Archive | Yemen

UN Questions for US and Yemen over ‘Disappeared’ American

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A UN body that tracks forced disappearance has reiterated its call to Yemen to produce a US citizen who has been missing from a prison in the country for nearly nine months.

Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by lawyers from legal charity Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana’a's central prison. When they returned three weeks later, they were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers to trace him have since failed.

Further questions were raised in July about a possible US role in the disappearance, when US diplomats in Yemen admitted to Reprieve that they had been in contact with Mr Mobley, but refused to reveal where he is being held. In August, the Yemeni court heard – in comments that the judge subsequently ordered to be struck from the record – that Mr Mobley may have been transferred to face trial before the Specialized Criminal Court, a secretive, US-funded body that has been criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to meet international fair trial standards.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has submitted a dossier of facts on the case to Yemen and the US regarding Mr Mobley’s disappearance. The submission, made earlier this month, follows the group’s launching of an investigation in May, and a request that Yemen ensure Mr Mobley would not be detained arbitrarily, or subject to unfair legal proceedings.

Mr Mobley’s ordeal began in January 2010 when he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from outside his house in Sana’a, shot in the leg and held incommunicado for several months. Logs released under a US Freedom of Information request revealed that two US agents interrogated Mr Mobley in secret detention. Since mid-2010, he has faced charges relating to the death of a Yemeni police officer in the course of an alleged escape attempt from hospital, where Mr Mobley was being treated after a beating in detention.

Mr Mobley disappeared on the eve of a court hearing at which his Yemeni lawyer was due to present evidence of the US authorities’ role in his original disappearance. The judge in the trial is thought to be deliberating over the legality of Mr Mobley’s original arrest, shooting and secret detention, which violated several provisions of Yemen’s laws and constitution.

Cori Crider, Mr Mobley’s lawyer and Strategic Director at Reprieve, said: “It’s hard to believe that, nine months on from Sharif Mobley’s disappearance, we are no closer to the Yemeni government admitting where they have taken our client. Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers need immediate access to him to determine how he has been treated, and why he disappeared on the eve of a crucial hearing. We can only hope that this ongoing UN intervention spurs the US and the Yemenis to reveal their role in this murky affair.”

Posted in Human Rights, USA, Yemen0 Comments

Yemeni protesters call for independence of south

NOVANEWS
 

Hundreds of thousands of people have held a demonstration in Yemen to renew their calls for the secession of the southern parts of the Arab country and establishment of an independent state.

The protesters marched along the streets in the city of Aden, situated 346 kilometers (214 miles) south of the capital, Sana’a, on Tuesday to mark the 51st anniversary of the South’s revolt against British colonial rule.

The demonstrators also waved flags of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, and held pictures of former South Yemen president, Ali Salim al-Beidh.

The pro-independence Southern Movement has called for further protests in Aden, the capital of former South Yemen, as well as in the city of Mukalla.

North and South Yemen unified in 1990 after the southern government collapsed. However, four years later, the south tried to break away and this led to a civil war. The conflict ended with northern troops taking control of the south after winning the war.

In February, the Yemeni government disclosed a plan to divide the Arab country into six regions.

Politicians in southern Yemen are opposed to the plan. They say four provinces in the north would have more power than the two in the south.

The idea of creating a federal system has been a part of Yemen’s political transition, as the country is still reeling from the popular uprising that forced longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office in February 2012.

Yemen’s southern residents complain that they have been economically and politically marginalized by the central government in Sana’a.

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Yemen Houthis seize Red Sea city of Hudeida

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Yemen Houthis

Yemen’s Ansarullah fighters, also known as Houthis, have captured the strategic Red Sea city of Hudeida, officials say.

Security officials said on Tuesday that the Ansarullah revolutionaries entered the city, 226 kilometers (140 miles) west of the capital Sana’a, taking over its air and seaport. They are said to have faced little resistance.

Both military and Houthi sources confirmed that Ansarullah fighters have been deployed across the main roads in the city.

The takeover of Hudeida, home to Yemen’s second most important port, comes just weeks after the Ansarullah fighters seized the capital.

The Ansarullah activists, who played a key role in the ouster of former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, staged demonstrations in the capital for more than a month, demanding the resignation of the government over what they call its corruption and marginalization of the Shia community in Yemen.

A UN-backed ceasefire deal, which was subsequently inked, called for the withdrawal of the revolutionaries from the capital once a neutral prime minister was picked.

Earlier this month, the Ansarullah revolutionaries rejected the appointment of Chief of Staff Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak as the country’s new prime minister, saying the decision has been made at the behest of the United States.

Yemen’s Ansarullah accused the embassy of the United States in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, of involvement in the president’s pick for the post of prime minister.

On Monday, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi officially appointed former oil and minerals minister, Khaled Mahafoudh Bahah, as the country’s new prime minister to form the national unity government.

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Yemen : Al Qaeda says it executes 14 soldiers

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— File photo by Reuters

Al Qaeda in Yemen posted a video online purporting to show the abduction and execution of 14 soldiers the militants alleged were “apostates”.

The reported attack by the hard-line militant group underscores the security vacuum and potential for sectarian violence in unstable Yemen, a country in political turmoil two weeks after the Houthi rebel group took control of the capital Sanaa.

Posted to Twitter on Sunday and reported by the SITE intelligence monitoring group, the video shows masked militants stopping a bus in the eastern city of Shibam and forcing several of its occupants to lie face down outside.

The video did not indicate when the attack happened.

Displaying the captives’ military IDs before the camera, militants waved pistols and knives, shouting, “God is great!” “God enabled the holy warriors of Ansar al-Sharia to detain 14 Houthi apostate soldiers in Shibam taking part in the military campaign against the Sunnis. Three of them were slaughtered and the rest were shot,” the video said. Al Qaeda’s use of the term “slaughtered” usually indicates being killed by a knife.

Al Qaeda, which also calls itself Ansar al-Sharia, spread in the impoverished Arabian state in the wake of 2011 Arab Spring protests which ousted the country’s veteran leader, split the army and saw the state’s authority disintegrate in rural areas.

Efforts by the military to crack down on the group in recent years have done little to undercut its ability to carry out spectacular attacks on government targets.

The United States has repeatedly bombed Al Qaeda with unmanned aerial drones, while energy rich Gulf states also worry at the deterioration of their strife-torn neighbour’s capacity to keep order.

Yemen’s stability appears even more precarious after Houthi insurgents seized Sanaa on September 21 after four days of fighting which killed 200 people, and government institutions have since functioned at a minimal level.

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Yemen: Zio-Wahhabi Regime recognizes new balance of power in Sanaa as Houthis topple Muslim Brothers

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Yemeni security forces supporting Shiite Huthi anti-government protesters gesture during an anti-government protest in Sanaa on September 12, 2014.

The world will wake today to a new Yemen, whose political features have radically changed after the Houthis managed to abort the configuration set up by the Gulf states together with the US following the resignation of [former President] Ali Abdullah Saleh. The new configuration sees the Qatari-Turkish influence diminished, through the deadly blow dealt to the Muslim “Brothers” in Yemen.

Sanaa – September 21, 2014 will no doubt be a historical day, the day the Houthis controlled all the levers of the Yemeni regime but without seizing power. The Houthis also succeeded in dealing a deadly blow to the Muslim “Brothers” in Yemen, represented by its two symbols Ali Mohsen al-Ahmed and Abdel Majid al-Zindani, and with them, the Qatari-Turkish influence in the country, yet without antagonizing Saudi Zio-WahhabI’s, which seems to be resigned to the emerging shift in the balance of power in Sanaa.At least, this is what the meeting between Zio-Wahhabi Wahhabi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif suggests, as the Yemeni regime was being routed at the hands of Ansar Allah, the Houthis’ umbrella group. The meeting itself and its timing are extremely significant, as well as the statements made afterwards by the two ministers.

Zarif said, “Iran and Saudi Arabia are two neighboring countries that are extremely important in the region. We need to work together to start a new chapter in our relationship, which we hope will serve peace, security, and the interests of the Islamic nation.”

This diplomatic “salute” was seized upon by al-Faisal, who responded even more cordially. He said, “Our two countries sense the seriousness of the moment and what the opportunity allows us to do in this crisis. We are convinced of the need to seize the opportunity and avoid the mistakes of the past. I hope we succeed because the two countries are part of the region, and their cooperation would be for the good of the region and the international community. Next time, we will meet in Saudi Arabia.”

The cordial tone emphasized cooperation and the need to avoid mistakes then, coupled with an invitation for a future meeting in Saudi Arabia, even as the Ansar Allah forces were toppling the institutions of power in Yemen one after the other.

