It’s nice to see the New York Times catch up with the news we were discussing almost two weeks ago, the U.S. military’s plan to pump $1.2 billion dollars more of weapons, fighters and drones into Yemen, whether Yemen wants it or not.
Unfortunately it’s not surprising to see that Eric Schmitt and Scott Shane didn’t include any comments or thoughts from Yemeni sources in their piece. As is all too common for our foreign policy discourse, only American opinions are considered.
And what opinions they are.
Take Jane Harman:
“Yemen is the most dangerous place,” said Representative Jane Harman, a senior California Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee who visited Yemen in March. “We’re much more likely to be attacked in the U.S. by someone inspired by, or trained by, people in Yemen than anything that comes out of Afghanistan.”
Once again we have a new “most dangerous place” according to Harman – who of course is not therefore calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan but instead stirring up yet another new fear-fear-fear message to sell ever more U.S. military adventurism and military industrial profits.
The article does acknowledge the problems already evident in the expanding actions in Yemen such as the disastrous U.S. drone attack which killed the deputy governor of Marib Province as well as the State Department’s misgivings over the Defense Department’s plan, and unnamed “opponents” concern that U.S. military aid may be used by the Saleh government against political opposition rather than Al Qaeda, but goes on to report that the U.S. military is increasingly gungho over fighting yet another war in Yemen.
We learn for example that American commanders are describing the already amped up military aid of $150 million this yer as “piecemeal,” a stunning description for such a level of expenditure.
And we learn that the new CENTCOM commander, Gen. James N. Mattis, is now on board, “embrac[ing] the plan ‘lock, stock and barrel,’” which was not certain when we originally discussed this new funding plan originally promoted by Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Michael Mullen.
Given that by all reports there are no more than 600 “hard-core members of the Qaeda branch” and that the Yemeni government consistently states that it is confident in its own ability to deal with them, this insistence on a massive increase in military funds and the growing presence of U.S. Special Forces in Yemen could not be more wrongheaded. Add in both the CIA’s “secret war” in Yemen and the plans noted in the NYT article “to allow American logistical advisers to accompany Yemeni troops in some noncombat roles,” and we all know how this ends. . . .
At the same time, Yemen is in desperate need of development and humanitarian aid. With the country’s water supply crisis, severe poverty and widespread starvation and malnutrition, Yemen presents an ideal opportunity for a different approach. Consider that this year the World Food Program has had to cut emergency rations in Yemen to half the needed calories due to a “lack of funds.”
WFP’s Yemen director Gian Carlo Cirri noted several months ago that:
We’ve already been forced to reduce rations in some areas to 82-87 percent. So for example, this past weekend in Saada (governorate) we saw demonstrations when rations were cut,” he said.
WFP has a shortfall of $24 million in Saada alone – 70 percent of the money it needs this year to provide food to those affected by the conflict in the northern governorate.
“To stabilise the situation, there is definitely a need for humanitarian assistance as a first step and then a more developmental approach,” the WFP official said.
Across the whole country, a third of Yemen’s 23 million people do not have enough food, he added, and WFP lacks 75 percent of the money it needs to help them in 2010.
Director Cirri went on to say:
“There has been a lot of talk within the international community about helping Yemen, but very little money,” Cirri said. “In funding humanitarian operations, you are buying stability at a relatively cheap price.”
Apparently President Obama and his generals would rather send $1.2 billion on drones and special ops fighters:
We walked for 20 minutes over boulders and thorny shrubs to reach the other campsite that was hit on the same day. [December 19, 2009] Here, the remains of austere Bedouin life dangled from another tree: plastic and bits of clothes, blue tarpaulins that are used to make shelters. Among the wreckage were dozens of melted black plastic shoes of varying sizes, men’s, women’s and children’s.
This is where the Ba Kazim family were killed, the villagers said. According to the Yemeni parliamentary commission, in total 41 civilians were killed in the two strikes, and 14 al-Qaida fighters.
Scattered between the debris of shattered lives are colourful yellow objects whose sharply engineered forms contrast with more rag-tag shapes of the Bedouin objects.
They carry the bald stencilled words “BOMB FRAG”, “US NAVY” and a serial number. These were cluster bombs, scattered like candy.