Yemen: Anger at Expansion of US Drone War

This post is part of our special coverage Yemen Protests 2011.

The United States has recently expanded its campaign of drone strikes in Yemen, to widespread anger and concern.

Drone strikes against suspected Al Qaeda operatives have been launched under expanded authority allowing the CIA and military to fire based only on the targets’ intelligence “signatures” or patterns of behaviour, without knowing their identity.

Yemeni-American Summer Nasser tweeted:

@SummerNasser: #Yemen: Basically, the CIA & military can fire drones even when the identity of those who are killed is not known. Approved by Pres. Obama.

US Air Force General Atomics MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Image by Flickr user james_gordon_los_angeles (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Ibrahim Mothana, a Yemeni writer and activist, commented on the drone policy:

@imothanaYemen: Expanding drones program is not in the interest of #Yemen nor the US. It will only expand an ongoing Talibanization process for tribal areas

Jeb Boone, an American journalist and former managing editor of the Yemen Times, said:

@JebBoone: Drones not only inflame anti-US and pro-AQAP sentiment, they delegitimize the #Yemen government. Troubling.

The drones have been striking targets in the south of Yemen, and researcher Atiaf Alwazir commented:

@WomanfromYemen: it's sad that too many ppl from the #North disregard/ignore the issue of the drones b/c it doesn't “affect” them. it's too far. #yemen

Jeremy Scahill, an award-winning American investigative journalist, has argued against the use of drones in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. He recently made a documentary for Al Jazeera English entitled “America's Dangerous Game”, which asks if the US is creating more enemies than it can capture or kill.

According to the organizers of the recent “Drone Summit” held in Washington on April 28-29, as many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of noncombatants, have been killed in drone strikes. This Storify collects some of the tweets from the summit regarding drone strikes and US policy in Yemen. Jeremy Scahill's speech at the summit can be seen here.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism based at City University, London, has published figures for US covert action in Yemen:

US Covert Action in Yemen 2001-2012

Total US strikes: 41 – 132
Total US drone strikes: 31 – 68
Total reported killed: 294 – 673
Civilians reported killed: 55 – 105
Children reported killed: 24

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has also collated detailed data on reported US covert actions in Yemen since 2001.

On April 30 John Brennan, chief counterterrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, gave a speech entitled “The Ethics and Efficacy of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy” in which he defended the use of drones. Activist Medea Benjamin challenged him and spoke up against drone killings in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, as shown in this video:

In a post entitled “A brave lady Speaks out about the CIA Drone Strikes”, Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser commended Medea Benjamin's courage and quoted her words:

“What about of the hundreds innocent people killing with our drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia? I speak out on behave of those innocent victims. They deserve an apology from you, Brennan. How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how many people have been killed? …. Shame on you!”

As I said in a recent blog post,“The Failed US Policy in Yemen”:

The use of drones on Yemeni soil to kill “suspected” al Qaeda leaders, the unjustified killing of a teenager and many other innocent civilians commonly referred to as “collateral damage” and the illegal detention of a journalist, has fostered more animosity towards the US. […] The US clearly needs to re-evaluate its counter-terrorism policy in Yemen by addressing the socio-economic underlying causes that produce terror, rather than focusing its aid solely in the fight against al “Qaeda” and continuing with the drone attacks which kills innocent people, alienates, angers and aggravates the general Yemeni public, giving extremists a motive to join militant groups.

This post is part of our special coverage Yemen Protests 2011.


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