Guest Column: Will The Drone Wars Continue?

“They hate us because we murder their women and children.”
By Daniel McAdams, exec director Ron Paul Institute [original column]

Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Ron Paul Institute:

With the inauguration finished and the protests finished (for now), the new Trump Administration has set about the business of governing. There may be a bit of inertia early on, as newly-confirmed Cabinet Secretaries take their positions and the second tiers are filled and so on. But early actions also tend to set the tone for an Administration and sharp breaks are noticeable right away.

That is why it was disheartening to learn that in his second full day in office, President Trump approved two drone strikes on Yemen — a country with which we are not at war but have been bombing since 2002. US military action in Yemen is ostensibly aimed at ridding the country of al-Qaeda, and the weekend’s victims were all said to be “al-Qaeda militants,” but in fact US involvement in Yemen has been designed from at least 2015 to support Saudi Arabia’s attack on and invasion of the country. After the Saudi-backed president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, was ousted by fighters of the Houthi tribe, Yemen’s northern neighbor launched an all-out assault to return Hadi to power.

Saudi involvement in Yemen’s internal governing crisis has cost more than 10,000 lives and has left the already impoverished country on the verge of mass starvation. Infrastructure is decimated and yet the Saudis — armed with US-supplied weapons — continue to pound Yemen in support of their preferred president.

It seems a textbook case of, at the least, being a conflict in which the US has no legitimate national security interest. But the neocons and the interventionist media have framed it in terms designed to appeal to more US involvement. We are fighting al-Qaeda, they claim. But in Syria the US has been supplying al-Qaeda with weapons — indirectly and possibly directly — for years in hopes that they may succeed in overthrowing the secular Syrian government. One reason the US has not been invited to participate in the latest round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan is Washington’s refusal to abide by its agreement to separate what it claims are US-backed “moderate” fighters from the al-Qaeda forces they fight alongside.

So Washington is not allergic to al-Qaeda when al-Qaeda is doing Washington’s bidding.

And undermining the “we must attack al-Qaeda” justification is the fact that the Houthis under attack by Saudi Arabia — backed by the US — are mortal enemies of al-Qaeda. So while the US claims it is fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen, it is in fact most aggressively fighting al-Qaeda’s enemies in Yemen.

Why is the US involved in such an incomprehensible mess? Iran! It is falsely claimed (again by the neocons and other interventionists) that the Houthi movement is in fact an Iranian-sponsored proxy in Yemen and as such represents the leading edge of an Iranian plan to dominate the Middle East. While the Houthis do follow a form of Shi’ia Islam that is similar to that of the Iranians, the idea that they are an Iranian proxy is mere war propaganda.

In its actions in Yemen, the United States is backing a brutal Saudi dictatorship with a human rights record that makes Cuba look like Switzerland — and which we now know was deeply involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. If there was ever a case to be made for keeping out of a Middle East crisis, Yemen is that case. But the United States government, subject to intense Saudi (and Israeli) lobbying efforts, is sucked in to the ongoing battle to change the Iranian regime.

Which brings us back to last weekend’s drone strikes, said to have killed ten “militants.” Of course they are all “militants” if they are killed by the US military. But in fact, the Pentagon still employs “signature” strikes, which are not aimed at specific targets but rather at a set of behaviors and other characteristics said by the Pentagon to indicate terrorist involvement. How many civilians have been killed by these “signature” strikes? The Pentagon does not keep track, but it is likely in the thousands. And those thousands of civilians killed by US drones are the biggest recruiting tool for more terrorism and more anti-Americanism in the region. And round and round we go…

President Trump is on record opposing any rapprochement with Iran and he claims that he will rid the world of “radical Islamic terrorism.” Unfortunately he is likely misinformed by his own prejudices and misunderstanding of the region (and egged on by militarists in his midst), leading him to continue his predecessor’s counterproductive drone warfare program.

[full original column…]

[Coffee Coaster Column]

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