Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Drone victim: U.S. strikes boost al-Qaida recruitment

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The CIA seems on the whole to be counter-productive when it conducts operational missions to overthrow governments—e.g., overthrowing the legitimate government of Allende to allow a Pinochet to become a dictator and begin killing citizens. That didn’t work out. And in 1953 we overthrew the legitimate government of Iran to install the Shah, and we’re still dealing with that resentment. Wajahat Ali writes in Salon:

On April 17, a 23-year-old Yemeni activist and journalist named Farea Al-Muslimitweeted about a U.S. drone strike on his village, Wessab, which he describes as “the Yemen capital of misery with its beautiful mountains no one from outside remembers.” In the strike, five alleged members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed. The U.S. droned Yemen 53 times last year, tripling the number of attacks from 2011, and incurring a civilian casualty rate between 4 to 8.5 percent. On April 23, Al-Muslimi gave stirring testimony at the first U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the legality of drone wars.

In the exclusive conversation below, Al-Muslimi tells Salon about the drone strikes’ devastating toll on Yemeni civilians and how the current U.S. counterterrorism policy in Yemen is like “reading from a manual ’10 Steps on How to Lose a War.’”

You testified at the first U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on drone wars describing the consequences of a drone strike on your village. What was the U.S. justification for the strike on Hammed Al-Radmi, a man from your village?

I don’t know (laughs). There is no justification for the U.S. in every case I’ve seen in Yemen where they’ve done a drone strike — either in my village or other villages. They say they need to use these [predator] planes, because otherwise they cannot capture these [targeted] people, but that is misleading and not true. This is why I came here – to ask what’s the justification? I don’t know. You should really direct this question to the U.S. government.

Even right now, the U.S. still hasn’t said why they killed Al-Radmi. And for many people in the area, including government officials, Al-Radmi was a social figure who was helping and solving many of the problems. He might have been accused of having ties with AQAP, but the U.S. didn’t capture him or question him. Basically, the U.S. just killed a very normal person who just three years ago was actually studying economics in Cuba, under the government of Castro, before returning to Yemen. And then the U.S. ordered a drone strike on him and they still don’t really know why. I don’t see the justification for using a strike, because [due to his visibility] it would have been easier to capture him than perhaps any other Yemeni in the capital.

In May of 2011, the U.S. government launched a drone strike meant for Anwar Al-Arshani. However, 24 civilians were also killed that day. Al-Arshani was alleged to be a member of al-Qaida, but many Yemenis say that allegation was uncorroborated. What’s your take?

This is a good, good question. Al-Arshani’s house was the first drone strike I ever visited. I interviewed most of the survivors. I visited them almost a month after the strike, and I still found a few pieces of his house. It is one of the places in Yemen where most civilians were killed ever [as a result of a drone strike]. Whether Al-Arshani was part of al-Qaida or not, the U.S. killed 24 innocent Yemenis. They could have been more efficient and accurate with their strike — at least if this policy was well thought out.

I interviewed a woman whose husband was killed in that strike. The day of the strike, he went to the souk to look for a job. He was a jobless man; he was working day by day. The woman was so happy, she said today her husband will find work and he’ll come home in the afternoon with food for their four kids. Unfortunately, she learned later that he was killed. It was one of the most tragic cases where a U.S. strike killed innocent civilians.

There was no working hospital around that strike for civilian victims. So, neighbors carried the victims to the local post office around the corner; that was the only space available to carry so many civilian victims. It became a makeshift hospital, because the real hospital was bombed. I visited this “hospital” [the post office] and I said, “This is anything but a hospital.” It was full of trash; there was no equipment – I mean it was a post office that became uglier, dirtier. If you went in and weren’t injured, you’d walk out of it with diseases and infections. It was one of the worst places I’ve seen. I’ve never seen a toilet as bad as the one I saw in this “hospital.” It’s a tragic place.

Also, even after a month, the site of the strike was so fresh that I could still see some flesh and blood of civilian victims in the sand. Nothing has been done for these people. Not even an apology almost one year after the strike. Every single person I interviewed said Al-Arshani was not AQAP. Whether he was not, there was a massacre of civilians that had nothing to do with him.

There’s some disagreement in the U.S. over whether these drone strikes breed anti-American resentment in the average Yemeni. What do you think? . . .

Continue reading. I think if another country fired a missile into my town and killed a bunch of civilians, and it was done not as a rogue action but as considered government policy, I might well hate that country and its people. But probably others are more forgiving.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2013 at 2:41 pm

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