“Peace and national partnership” agreement

Regardless of what this means, the developments on the ground precipitated an agreement between the Yemeni government and Ansar Allah brokered by the UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar. The “peace and national partnership” agreement, which the Houthis signed on Sunday evening, stipulated the formation of a technocratic government in the next few months, the reduction of fuel prices by half of the hike implemented since the end of July, and the appointment of two advisers to the president representing the Houthis and the Southern Movement, in addition to the creation of an economic committee a week after the government is formed, in return for a ceasefire and an end to the Houthi-led protests.

According to the Turkish Anatolia news agency, the Houthis refused to sign the “security appendix” to the agreement, which contains 17 clauses requiring the Houthis to: hand over the government institutions they had seized back to the government, withdraw their fighters from Sanaa and the province of Imran; end their armed manifestations and remove protest camps from the capital; and implement the recommendations of the National Dialogue regarding disarmament of all sides. According to sources in the Yemeni presidency and government, the Nasserist Unionist People’s Organization and the Salafi Rashad Union Party refused to sign the agreement after the Houthis rejected the security appendix.The agreement was preceded by a complete shift in the balance of power in favor of the Houthis, who were able to take control of the heart of the Yemeni capital and seize the headquarters of the government, the Ministry of Defense, and the army’s general command, in addition to a number of ministries, the state radio and television building, and the central bank, after the army forces tasked with protecting them retreated following orders not to engage the Houthi militants.

The quick collapse of sovereign and military institutions in Sanaa following the Houthi offensive surprised many observers. It also demonstrates that there could be a long-term plan involving multiple parties. Indeed, it seems that the decision of the Yemeni government to lift subsidies on fuel was the signal propelling the decision to seize Sanaa amid the disintegration of the ruling elites and their corruption. In this context, Ali-Bukhaiti, member of the political council of Ansar Allah, said that the group’s fighters deployed around the prime minister’s office and the radio, and took over the two buildings, without any resistance from the army forces charged with protecting them.

In conjunction with the Houthi takeover of the government and security institutions, the head of the government of national reconciliation Mohammed Salem Basendwah submitted his resignation, claiming that this was to “give an opportunity for an agreement between President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi group.” Following his resignation, Basendwah made a statement in which he complained about having been marginalized by the Yemeni president, who he said had robbed him of his powers and did not involve him in security, military, and diplomatic affairs.

Militarily, the official spokesperson for Ansar Allah Mohammed Abdel Salam declared that the group’s fighters had seized the headquarters of the 1st armored division, led by Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who seems to have managed to escape, after fierce fighting that lasted for about 24 hours, in which light to heavy weapons were used, claiming the lives of dozens on both sides. Abdel Salam said, “The Popular Committees declare having completely purged the headquarters of the disbanded 1st division, and that Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar is wanted for justice.”

Meanwhile, scores of students and faculty fled al-Iman University, which is affiliated to the leader of the Islah Party Abdel Majeed al-Zindani, after the Supreme Security Committee told them it was unable to protect them from the Houthi gunmen besieging its campus for the last three days. The university was shelled, and flames were seen rising from the campus on al-Sitten Street. The militants also seized all offices of the Islah Party in the north of the capital, while the Science and Technology Hospital affiliated to al-Islah leaders was evacuated from all patients and staff at the request of Houthi fighters.

On his Facebook page, Abdel Salam declared that all official buildings were in the hands of his group. He wrote, “Military and security authorities that ‘supported the popular revolt and sided with the people’ are the General Command of the Armed Forces, the Radio and Television Complex, and the official institutions in the Tahrir area and the prime minister’s office.”

In a move that reflects how much control the Houthis have on the ground, the Minister of Interior Major General Abdo Hussein al-Tareb asked all employees of the ministry to avoid friction with Ansar Allah, and to cooperate with them to impose order and preserve public and government properties, which he said belonged to the whole people, deeming Ansar Allah “friends of the police” for the sake of the public interest of the homeland.

The agreement concluded on Sunday night puts an end to a month-long crisis, which had erupted after the Yemeni government decided to lift subsidies on fuel. Afterwards, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in demonstrations organized by Ansar Allah in Sanaa, as the Houthis erected sit-in camps along the capital’s entrances, making a set of demands, including the resignation of the government, reversing the decision to end fuel subsidies, and implementing the National Dialogue recommendations. However, the Houthi protest movement escalated at the instructions of the group’s leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi. In recent weeks, the crisis reached boiling point more than once, before the militants finally raided the capital and took over government buildings.

