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Here We Go Again: Obama’s War in Yemen

Amnesty International Report on Yemen

Amnesty International Report on Yemen August 25, 2010

As we’ve previously mentioned in December, January and this month, Yemen is one of the “roughly a dozen countries” besides Iraq and Afghanistan where Obama’s administration is waging war.

And as is the norm in these secret, undeclared wars, we are working hand in hand with unsavoury governments whose own agendas of repression are ignored under the guise of the “war on terror.”

Yesterday, in two reports, Amnesty International raised significant questions about the legality of US operations in Yemen:

“The USA appears to have carried out or collaborated in unlawful killings in Yemen and has closely cooperated with Yemeni security forces in situations that have failed to give due regard for human rights,” Amnesty said in a report…

“The U.S. government has deployed drones in Yemen to kill those it describes as ‘high value targets’, a practice that has been increasingly criticized as involving unlawful killings,” Amnesty said, without mentioning specific incidents…

Amnesty said it had also obtained photographs apparently showing the remnants of missiles known to be held only by U.S. forces at the site of a December air strike against al Qaeda suspects that killed 41 people, half of them children.

Amnesty said that air strike, in southern Abyan province, was an example of security forces “killing unlawfully by using excessive force.”

And went on to cite both American and British involvement with Saudi airstrikes on Yemen civilians:

Its report said: “Foreign governments, especially the UK and US governments, have supplied jet fighter aircraft associated weaponry, upgrades and related technical assistance to Saudi Arabia.

“These governments will now be aware of the allegations that Saudi Arabian aircraft carried out indiscriminate attacks and other violations of international humanitarian law that resulted in deaths of Yemeni civilians.”

Amnesty said “months of attacks saw heavy aerial bombardments, including from Saudi Arabian forces” last year as the Yemeni authorities, under pressure to confront threats from al-Qaida and Huthi Shia rebels, targeted Sa’dah in the north of the country last year.

“Amnesty has gained information pointing to hundreds – possibly thousands – of civilians being killed in the bombing,” the charity said. (emph. added)

As we know from the New York Times article last week, US military are increasingly involved in their own operations with a major uptick in drone attacks as well.

At the same time, the Yemeni government is becoming every more repressive. As Amnesty notes:

“An extremely worrying trend has developed where the Yemeni authorities, under pressure from the USA and others to fight al-Qa’ida, and Saudi Arabia to deal with the Huthis, have been citing national security as a pretext to deal with opposition and stifle all criticism.” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme….

“It is particularly worrying that states such as Saudi Arabia and the USA are directly or indirectly aiding the Yemeni government in a downward spiral away from previously improving human rights record.”

Right on cue, overnight the CIA issued a new report claiming Al Qaeda in Yemen is “the most urgent threat to U.S. securty:”

The sober new assessment of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has helped prompt senior Obama administration officials to call for an escalation of U.S. operations there – including a proposal to add armed CIA drones to a clandestine campaign of U.S. military strikes, the officials said.

“We are looking to draw on all of the capabilities at our disposal,” said a senior Obama administration official, who described plans for “a ramp-up over a period of months.”

And the Wall Street Journal conveniently pipes up this morning with an article describing likely bi-partisan support for this new war:

U.S. officials believe al Qaeda in Yemen is now collaborating more closely with allies in Pakistan and Somalia to plot attacks against the U.S., spurring the prospect that the administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen…

Such a move would give the Central Intelligence Agency a far larger role in what has until now been mainly a secret U.S. military campaign against militant targets in Yemen and across the Horn of Africa. It would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan. …

Authorizing covert CIA operations would further consolidate control of future strikes in the hands of the White House, which has enthusiastically embraced the agency’s covert drone program in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

And so we repeat, over and over, the same horrors we have imposed on Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently two wars (three if you count Pakistan) are not enough for Obama.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com