.]

So, is there an alternative?

Theory is always easier than practice, but to start somewhere, in theory, the alternative is a vigorous program of socio-political reform to empower the population at the expense of the elite. The best defense against violent revolution is vigorous reform. Now, John Adams and Franklin Roosevelt may have understood that, but today this point is hardly accepted even in the U.S. by the ruling elite, so expecting that same elite to apply such an approach to Yemen is wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the fact remains that practical application of this theory in the U.S. created the conditions for a half century of dramatic economic growth and a fairly steady, moderate rise in equality and justice.

This does not prove that freedom and justice would work in Yemen, and it certainly does not mean U.S. taxpayers must foot the bill, but over the past year, thousands of Yemeni citizens have risked their lives in a volunteer effort to create a democracy that, in its willingness to make personal sacrifices, is simply unimaginable to comfortable, short-sighted Americans.* At a minimum, all Washington needs to do is follow the doctor's mantra: DO NO HARM! Simply stand aside and permit moderate, popular, democratic reform. Who knows? Perhaps the Yemeni 99%, like the Egyptian 99%, are more capable than we think. 

It's not just irrational regimes that need changing but elitist, abusive regimes, and this is the way to do it.

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