The end of the role of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar

The role of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmed has come to an end. What has been a dream for a broad segment of the Yemenis became reality on Sunday, after the leader of the northwestern military region and the 1st Armored Division fled from his headquarters, when Ansar Allah prevailed in the military confrontations on Sunday.A video recording posted by a social media activist showed a number of cars and military crews passing through a street in Sanaa at great speed, reportedly the convoy of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar after the Houthis took over his headquarters.

Ahmed (born on June 20, 1945), who joined the Yemeni army in 1961, was a strongman who served the Yemeni regime beginning with the tenure of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 1978, he thwarted a military coup staged by the Nasserist Party. He was the regime’s number one man in Yemen, and Saleh relied on him as the man of difficult missions, before he defected following the revolution of 2011.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, Yemen0 Comments

WE MUST LOOK TO THE FUTURE, NOT FIGHT OVER THE PAST

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There is historical animosity between two of the strongest, if not the strongest, tribes in Yemen: Hashid and Bakil. Although they share borders, history, and origin, they don’t share fate.For over three decades, Hashid has had superiority over Bakil despite its comparatively smaller size. This dominancy started before Hashid’s affiliate, former President Saleh, became president. But he made sure that Hashid, and especially the Sanhan tribe to which he belongs, had a huge advantage in wealth, access to power, and authority over Bakil, and the rest of the country for that matter.

The two tribes have had their confrontations over the years. One of the most recent significant examples occurred during the Sa’ada wars between 2004 and 2010 when Saleh recruited fighters from Hashid while Bakil supported the Houthis with money, weapons, men, and most importantly land for refuge and safe passage.

Today, with the Al-Ahmar family’s power being challenged by official means with the prime minister’s position removed from their control, or unofficial means by becoming a sitting target for the Houthis in Amran without any backup from the state, Bakil is using this as payback time.

Another alliance between Bakil and the Houthis is being forged and now that they are standing at the edges of Sana’a side by side, they believe that it is ok to demand their turn in power, even if it means sharing some of it with the Houthis.

Simultaneously, Saleh is playing another of his trademark games as he promises and delivers support to the Houthis, just to get back at members of his own tribe, including those from the Al-Ahmar family, for going against him in 2011. He does this knowing for a fact that if the Houthis come to power, his head would be the first to fall off, followed possibly by the other names on the Houthis’ black list, including Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who led the wars against them, and the entire Al-Ahmar family, among others.

Saleh knows that the Houthis will not forget how he assassinated their leader Hussein Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi ten years ago after tricking him into surrendering. Still, he is currently supporting the Houthis who, according to the Ministry of Interior’s report, are the ones behind the tunnel reaching underneath his house—perhaps to pay him a long overdue house call.

And here comes the role of Bakil tribe. The Houthis know that they can’t rely on Saleh, his money, or his promises, so they seek old friends who have a similar goal. Bakil wants revenge. So do the Houthis, and this explains today’s dynamics.

It is not fair that Sana’a and the entire country pays the price for bad practices of the past. Unfortunately, what drives change in Yemen is revenge, not the 2011 dream we had for our future.

We want equal citizenship and the rule of law in a modern state where the ones who deserve it get access to power through democratic means, not through war, arm twisting, or avenging the past.

We can not continue to rely on the international community to solve our problems for us. It is already losing patience and will soon give up on us as it did with Iraq and Lebanon.

It is up to us as Yemenis to stop the power seeking tribes, religiously motivated groups, and corrupt politicians from controlling our fate and disturbing our peace. What is happening today calls for another revolution, one of minds not weapons.

Posted in Yemen0 Comments

Watch: Yemen – a failed state

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Map of Yemen

 

Since 2011, when Yemeni youths took to the streets and sparked the eventual demise of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, the country has fallen to pieces. The new embattled government is now struggling to cope with a bevy of issues, including sectarian rivalries, CIA drone strikes, and one of al-Qaeda’s most sophisticated branches. It now risks presiding over the failure of one of the world’s most fragile countries.

VICE News visits some of Yemen’s most dangerous and hard-to-reach places and groups, including the national army in the country’s lawless East, the Houthis in Sanaa and the Popular Committee in the south, to find out how both the government and the West’s policy toward Yemen have gone wrong.

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Ten Things You Should Know About Dams

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1. 50,000 Large Dams Are Clogging the World’s Rivers:

About 50,000 dams with a height of 15 meters or more and millions of smaller dams have been built on the world’s rivers. Some of them date back centuries, but most were built after World War II. About 5,000 dams have a height of 60 meters or more; another 350 such giants are currently under construction.

