Longtime U.S. ally and embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is on his way to America, reportedly to seek medical treatment. This decision to come to the U.S. was made after Saleh apparently gave up trying to muscle his way back into the power structure in Yemen following a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal that ended his rule and called for early elections.
As has been alluded to elsewhere, one can’t help but be reminded of when President Jimmy Carter welcomed another embattled U.S.-supported dictator, the Shah of Iran. The Eisenhower administration and the CIA orchestrated a coup in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran and installed the Shah who ruled with an iron fist until the Iranian revolution ousted him in 1979. Then, he comes to America to see our doctors.
CFR’s Elliot Abrams, himself a criminal, notes the obvious problem with welcoming Saleh here and then dishonestly shrugs it off, calling it “the right decision”:
Of course some critics will claim that this way Saleh escapes punishment for his crimes. Human Rights Watch issued a predictable statement to that effect, demanding Saleh’s prosecution. But the self-appointed judges at HRW are not Yemenis, and Saleh has been voted immunity from prosecution by Yemen’s parliament because they too prefer peace to punishment. Perfect justice is not a realistic goal; a chance for greater stability may be, and if any group has the legitimacy to choose Saleh’s departure over his punishment it is Yemen’s parliament. The Obama Administration is right to help.
How conveniently the Yemeni parliament becomes a paragon of democracy, the voice of the people – just when Abrams needs to justify American embrace of a tyrant and a criminal. The interim government includes much of the opposition parties in Yemen, but to suggest granting Saleh immunity for his crimes has been ratified or endorsed by the people is quite a stretch. Yemeni activists for months have not only been calling for his ouster, but demanding his prosecution. Yemeni activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakul Karman publicly pleaded with the UN to reject the GCC plan granting Saleh, whom she called a “war criminal,” immunity. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that granting amnesty to Saleh would violate international law. “International law and the UN policy,” he said, “are clear on the matter: amnesties are not permissible if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for international crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and gross violations of human rights.”
It’s clear the U.S. is welcoming a tyrant and criminal into the country because he was their tyrant and criminal, who they not only armed and supported, but praised for his valiant counterterrorism efforts.