Saturday, May 4, 2013

A young Yemeni writer on the impact and morality of drone-bombing his country

From:  The Guardian

COMMENT - Watch out for those smart bullets and drones, Ibrahim.  To complain, contact Green Hills Software, Inc., 30 W. Sola, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.  Phone: 805-965-6044.  I'm sure they will be delighted to discuss this issue with you!  Ask for Jack Douglas for a sensitive and emotionally available answer.  Drone Free Zone - Putting people together for dialog around the world.  

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He is not wearing a kilt.,

The 24-year-old Ibrahim Mothana speaks eloquently and insightfully about what the US is doing to his country. We should listen

Ibrahim Mothana Photograph: Facebook
Ibrahim Mothana Photograph: Facebook

Ibrahim Mothana is a 24-year-old Yemeni writer and activist. I first became aware of him when he wrote an extraordinary Op-Ed in the New York Times last year urging Americans to realize how self-destructive and counter-productive was Obama's escalating drone campaign in his country, writing:
Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. . . .
"Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. . . . Certainly, there may be short-term military gains from killing militant leaders in these strikes, but they are minuscule compared with the long-term damage the drone program is causing. A new generation of leaders is spontaneously emerging in furious retaliation to attacks on their territories and tribes. . . .
"Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen — including the assassination of three American citizens in September 2011, including a 16-year-old. During George W. Bush's presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush's policies.
"Defenders of human rights must speak out. America's counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for A.Q.A.P. [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world."
Since then, I've watched his work and have periodically spoken with him on various matters, and am unfailingly impressed by the thoughtful, smart and sophisticated way he thinks about these issues. Ibrahim was invited to travel to Washington to testify before a Senate sub-committee which met last week to examine the legality and wisdom of Obama's drone program. He was unable to attend, so one of his friends, Farea al-Muslimi, testified instead, and was eloquent and powerful.
But Ibrahim prepared what would have been his opening remarks to the Committee and has sent them to me (the Committee has also agreed to publish them in the Congressional Record). I'm publishing them here in full because they are remarkably insightful and poignant, and because Americans hear far too little from the people in the countries which their government continues to bomb, attack, and otherwise interfere in. I really hope as many people as possible will take the time to read his words:

Written testimony of Ibrahim Mothana for the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights

Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Cruz, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide my written testimony on the critical issue of the increasing US targeted killings in Yemen.

Yemen and the United States of America

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I would like to tell you about my country. The people of our two countries share many of the same dreams although many Americans may not realize this, in part because of a media that focuses on terrorism to the exclusion of a broader understanding of Yemen. Al-Qaida and its associates in Yemen, at the most extreme estimates, number a few thousand members, no more than a tiny fragment of our 24 million people who hope and dream of a better future — one that offers them dignity, freedom, and economic stability.
We are the poorest country in the Middle East with over 50 percent of our people living on less than 2 dollars a day. We are running out of water and out of oil, our major source of foreign revenue. Our nation has been troubled by decades of conflicts and an irresponsible, corrupt governments. A lot of my childhood friends are unemployed and live a daily struggle to maintain their basic human needs. In 2011, millions of Yemenis who lived decades under one autocratic ruler rose up in a largely peaceful revolution calling for democracy, accountability and justice, the very values cherished in American democracy.
Many young people like me grew up looking to America and its people for inspiration. Among many other things my teenage years were enriched by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Martin Luther King Junior's speeches, Mark Twain's sarcasm and American TV shows. The promise of equality and freedom seemed fulfilled when America elected its first black president. With an upsurge of happiness, many Yemenis celebrated the inauguration day and, at that point, President Obama was more popular among my friends than any other Yemeni figure. I was inspired by President Obama's promise of "a new era of leadership that will bring back America's credibility on human rights Issues and reject prioritizing safety to ideals."

But happiness and inspiration gave way to misery. My admiration for the American dream and Obama's promises has become overshadowed by the reality of the American drones strike nightmare in Yemen.

The Impact on Yemen and its People of the US Targeted Killing Policy

In the past few years, I have visited and worked in areas of Yemen that are the forefront of what the United States views as a global conflict against Al-Qaeda and associated forces. I have witnessed how the US use of armed drones and botched air strikes against alleged militant targets has increased anti-American sentiment in my country, prompting some Yemenis to join violent militant groups, motivated more by a desire for revenge than by ideological beliefs.

We Yemenis got our first experience with targeted killings under the Obama administration on December 17, 2009, with a cruise missile strike in al-Majala, a hamlet in a remote area of southern Yemen. This attack killed 44 people including 21 women and 14 children, according to Yemeni and international rights groups including Amnesty International. The lethal impact of that strike on innocents lasted long after it took place. On August 9, 2010, two locals were killed and 15 were injured from an explosion of one remaining cluster bomb from that strike.

After that tragic event in 2009, both Yemeni and US officials continued a policy of denial that ultimately damaged the credibility and legitimacy of the Yemeni government. According to a leaked US diplomatic cable, in a meeting on January 2, 2010, Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi joked about how he had just "lied" by telling the Yemeni parliament the bombs in the al-Majala attack were dropped by the Yemenis, and then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh made a promise to General Petreaus, then the then head of US central command, saying: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours." Such collusion added insult to injury to Yemenis.

Animosity has been heightened by the US use of so-called "signature strikes" that target military-age males and groups by secret, remote analysis of lifestyle patterns. In Yemen, we fear that the signature strike approach allows the Obama administration to falsely claim that civilian casualties are non-existent. In the eye of a signature strike, it could be that someone innocent like me is seen as a militant until proven otherwise. How can a dead person prove his innocence? For the many labeled as militants when they are killed, it's difficult to verify if they really were active members of groups like AQAP, let alone whether they deserved to die.  MORE

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