2. Dams Are Changing the Face of the Earth:

Dams have fragmented two thirds of the world’s large rivers and flooded a land area the size of California. Their reservoirs contain three times as much water as all the world’s rivers, and constantly lose close to four Niagara Falls to evaporationDams trap 40 cubic kilometers of sediment severy year, and starve deltas of the silt that protects them against the intruding sea.

3. Dams Provide Important Services:

Dams generate 16% of the world’s electricity and irrigate food crops for 12-15% of the world’s population. To a lesser extent, dams have also been built for water supply, flood protection, navigation and tourism purposes. Most dams have been built for irrigation, but 80% of the water they store is used for hydropower.

4. Dams Kill Fish:

Dams block the migration of fish, deplete rivers of oxygen, and interfere with the biological triggers that guide fish. They also reduce the ability of rivers to clean themselves. Due to dam building and other factors, the population of freshwater species declined by 37% between 1970-2008 – more than the populations of any other ecosystems. Tropical freshwater populations declined by a stunning 70%.

5. Dams Are Changing the Climate:

Dams are not climate-neutral. Particularly in the tropics, organic matter rotting in their reservoirs emits methane, an aggressive greenhouse gas. Scientists have estimated that reservoirs account for 4% of all human-made climate change, equivalent to the climate impact of aviation. The floods and droughts caused by climate change in turn make dams less safe and less economic.

6. Dams Displace People:

Dams have displaced an estimated 80 million people, with 23 million alone in China. Displacement robs people who are already poor and marginalized of their resources, skills and cultural identity, and impoverishes them further. Dams have also negatively impacted about 500 million people living downstream. The benefits of dams often bypass the people who sacrifice their livelihoods for them.

7. Dams Can Put Human Rights at Risk:

Most dams that displace large populations are being built by authoritarian governments. In Burma, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Sudan and other countries, dam builders have often responded to opposition with serious human rights violations. In the worst dam-related massacre, more than 440 indigenous people were killed to make way for Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam in 1982.

8. Dams Are Expensive:

Large dams belong to the most expensive investments many governments have ever made. An estimated 2000 billion dollars has been spent on dams since 1950. Due to planning errors, technical problems and corruption, dams experience average delays of 44% and  cost overruns of 96%. Such massive overruns make them uneconomic.

9. Dams Don’t Last Forever:

Sooner or later reservoirs silt up, and the cost of maintaining dams becomes bigger than their benefits. In the United States, more than 1000 dams have been removed at great cost. When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975.

10. Better Solutions Are Usually Available:

In 2012, governments and businesses installed 75 gigawatt of wind and solar power, compared with 30 gigawatt of hydropower. Such alternatives fare even better when social and environmental impacts and transmission costs are included. The International Energy Agencyhas proposed that 60% of the funds needed to achieve energy access for all should go to local renewable energy projects.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir, USA, Yemen0 Comments

Yemen army kills Wahhabi Saudi terrorists in Shabwah

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Yemeni army forces fight al-Qaeda militants in Shabwah province. (File photo)
Yemeni army forces fight al-Qaeda militants in Shabwah province. (File photo)
Yemeni army troops have killed two Saudi members of al-Qaeda in the south of the country, the Defense Ministry says.

The ministry said on its website on Saturday that the Yemeni soldiers killed “two Saudi terrorists, Ibrahim Hamad and Ahmed al-Harbi,” in the town of Azzan, in Shabwah province.

The army forces said they captured Azzan after carrying out an operation on April 29 but sporadic clashes continued with militants still holed up in houses there, witnesses said.

The focus of the army’s offensive has been on the provinces of Abyan, Shabwah, and the neighboring province of al-Bayda.

Meanwhile, a military official was quoted by Yemeni media as saying that “al-Qaeda members are still being hunted” and the operation “will continue until they are cleared.”

On Thursday, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi vowed to eliminate al-Qaeda militants.

Yemeni military forces have waged an offensive in the country’s southern Shabwa province, killing 37 suspected al-Qaeda militants, most of them terrorists from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda loyalists have carried out a spate of deadly attacks against Yemeni security forces since Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s successor, came to power in February 2012.

On August 31, 2013, Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salim Basindawa escaped an assassination attempt by unknown gunmen, who opened fire on his convoy in the capital Sana’a.

