Thursday, September 6, 2012
Drone surge in Yemen ignored at home in the U.S.
Within the last eight days there have been four drone strikes in Yemen. In the same period 29 were killed. In total there have been almost 200 deaths this year from strikes. Only in cases where U.S authorities want to boast about results are the attacks acknowledged, as in the killing of U.S. high-profile Al Qaeda recruit Anwar al-Awlaki. All other attacks are only suspected U.S drone attacks
There is virtually no discussion of the ramped up drone war in Yemen at the Democratic National Convention. Most attention is focused on domestic issues, particularly the economy. The latest attack came as eight missiles hit what was described as a militant safe house. Security officials said that most of those killed were recruits and no senior officials were killed. This would seem to have been a signature strike with the targets not specifically identified.
On Sunday a strike is said to have killed ten civilians near the town of Rada'a. A missile aimed at a vehicle that was thought to contain a loca Al Qaeda leader instead hit a nearby minibus. Among the dead were a 10 year old girl and her mother. “Families attempted to carry the victims’ corpses to the capital, Sana’a, to lay them in front of the residence of newly elected President Abdurabu Hadi, but were sent back by local security forces,” according to CNN. President Hadi has been cooperating fully with the U.S. in allowing drone attacks. A local resident complained: “You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason. This attack is the real terrorism.” Members of Yemen's parliament and human rights groups also condemned the killings.
The U.S now has two separate drone campaigns operating in Yemen. One is run by the CIA and the other by the Joint Special Operations Command. Since 2011 estimates are that 43 strikes have been carried out killing 274 people. It is difficult to know how many were militants. The U.S authorities apparently count any males of military age as militants.
In a recent trip to Yemen Christopher Swift from the University of Virginia suggested that the broadening of targets through signature strikes based upon behavior thought to indicate militant action may hurt U.S credibility in an area where anti-Americanism is already strong. A member of the Yemeni parliament said that drone strikes were making Al Qaeda more acceptable psychologically. Gregory Johnson of Princeton said:“This is not going to end well,...In an effort to destroy the threat coming out of Yemen, the U.S. is getting sucked further into the quicksand of a conflict it doesn’t understand and one in which its very presence tilts the tables against the U.S.” For more see this article, and also here.