An exciting new Muslim country to drone attack

Administration officials anonymously boast of preparations to escalate a bombing campaign in Yemen

Published August 25, 2010 1:26PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

Could Barack Obama become the first person in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize two consecutive years?  It is hard to dispute the premise that awarding him the Prize this year would be every bit as justifiable as last year's award.  Fresh off his Nobel-winning escalation of the war in Afghanistan, we now have this monument to world peace:

Amnesty International, June 7, 2010:

Amnesty International has released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children.

The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma'jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida.

VOA News, July 30, 2010:

The Convention on Cluster Munitions goes into force Sunday, August 1, with 107 signatories agreeing to ban the use of cluster munitions . . . . Cluster bombs are damaging because they contain hundreds of smaller explosives, or submunitions, that detonate across a wide area. The submunitions that fail to explode on impact can then act as landmines, posing a threat to civilian populations long after a conflict is over.

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a law banning the export of cluster munitions that do not meet a certain standard. But the United States has not signed the cluster bomb ban. China, Israel, India and Pakistan are among other countries that have not agreed to the treaty. Neither Georgia nor Russia has signed the treaty.

The Washington Post, today:

For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, CIA analysts see one of al-Qaeda's offshoots -- rather than the core group now based in Pakistan -- as the most urgent threat to U.S. security, officials said.

The sober new assessment of al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has helped prompt senior Obama administration officials to call for an escalation of U.S. operations there -- including a proposal to add armed CIA drones to a clandestine campaign of U.S. military strikes, the officials said.

"We are looking to draw on all of the capabilities at our disposal," said a senior Obama administration official, who described plans for "a ramp-up over a period of months" . . . .

The CIA has roughly 10 times more people and resources in Pakistan than it does in Yemen. There is no plan to scale back in Pakistan, but officials said the gap is expected to shrink.

Wall St. Journal, today:

U.S. officials believe al Qaeda in Yemen is now collaborating more closely with allies in Pakistan and Somalia to plot attacks against the U.S., spurring the prospect that the administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen.

Such a move would give the Central Intelligence Agency a far larger role in what has until now been mainly a secret U.S. military campaign against militant targets in Yemen and across the Horn of Africa. It would likely be modeled after the CIA's covert drone campaign in Pakistan. . . . Authorizing covert CIA operations would further consolidate control of future strikes in the hands of the White House, which has enthusiastically embraced the agency's covert drone program in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Reuters, yesterday:

Missiles fired from a U.S. pilotless drone aircraft killed 13 militants [sic] and 7 civilians in Pakistan's North Waziristan on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. . . . Four women and three children were among the dead, said the officials.

Al Jazeera, today:

Yemen's government has sacrificed human rights to preserve security in its battle against Shia rebels in the north and al-Qaeda fighters in the south, a new report by Amnesty International has alleged.

Yemen's catalogue of human-rights abuses over the past two years includes unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest, torture, unfair trials and enforced disappearances, Amnesty said.

The report, "Yemen: Cracking Down Under Pressure," says that Yemeni authorities have bowed to pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to deal harshly with the twin threats of Yemen's local al-Qaeda branch - al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - and the Houthi rebels in the north.

What's going on here seems fairly obvious.  The absurdity of escalating a war in Afghanistan by pointing to The Scary Al Qaeda Menace -- when there is virtually no Al Qaeda presence in that country -- is becoming increasingly apparent.  Just yesterday, a Washington Post article documented -- using the WikiLeaks war documents (which, remember, told us absolutely nothing worth knowing) -- that Al Qaeda is virtually non-existent in the war in Afghanistan.  So now, administration officials -- hiding behind the anonymity which these media outlets naturally provided -- fanned out to announce a new, Growing, Scary Al Qaeda Threat in Yemen, which, they boast, now needs its own escalated bombing attacks and CIA operations.  The goal is that the War never ends; the only variable is where it happens to increase on any given day.