Yemen is located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and is among the poorest countries in the region.

 

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How Many Have We Killed?

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The wreckage of a car destroyed by a US drone strike in Azan, Yemen, February 2013. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/Corbis)On Monday, The New York Times reported that “the Senate has quietly stripped a provision from an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to make public each year the number of people killed or injured in targeted killing operations in Pakistan and other countries where the United States uses lethal force.” National security officials in the Obama administration objected strongly to having to notify the public of the results and scope of their dirty work, and the Senate acceded. So much for what President Obama has called “the most transparent administration in history.”

The Senate’s decision is particularly troubling in view of how reticent the administration itself continues to be about the drone program. To date, Obama has publicly admitted to the deaths of only four people in targeted killing operations. That came in May 2013, when, in conjunction with a speech at the National Defense University, and, in his words, “to facilitate transparency and debate on the issue,” President Obama acknowledged for the first time that the United States had killed four Americans in drone strikes. But according to credible accounts, Obama has overseen the killing of several thousand people in drone strikes since taking office. Why only admit to the four Americans’ deaths? Is the issue of targeted killings only appropriate for debate when we kill our own citizens? Don’t all human beings have a right to life?

In the NDU speech, President Obama also announced new limits on the use of drones “beyond the Afghan theater.” He proclaimed that drone strikes would be authorized away from the battlefield only when necessary to respond to “continuing and imminent threats” posed by people who cannot be captured or otherwise countermanded. Most important, he said, “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” Yet in December, a US drone strike in Yemen reportedly struck a wedding party. The New York Times reported that while some of the victims may have been linked to al-Qaeda, the strike killed “at least a half dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses.”

The decision to drop the requirement to report on the number of people we kill in drone strikes fittingly if depressingly came on the ten-year anniversary of CBS’s airing of the photos of torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. To this day, the United States has not held accountable any senior official for torture inflicted during the “war on terror”—not at Abu Ghraib, not at Guantanamo, not at Bagram Air Force Base, and not in the CIA’s secret prisons, or “black sites.” President Obama has stuck to his commitment to look forward, not backward, and his administration has opposed all efforts to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account. Indeed, the administration has classified even the memories of the survivors of torture in CIA black sites, now housed at Guantanamo, maintaining that they and their lawyers cannot under any circumstance even talk publically about their mistreatment.

To be fair, Obama deserves some credit for both banning torture and achieving some transparency on the subject. In one of his first acts as president, he formally prohibited the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that his predecessor had approved—and that Bush and Cheney both proudly proclaim in their memoirs they would approve all over again. Shortly thereafter, Obama declassified the chilling secret memoranda, drafted by various Justice Department lawyers in the Bush Administration, that were designed to give legal cover to the CIA’s torture program. And most recently, in March, Obama said that he thinks that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation program, the only comprehensive review based on access to classified information to date of the agency’s treatment of prisoners, should be declassified and released to the public. (The committee has voted to declassify and release a six hundred-page executive summary from the 6,300 page report, and it is now up to the president to live up to his statement and declassify it.)

But it’s one thing to demand transparency for a predecessor’s wrongs. It’s another to support it in regard to one’s own dubious actions. In the past, some have argued that the United States cannot be transparent about targeted killings in countries like Pakistan and Yemen because their governments approved of our use of lethal force within their borders on the condition that we not admit that we were doing so. The morality of such an agreement is itself deeply questionable; presumably the plausible deniability is demanded because no government could openly admit to its people that it had given another sovereign the green light to kill by remote control inside its own borders. But the deniability is no longer plausible.

As long ago as September, 2012, the Yemeni President Abed Raboo Mansour Hadi disclosed that he signed off on every US drone strike in Yemen, and in April 2013, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf similarly admitted that his government had agreed to targeted killings in Pakistan. Following the strike on the Yemeni wedding party last December, the government there conceded that civilians were killed, provided reparations to the survivors, and suspended permission to the United States to conduct further drone strikes until the incident was investigated. But the US has not even publicly acknowledged its own involvement—namely, as the killer.

International law acknowledges that killing is not always illegal or wrong, and that a government has the authority to do so as a last resort in genuine self-defense. But if the US government’s targeted killings are lawful, we should have no hesitation in making them public. Surely the least we can do is to literally count and report the lives we’ve taken. Yet even that, for “the most transparent administration in history,” is apparently too much.

Posted in Yemen0 Comments

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