From Yemen with Love

November 2, 2010

CNN BREAKING NEWS!! International security alert!! Two suspicious packages aboard a cargo plane from Yemen to the U.S. trigger global response.

I sat at my favorite juice bar in Los Angeles, watching the slow descent of the Emirate Airlines cargo flight toward JFK airport on one of the seven large screen Televisions that was strategically mounted so as not to escape the momentary distractions of the generous portions of tempeh Kale burgers and acai detox shakes being served by the young and fit waitresses.

The real time broadcast was interspersed with interviews, analysis and minute-by-minute report of the obvious, infused with inferences to possible targets and the ongoing contagion of terror to Yemen and beyond by the newly acronymed AQAP – Al Quaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. After all, one cannot get new funding in Washington if one does not have a new acronym.

“If Yemen becomes a failed state,” said one analyst, “this will be a problem for the whole region.”

“Yes, if President Saleh cannot tackle this problem in his own country, then the US will just have to take other measures.” The anchor zeroed in on one of the six analysts whose grave and concerned faces checker boarded over the screen as the plane finally landed.

What was the motive of this cargo? How did our security measures fail? Who was to blame? And what possible courses of action should the US consider – a code word for more overt and covert military response.

The news was intercepted by a top alert that President Obama would momentarily address the nation to soothe their nerves and to reassure the as-yet-undecided voters of this week’s elections, that the democrats are every bit as tough on terror as their gun cuddling predecessors. On this last note – I for one do not need any convincing considering the ramp up of efforts in Afghanistan in the past two years – efforts that independent reports concede have been an utter failure by “every available metric”.

Contrary to the administrations press releases which continue to claim progress, there is evidence that the U.S. is losing the war on the ground and that there is no military solution to this conflict, leaving only a political exit – one which is now promoted under the guise of “reconciliation” – a position touted by the administration as a result of the success of the surge which has supposedly made the Taliban amenable to negotiations with the Karzai make believe government.

“We’ve always acknowledged that reconciliation had to be part of the solution.” Defense secretary Robert Gates’ announcement curiously smacked of the final strategy in search of a graceful exit before the U.S. joins the cemetery of great powers archived to history in Afghanistan.

This week two un-imbedded investigative journalists who spent time with tribal leaders, Taliban and civilian population in the Pashtun heartland, described the reality of the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

They spoke of increased insecurity, more Taliban controlled roads, more black districts, and a terrified and traumatized civilian population who is shifting support to the Taliban. Most alarming – they spoke of the emergence of a new generation of Taliban – more radical, more ruthless – who are no longer accountable to the old Taliban. Indeed the winds of nostalgia could soon be blowing for the old Taliban, as they have been for their ancestral origins – the Mujahaddin pussycats. Is anybody connecting the dots of transformation which traces the legacy of foreign occupation to the constantly modulating resistance that looks more like the Borg in medieval times than the weakened adversaries touted on mainstream news ready to have afternoon tea at the negotiating table?

CNN broke in once again with a line up of back-to-back reports and yet more analysis on the trajectory of the packages from Yemen as they replayed the plane landing in slow motion. There were discussions of the emotional state of the Jewish community in Chicago where the packages were headed; an interview with an ex-cargo plane pilot who was to offer his perspective on I am not sure what; and the possible future impacts on the operations of Fedex and the UPS. What is for certain is that, across various post 9/11 agencies, authorities are already devising new measures including that of making the dizzying security checks at the airports even more ridiculous.

But consider this: In the past 90 days, in Afghanistan, there have been 500 night raids conducted as part of the targeted assassination campaigns against the Taliban. These attacks come at night, women are herded to one side, children blindfolded, men humiliated, hooded and taken prisoner or killed. According to the reports, some families have lost their entire male lineage to the American forces. There are scores of orphaned children, tearful, traumatized — some in catatonic state, others reciting the names of their loved ones killed by U.S. special forces.

Contrary to the U.S., where every potential offensive against its citizenry is instantly mitigated by the response juggernaut of its government, state presence in a typical terrorist breeding ground is either non-existent or viewed as an American puppet installation. They not only cannot protect, they are often complicit with the occupying power, further delegitimizing themselves in the eyes of their people leaving Allah as the only elected official.

The fact that the white house is now considering the use of armed CIA drones against militants in Yemen, allowing the U.S. military to operate without the explicit approval of the Yemeni government, raises questions as to whether the decision making process itself is on an unmanned drone.

If we take a “Sanity” cue from the rally this weekend in D.C. and decide to put 2 and 2 together for ourselves, it would be a great exercise to observe our reactions next time a threat heads our way and ask this question: If we in the U.S. feel so jolted by a single violation of our airspace so as to mobilize every resource against a perceived enemy, what then is a reasonable reaction of one who suddenly finds himself the lone survivor of an unmanned drone attack or a midnight raid, standing amidst the wreckage of his home.

Back on CNN, the counter terrorism experts offered their musings on the printer cartridge. Was it a “dry run” to discover the vulnerabilities for a later strike, was it an extortion tool for a political purpose; a ploy to deal a blow to the cargo industry — or perhaps just a Hallmark special from AQAP to wish us a Happy Halloween!

Regardless, one thing is for certain. For my part, I can already imagine my next cross continental flight where I will likely be asked to take off my bra as well as my shoes.

2 Responses to “From Yemen with Love”

  1. womenfound Says:

    So fantastic. I agree with you. Yes: people left traumatized, women and children left in patriatchal communities without a man – often facing a life-time of poverty and ostracism, orphans who grow up to know only one enemy (america) an only one savior (allah), and US forces that are known mostly for inflicting cruelty rather than instructing democracy aggregate to fuel an endless jihad against America and produce only losses on the battlefield. Unfortunately, alalysts can only analyze to the tip of their sound-bitten noses. Few look too seriously at the tragedy of these misadventures around the globe. Most just repeat the emotional mantre that riles people into gut reactions tied to voting and rallying.

    You’re right, good decision making has seemingly been left on an unmanned drone….

    love it. Thanks!

  2. Firou Says:

    Love the comment about “…..tip of the sound-bitten noses”

    true! unfortunately they don’t listen to you and I :)
    en plus – there is that little technicality called : domestic political considerations.


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