The illogic and propaganda driving this is so familiar because it's what has been driving the American National Security State for the last decade.  There is anti-Americanism and radicalism in Yemen; therefore, to solve that problem, we're going to bomb them more with flying killer robots, because nothing helps reduce anti-American sentiments like slaughtering civilians and dropping cluster bombs from the sky.  Who could have watched the last decade and have doubts about that brilliant strategic insight?  As Yemen expert Gregory Johnson told The Christian Science Monitor in June, after reports of the use of American cluster bombs:

It is incredibly dangerous what the US is trying to do in Yemen at the moment because it really fits into AQAP’s broader strategy, in which it says Yemen is not different from Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are able to make the argument that Yemen is a legitimate front for jihad.  They’ve been making that argument since 2007, but incidents like this are all sort of fodder for their argument.

Just imagine how helpful a new, escalated drone campaign in Yemen will be -- on top of the U.S.-backed abuses from their own government -- for helping extremists in that country make the argument that Yemen is a new front in the American crusade against Muslims, similar to what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Of course none of this is new.  A Rumsfeld-commissioned report from all the way back in 2004 identified the "underlying sources of threats to America's national security" and emphasized among the leading threats the "negative attitudes" towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and "the conditions that create them."  That report specifically explained:  

American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab states.   Muslims "do not hate our freedom," but rather, they hate our policies.

Personally, I wouldn't call that a "paradox":  nothing is easier to understand than why American bombings in the Muslim world increase anti-American hatred and thus fuel anti-American Terrorism and swell the ranks of extremists.  It'd be a "paradox" if that didn't happen.  And it's therefore unsurprising that the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate is rapidly becoming as disliked in the Muslim world as the prior U.S. President:  what looks to five Norwegians sitting in Oslo to be a Man of Peace looks much different in the region where his bombs are falling, his hit squads deploying, his war commitments expanding, and his sky robots multiplying.

There's a particularly bitter irony here.  The campaign against the Park51 community center in Lower Manhattan is being condemned, rightfully so, because it is driven by a desire to stigmatize all Muslims and even institute a generalized war against Islam as American policy.  But far from Ground Zero, having nothing whatsoever to do with the warped right-wing fanatics driving that campaign, we're increasingly engaging in actions perceived -- understandably so -- to be exactly the War against Muslims which, with our pretty presidential words, we renounce.  Escalation in Afghanistan, a sustained bombing campaign in Pakistan, all sorts of increased covert actions in multiple Muslim countries, the ongoing imprisonment with no charges of Muslims around the world, bellicose threats to Iran, and now a proposed expansion of our drone campaign into Yemen:  we can insist all we want that we are not waging a War Against Muslims, but it's going to look to a huge number of people as though we're doing exactly that.

* * * * *

Also, be sure to remember:  WikiLeaks has blood on its hands.


UPDATE:  When I wrote the prior post this morning -- featuring the Onion's mockery of Time Magazine's child-level commentary -- I had intended it to be a stand-alone, amusing item to be read as I finished this Yemen piece.  But I now realize it directly relates to the points raised here:  the reason the Obama administration can so easily expand our War to yet another Muslim nation, and escalate in Afghanistan with an indefinite commitment notwithstanding our ever-worsening economic crisis, is because the discussion never really advances beyond this:  there are Bad Guys there, and we have to get them!!  That, of course, is the same thought which dominates the mindset of six-year-olds as they watch adventure films or cartoons, and the fact that our discourse never advances beyond that -- courtesy of outlets such as Time -- is the reason these blatantly counterproductive policies can be pursued with so little trouble, despite how illogical and obviously contradictory is the offered rationale.


UPDATE II:  Chris Floyd notes that, as reported by The Los Angeles Times, Fred Kagan -- supreme neocon war cheerleader and architect of the Bush Surge in Iraq -- has now been hired to work with Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan.  That's a powerful reflection of how much has changed.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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