FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Yemen’s Sorrowful Options

When the Soviets concluded their pull out from Afghanistan in February 1989, the United States government abruptly lost interest in the country. A devastated economic infrastructure, entrenched poverty, deep-rooted factionalism and lack of international aid caused the country to descend into complete chaos. Internal violence also worsened, but it was no longer an American concern. All that mattered was that the Cold War rival had been defeated. Mission accomplished.

Afghanistan remains the starkest illustration of how poor countries are used, then betrayed when their usefulness runs out. But Afghanistan is not an exception; US relations with many other countries, including Pakistan, Somalia and the Palestinian Authority remain hostage to this very model.

Yemen is now emerging as the newest casualty. Its government is desperate to hold on to the rein of power, amid corruption, extreme poverty and untold Western pressures. Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s president of the last thirty one years, has impressively negotiated his political survival through mounting challenges. The 1994 civil war left many thousands dead, and despite the north’s ‘victory’ the discontent of the south never waned. More, a Houthi revolt in the north is long running. Its latest manifestation lasted for sixth months and caused many deaths, most of which remained unreported. A mass migration of hundreds of thousands (270,000 by the recent estimates of the United Nations World Food Program) coincided with or followed the fighting. This is now temporarily in check, thanks to a fragile ceasefire.

According to some analysts, the ceasefire in the north could allow the central government in Sanaa to tend to the challenge growing in the south. Victoria Clark, author of the recent book Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes claimed that, “Southern disaffection has gone beyond the point of no return…Saleh’s biggest mistake would be to crack down on southerners as hard as he has tried to do on the Houthi rebels.”

However, under immense (and increasing) western pressure, Saleh is likely to crack down. Western governments, led by the US and Britain, run out of patience fairly quickly when the leaders of a poor, fragmented country opt for dialogue – even when such a choice might actually result in long-term political stability. When Afghan President Hamid Karzai merely mentioned of the possibility of engaging the Taliban, it generated much rebuke. A similar scenario happened in Pakistan. When Palestinian factions achieved the Mecca Agreement in February 2007 to mend their differences, the US immediately conditioned its financial backing of Mahmoud Abbas, and the agreement was successfully disintegrated. In the same vein, any Yemeni attempt at reaching out to the disaffected forces within the country, including tribes, opposition parties, and the various militant offshoots has been dismissed as an attempt to appease the terrorists.

Following a plot to blow up a US airliner over the city of Detroit on Christmas Day, the US renewed its interest in Yemen – in a predictable way. The administration of President Barack Obama issued an order early April authorizing the assassination of a US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric linked to the plot. It seems like the Bush years all over again.

US Special Operation Forces have been at work in Yemen for years, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yemen was then declared “an important partner in the global war on terrorism,” and it remains so, whenever there is a need to chase the elusive militant groups partly or wholly linked to al-Qaeda.

The violent perusal of US enemies in Yemen comes at a heavy cost. On one hand it has undermined the central government, which is being increasingly challenged from the north, the south and the center. Naturally, no self-respecting government would allow its territories to be used either as breeding grounds for militants, or as a hunting ground for foreign forces. A raid involving US cruise missiles at an alleged al-Qaeda camps in December 17, 2009 killed dozens, including 23 women and 17 children, according to Yemeni sources.

Indeed, Yemen is to a great extent a battlefield in which the central government is hardly the central player. However, the so-called ‘war on terror’ has presented many self-seeking forces in Yemen with a golden opportunity to extract wealth. Much has been ‘invested’ to beat al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP). But little has been spent elsewhere, for example, in providing sustenance to the hundreds of thousands victimized by the ongoing violence.

When problems become insurmountable and there is no effective system of accountability in place, corruption becomes rampant. It is no wonder that Yemen ranks 154 of the 180 countries examined in the Transparency International Corruption Index. Corruption is often an outcome of poverty and lack of accountability, and it also contributes to them. Yemen is unable to escape this vicious circle.

Since Yemen is not officially an occupied country, donor countries can easily disown their financial promises. Such promises are only made when Yemen is set for some military operation or another, or to prop up the central government’s own proxy war on terror. However, when the Yemeni people are in genuine and dire need for help, Yemen becomes such a distant subject. It begets pity, at best, but no action.

According to the World Food Program (WFP), 7.2 million people – about a third of the country’s population – are suffering from chronic hunger. Almost half of them require immediate food assistance, but fewer than half a million are receiving it. They have been directly affected by the policies of western governments, and the central government’s own involvement in proxy wars on militants, tribes and other disaffected Yemenis.

How much money is the WFP is asking for in its latest appeal? A meager $103 million, out of which only $27 million has been received. A Tomahawk cruise missile – celebrated as both cheap but effective – costs around $600,000. The cost of the operation that killed dozens of innocent Yemenis last December could have, in fact, fed millions in need.

This is not a matter of mathematics; it is common sense. The ongoing miscalculations in Yemen are securing the very environment that lead to poverty, corruption, anger – and ultimately militancy and violence.

According to Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the WFP, “people have three other options after that — revolt, migrate or die.”. Sadly, it is what millions of Yemenis are already doing.

RAMZY BAROUD is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail