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Provoking Yemeni Terrorism


The U.S. government and mainstream media continue to play dumb about threats to Americans from the Muslim world. After two Chicago-bound packages of explosive materials originating in Yemen were found in England and Dubai, White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said, “We are trying to understand who is behind it ….”

President Obama added, “We will continue to pursue additional protective measures for as long as it takes to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. I’ve also directed that we spare no effort in investigating the origins of these suspicious packages….”

Those statements are disingenuous. We already know who — more precisely, what — is behind the attempt to perhaps blow up airplanes with the explosives. We understand — or should understand — the origins of such terrorism. And despite his words, the president steadfastly refuses to pursue the best protective measure to keep Americans safe.

What’s behind it all is the American empire’s intervention in the Muslim world. Specifically, U.S. forces have been conducting a covert war on the people of Yemen for almost 10 years. In that light it is not so difficult to fathom why Yemenis might want to hurt Americans.

“US Special Forces, warplanes and killer drones have been active since 2001, assassinating Yemeni militants and antigovernment tribal leaders,” writes Eric Margolis, a reporter long familiar with Yemen and the wider region. “It was only a matter of time before Yemeni jihadists struck back at the US.”

Once again, conceited American officials have blundered into civil war in a desperately poor Muslim country, this time backing a military dictatorship hated by Shi’ite Muslims and local tribesmen.

In December a Nigerian Muslim who spent time in Yemen tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit. Margolis notes, “Just before the Detroit air incident, US warplanes killed 50–100 Houthi tribesmen fighting the American-backed regime.”

Besides warplanes the Obama administration is also using that weapon of choice, the unmanned drone, from which operators sitting safety in the United States shoot deadly Hellfire missiles at Yemeni villages. That has not exactly endeared the United States to the Yemenis. “I wish I had a weapon that could reach that aircraft,” one tribesman said. In the eastern part of the country, people hear drones overhead for hours every day. “Now children and women are terrified and can’t sleep…. People are haunted. They expect the next strike to hit the innocent and not the fugitives,” a man told Reuters. He spoke after an attack in May in which, Reuters reported, “an errant air raid targeting al-Qaeda killed five people, among them Jaber al-Shabwani, the province’s deputy governor who was mediating between the government and the militants.” The Reuters report continued, “The killing so angered Shabwani’s tribesmen that in the subsequent weeks they fought heavily with government security forces, twice attacking a major oil pipeline in Maarib.”

That is what U.S. policy in the Muslim world yields every time. Yes, Margolis reports, “The most prominent Yemeni militant group is al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a fusion of local Yemeni and Saudi jihadists dedicated to overthrowing the Saudi monarchy and Yemeni military regime and replacing them with an Islamic government. AQAP numbers around 100–200 core members, with thousands of supporters.” However, “It is not an organic part of Osama bin Laden’s group but, like similar al-Qaida franchises in Iraq, North Africa, Somalia, and West Africa, a like-minded local revolutionary group” (emphasis added).

In other words, al-Qaeda wannabes are popping up wherever the American regime intervenes. Their militancy is not motivated by religion or a hatred of Americans’ way of life but by a desire for revenge for America’s cruel invasions, occupations, bombings, assassinations, and torture. Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, who has studied suicide terrorism more thoroughly than anyone, concludes, “More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation…. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops….” The motivation for shipping explosives is not likely to be different.

Contrary to Barack Obama, the best way to protect ourselves from militant Yemenis is to get out of their country.

SHELDON RICHMAN is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation ( and editor of The Freeman magazine.


Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at

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