The last three years have been a time of outright misery for most Yemenis as War, Pestilence, Famine and Death have stalked what used to be known as Arabia Felix. Thousands are recorded as having been killed; tens of thousands more are known to have died. Millions are starved by a siege, and—weakened by hunger—are more vulnerable to diseases which are but fading memories in the “civilised” West. And for what?
Today Secretary of State John Kerry presented documents in support of his case that the Syrian regime ordered a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children. Days earlier Kerry had promised “consequences” if the US judged that the “red line” of chemical weapons use had been crossed. The nature of those “consequences” is not certain, but all signs point to a US missile or other aerial strike, “a bloody nose operation,” as MERIP editor Bassam Haddad puts it. The Obama administration promises a “limited, narrow act,” not an “open-ended commitment.” We asked a few veteran observers to comment on this turn of events.
Although the Congressional investigating committee did everything in its power to minimize Israel’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal, the hearings and their fallout did suggest that Israel played a major, and very likely initiating, role in the sordid affair. This and other matters skirted by both the Tower Commission and the Congressional committee are examined by Jonathan Marshall, Peter Dale Scott and Jane Hunter in The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era (Boston: South End Press, 1987).
Senate hearings to confirm John Brennan as the Obama administration’s appointment to be director of the CIA brought to light a heretofore clandestine American military facility in Saudi Arabia near the kingdom’s border with Yemen. While journalistic and public attention rightly focused on extrajudicial executions of Yemenis and even American citizens, the new revelations suggest a larger covert Saudi-American war in Yemen. There’s almost certainly more to this story than what Saudi Arabia fails to confirm.
Pakistanis should be more supportive of having their national sovereignty violated by Americans, according to US-based political scientists who favor drone strikes in Pakistan. I am trying hard not make this sound like an Onion article, even though it does.
In a January 23 article for The Atlantic, professors Christine Fair, Karl Kaltenthaler and William J. Miller argue that Pakistani opposition to drone strikes is not as widespread as previously claimed, and that the US government should take steps to convert Pakistanis to the official US view on drone strikes:
It was February 1987, at the front lines near Khorramshahr, in the south of Iran along the Iraqi border. We had been engaged in heavy battles for over a week. Our troops had penetrated fortified Iraqi positions, and the Iraqis were making us pay: Artillery and mortar shells rained down on us with a vengeance, as did bombs from Iraqi planes.
Within days of the deadly assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the skies over Libya began buzzing with American surveillance drones, prompting annoyed responses from some Benghazi residents. “Give it a rest, Obama,” one resident posted in a Twitter message after a low-flying drone woke up much of the city. “We want to get some sleep.”
Obligatory displays of Komen pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month continue their spread beyond women’s accessories and yogurt containers into the masculine redoubts of the NFL and even the US military. While NFL players and coaches will spend the month sporting pink accessories, sailors in the South China Sea created a human ribbon to promote awareness of the disease.
Two stories regarding Israel and drones appeared last week, illustrating both the dangerous new world of drone proliferation and Israel’s major role in making that possible.
Drones kill civilians, but far fewer civilians than other forms of kinetic warfare, and anyway, war is about killing. The drones’ ability to kill from a distance is no more unsavory than aerial bombing, and in any case drones “enable us to kill enemies without exposing our own personnel.” That drones are like video games is neither here nor there, as they are no different than “having cameras in the noses of cruise missiles.” And “assuming [the law of war] does apply — which is surely true in Afghanistan, at least – it’s hard to see the problem with targeted killing.
Some ideas are so absurd that they reveal interesting things about the times in which we live. Take, for example, an opinion piece by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis in today’s New York Times suggesting that human rights organizations employ drone aircraft to monitor brutal regimes such as in Syria. “If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should.”
Five-year-old Layan cupped her hands over her ears and screwed her eyes shut when she tried to describe the effect of a sonic boom. She said the sound scares her, even though her father, Muntasir Bahja, 32, a translator, has told her “a small lie to calm her”—that the boom is nothing more than a big balloon released by a plane and then popped.
While internally displaced Americans were piled into an unequipped New Orleans sports stadium, the question on everyone’s lips was: where were the Louisiana National Guard and its high-water trucks when Hurricane Katrina struck? One answer, obviously, was that at least a third of the Guard’s human and mechanical resources were deployed to Iraq. Anti-war protesters demonstrating in Washington on September 24, 2005 as a new storm battered the Gulf coast turned the question into a new slogan: “Make Levees, Not War.”
The controversy over Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, the prime justification for the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, has apparently been laid to rest. A succession of US-commissioned reports have failed to confirm the Bush administration’s claims.
At long last, many are realizing that President Bush misled the public about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But unlike the vigorous questioning of Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain on the same issue, our long overdue debate about Saddam Hussein’s presumed illicit arsenal is missing the point.
Before the war, the question was not primarily about whether Iraq retained proscribed weapons from its old stockpiles. Many at the United Nations, and many American anti-war commentators, assumed that it did. Remnants of the stockpiles may still be found.
JERUSALEM — Unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing in Israel, but fear and paranoia are also soaring, and so business is booming for gun dealers and security companies. Israeli society is becoming so militarized that hosts of weddings and bar mitzvahs sometimes can’t attract guests unless they reveal the number of armed guards that will be on hand and even what firm they’re from.
US economic relations with the Arab states have entered a new phase in the last two years, one that reproduces many of the features that characterized the end of the Carter administration. US exports to the region rose by about 13 percent from 1986 to 1987 with shipments to Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accounting for most of the increase. But this was more than offset as US imports from the region jumped some 35 percent, largely due to greater imports of crude petroleum. As a result, by the end of 1987 the US trade deficit, which had stood at $179 million the previous year, totalled more than $2.1 billion. Only a doubling in the value of American military sales to the region prevented this figure from ending up even higher.