Drones in Yemen

It seems that drones have become the administration’s favorite form of warfare. There’s no danger to American troops, just unmanned aircraft killing from the skies. They’ve been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. 

The campaign in Yemen has so far relied on targeting specific individuals in an attempt to distinguish between al Qaeda leaders and Yemeni insurgents. But the CIA is now seeking to expand the campaign by asking for authority to launch strikes without knowing the identities of those being attacked. They call it “signature strikes,” choosing targets based on suspicious behavior. This, the CIA claims, involved putting together multiple intelligence reports to arrive at “signatures” of al-Qaeda activity based on vehicles, facilities, communications equipment and patterns of behavior.

Assassinating specific individuals (and often their wives, children and other people who happen to be with them) is bad enough. Attacks based on “signatures” of suspicious behavior is worse. Is a group of people gathering in a house an al Qaeda meeting, or a wedding? Is a truck convoy carrying weapons, or goods to market? It seems to me that if approved, it’s a policy change that will result in more civilian casualties and more questions about the use of drones.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor at Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter @DShankDC.

WWWired for Freedom

When political uprisings began in Yemen in January to drive out Ali Abdullah Saleh from his 33-year dictatorship, Ahlam Said, a Yemeni-American activist, wondered what role she could play in the movement. At the time, Said was living in Phoenix and working as an online organizer for Promise Arizona, an immigration reform group. As she looked online for trustworthy websites and news sources on the demonstrations happening in Yemen, she came up short. "Unlike Egypt, there wasn't a clear bridge between the Yemenis and the Americans," Said explains. That's when she decided to partner with a friend living in Yemen to create their own website for the movement:

Begun as a "Yemen 101" website that simply aggregated news stories in English and Arabic, has now evolved into an open source community of online and offline organizers and activists in Yemen and the United States. The website includes an interactive Google map where users can plot recent uprisings by location and attach live video footage; an open source Excel spread sheet tracking all deaths related to the revolutions; a synchronized Twitter stream that aggregates all Yemeni and American activists and reporters; practical guides for protesters; and videos, photos, and blogs from other Yemeni activists.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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Is Military Money a Stabilizer?

After the failed Christmas bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in which the prime suspect admitted that he’d been trained at an al Qaeda boot camp in Yemen, President Obama doubled U.S. security funding to that country, but resisted introducing U.S. troops.

But is U.S. military money the best stabilizer? The Gulf of Aden, a strategic sea lane more recently known as “Pirate Alley,” touches Yemen, Somalia, and Djibouti. All three risk becoming hotbeds for al Qaeda due to the lack of social and political stability. “I am wary of any American involvement in the region,” Paul Hinder, Catholic archbishop of the area, told Sojourners. “Yemenites resent any interference from outsiders, from America in particular for its often heavy-handed approach in protection of its own interests.”
Archbishop Hinder prioritizes strong support from Arab neighbors to help Yemen resolve its internal problems and to deal with al Qaeda. “There’s little hope that U.S. financial support in the fight against terrorism won’t end up in the wrong pockets. Without more dialogue and power-sharing between the Yemeni government, tribes, regions, and political and economic interest groups resulting in greater national unity, little will be achieved.” Currently, there are about 3,000 Christians in Yemen; most are refugees or temporary workers. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity have served in Yemen since 1973. “Their work is appreciated,” Archbishop Hinder told Sojourners, “but they are restricted in their outreach by problems of security.”

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Sojourners Magazine March 2010
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