In recent years, the Obama administration has demonstrated its imperialist credentials by continuing the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as adding intervention in Libya to the mix. Obama’s military machine has even succeeded where the Bush administration’s could not. On the first of this month, the Obama administration successfully carried out an assassination mission in Pakistan to take out Osama Bin Laden. Yet, in the nationalist orgy which followed this killing, there was little consideration of the implications of sending in such a hit-squad into another country that the US is not at war with.
Of course, it would seem naive to bring up such a consideration, considering that the current wars in the middle east were done without any declaration of war, without the involvement of the international community and even without congressional approval. What’s more is that blatant violations of the sovereignty of nations like this are nothing new to the Obama administration. Recently, Obama has escalated the use of predator drones against targets in Yemen with the intent of carrying out another hit against another name on the “most wanted list.” Oddly, this new “number one most wanted” is an American citizen living abroad, one Anwar al-Awlaki. Thanks to this, Yemen has become a shooting gallery for American unmanned aircraft, in addition to having to face strife and state repression under its current US-backed ruler.
Obama’s Secret War in Yemen: Imperialist Intervention and Assassination with Impunity
Last year, Salon.com ran an article describing the Obama administration’s secret war in Yemen:
“The Obama Administration has U.S. military trainers on the ground in Yemen and has already launched an attack and possibly multiple attacks in the country, drawing relatively little public attention and virtually no debate in Congress. Analysts and news reports suggest that the administration is now poised to escalate the secret war in Yemen, possibly by launching drone attacks targeting suspected terrorists….
…less attention has been paid to U.S. attacks on targets in Yemen — of which there have been at least two since 2002 — and the U.S. military role in training Yemeni forces as well as helping them carry out air strikes.” (1)
In the article, several examples are given of missile strikes carried out by US forces, including one which killed over 50 people, with a majority of them being civilians:
“* Dec. 17, 2009: Dozens of people are killed after missiles hit settlements in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen. Citing a Yemeni parliamentary investigation, Amnesty International later says that 55 people were killed, of which 41 were civilians, including 14 women and 21 children. 14 of the 55 were suspected Al Qaeda members, though an Amnesty official tells Salon that only one was ever named.
The strike is initially reported as being conducted by “Yemeni security forces.” But ABC reports a few days later that U.S. missiles were involved. Amnesty releases a report several months later with photos of an unexploded cluster bomblet and parts of a Tomahawk cruise missile that the group says could only have come from the U.S. military, possibly launched from a submarine or warship.” (1)
This and other attacks against Yemenis have received relatively little media attention, allowing this “shadow war” to go on like many others in the history of US imperialism. As well, considering the recent rebellions in the wake of the “Arab spring” and bloody repression waged to counter each, the latest attacks are taking place in the context of Saleh’s crack-down on opponents to his regime. The Obama administration has used the opportunity created by Yemen’s unrest to wheedle out intelligence from Saleh and operate his drones with impunity.
Political Assassination, a US Double Standard and a New Target
A fresh attempt on al-Awlaki’s life was made by CIA operated predator drones on May 9th in collaboration with Yemeni forces. (2) While this attack was unsuccessful, it once again demonstrated two things: that the Obama administration was free to act against targets in Yemen and, just as it demonstrated by the gunning down of Bin Laden in Pakistan, it holds itself above the executive orders against assassination put into law by the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as well as the Nuremberg precedent of bringing the accused to trial. (3)
2-305. Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf
of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in,
(g) Prohibition of Assassination. No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” (5)
In openly defying this ban against political assassination, it is clear to see that Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessor. Rather, the student has surpassed the teacher in this case, being that Obama’s administration has proven to be a more effective assassin than Bushs’ had. Additionally, it is important to consider that (A) the target in this latest assassination attempt is an American citizen and (B) has never been convicted of a crime, nor has been demonstrated as posing an immediate threat to the US. A court case was brought forward by al-Awlaki’s father with arguments along these lines, but it was dismissed. (2)
Considering an Alternative Scenario
The nationalist-minded reader might scoff at the accusation that the Obama’ administration’s intervention in Yemen constitutes a crime, or that there is anything legally objectionable to the extra-judicial killing of “Muslim extremists” like Bin Laden and al-Awlaki. However, let’s consider a different scenario.
In the 1970‘s, the Reagan administration armed and trained the Contras in Nicaragua, a right-wing terrorist group which murdered, tortured and raped civilians in their efforts to seize control away from the Sandinistas. What if, in retaliation to this support and facilitating grave crimes against humanity, the Sandinistas launched a missile at Reagan’s home, or deployed commandos to shoot him in the head? Or how about a more recent scenario, involving Iraqi commandos and missiles in retaliation for George Bush’s invasion and occupation of their country? This would have lead to a very different attitude towards the extra-judicial killing of “extremists.”
A Majority Civilian Death-Toll Likely to Follow
If we are to follow the precedent set by the drone strikes in Pakistan,Yemen will be facing a large number of civilian casualties while the drones hunt al-Awlaki and company. For more information about civilian deaths in the wake of drone attacks in Pakistan, click here:
While the US boasts about its “precision” in its attacks against targets in middle-eastern countries, the high instance of civilian casualties in the wake of their bombing campaigns offers little comfort for those who have to live and work in the countries besieged by drone attacks.
Stand Against US Intervention and War Crimes in Yemen!
US imperialism is at it again. Not satisfied with the carnage carried out in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the focus has moved on to intervention in other places in the world, from taking sides in Libya’s civil war to deploying drones in Pakistan and Yemen. The Obama administration will stop at nothing to cement its hegemony in the region, even if it means provoking additional wars and killing scores of civilians in the process. The workers of every country must stand in solidarity with the people of Yemen and demand that the US not continue its bloody intervention and violate the sovereignty of the Yemeni people.