At least 35 people were killed in Yemen over the weekend in a series of U.S. drone strikes. As usual, government authorities claim those targeted and killed were al-Qaeda members. At least three civilians were confirmed to have been killed, but the true number is unknown because the Obama administration insists on keeping that information secret despite the fact that a United Nations investigator in March said that the U.S. is legally obligated to investigate and report such information.
This is the most high-profile series of strikes since last December, when the U.S. bombed a Yemeni wedding party, killing 12 people and injuring 15, including the bride. Human Rights Watch said the massacre may have violated international law. Actually, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International concluded in separate investigations last October that the U.S. had violated international laws of war and international humanitarian law in its drone war.
So again, questions arise over the counterproductive nature of the drone program. McClatchy reiterates what many have been saying since the beginning of the Obama administration (emphasis mine):
“We’ve told the Americans that they’ve been going about things the wrong way,” the high-ranking Yemeni military official said last week, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “When it comes to the current drone policy, there have been too many mistakes.”
…The strikes have long been controversial here _ many Yemenis view them as violating their nation’s sovereignty _ and popular opposition has only grown in the two years since the start of Hadi’s presidency. While American and Yemeni officials have defended them as key tools in the battle against AQAP, their frequency has left many Yemenis aghast. Local political analysts and tribal leaders in the provinces where they occur most often argue that the telltale buzz that precedes them terrorizes the local population, spurring many to sympathize with al Qaida.
After a September 2012 drone strike in Yemen that killed 13 civilians, including three women, a Yemeni activist named Nasr Abdullah told CNN, “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake. This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.”
“Just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers,” Yemeni activist Farea Al-Muslimi told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.
“What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village,” al-Muslimi said, “one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America,” adding that he has ”seen Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula use U.S. strikes to promote its agenda and try to recruit more terrorists.”
The December bombing of the Yemeni wedding party prompted the Yemeni Parliament to vote unanimously for a stop to drone strikes. This would seem to prohibit further U.S. strikes, based on what UN investigator Ben Emmerson said about U.S. drone strikes violating Pakistani sovereignty without express consent of the government.
But the U.S. helped install Yemen’s current dictator and they’ll be damned if the parliament presumes to have a say in the matter.
I continue to be baffled by the belief in Washington that we can bomb a country illegally, kill and terrorize a population that is already living under a U.S.-installed dictatorship, and not generate the kind of hatred that takes the form of violent attacks against America.