Thursday, May 2, 2013

Yemen Youth Activist Steals The Stage: US Senate Public Hearing - Drone Strikes

The US Senate Judiciary Committee held the first ever congressional public hearing on Obama’s secret drone strikes revealing a powerful testimony from Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and journalist. After being born and raised in the poor agricultural Yemeni village of Wessab Mr. Muslimi received an education in America, which he expressed great appreciation for the opportunity and financial aid provided by the US. Unfortunately, just a few days before the hearing the village of Wessab was struck by drones sand Mr. Muslimi expressed his personal accounts of the psychological fear and terror changing the face of America for Yemenis.
Yemenis are far to familiar with the buzzing sound over their heads from American drones. The escalations of al-Qaida territorial power along side US counterterrorism efforts using drone strikes has left Yemeni civilians caught in crossfire. The public resentment has grown and emerging protest call for an end to the strikes. The US counterterrorism methods in the country have led Yemenis to contemplate joining al-Qaida because they feel their innocent differentiation appears unnoticed as US drone strikes continue and justice for the deaths remains unseen. Many tribal leaders confirm the strikes only strengthen public support of al-Qaida and recommend alternative mechanism to resolving the issue. With the most powerful branch of al-Qaida already laying within Yemen borders the unnecessary risk of future expansion as a result of drone strikes not only threatens the US but also neighboring countries in the region.
Mr. Muslimi describes his concern for these villages and their reactions to the drone strikes along with his own personal sense of insecurity. The drone attacks have dramatically increased in Yemen under the Obama administration shifting the previously dominated missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan led by President Bush. In 2012 Yemen experienced more drone attacks than any other country and the US claims they are filling the gap due to the weak central government control.

The lack of political authority and terrorism remains a major problem in Yemen and Jones explains in The Mirage of the Arab Spring how the uprising increased the countries instability and fractured state as al-Qaeda and other groups attempt to fill the power vacuum across the region. Jones also claims all signs indicate that violence and economic despair will continue to ravish Yemen.
Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the southern successor to Mr. Saleh, has continued the pro-drone campaign claiming to sign off on each attack in Yemen himself. Historically the alliance between Yemeni government officials and US military presence has been uncontested by the local populations but the increased drone warfare across the country has spread a new wave of anti-American sentiment in the region.

The paradoxical nature involving the use of drones to fight terrorism remains a controversial debate.  The extreme fear over the weapons buzzing above haunts the effected locals and drives their participation into the very terrorist organization the weapons target. Fighting radicalism with radicalism will only further fragment the fragile state of Yemen and drive conflicting interest in the region.
Farea al-Muslimi’s testimony stole the stage at the US congressional hearing and became a viral news clip revealing his moving first hand account of the damage caused by drone strikes in Yemen. Mr. Muslimi created a presence for the victims of drone strikes detailing personal complications associated with his US-Yemeni relationship and the widespread anti-American sentiment accumulating across Yemen. The testimony received international attention and will hopefully inspire less counterproductive measure against terrorism in Yemen and other counties in the region.
Al-Shamahi, Abubakr. “BBC News - US Drones Strain on Yemeni’s Dual Loyalties.” Accessed May 2, 2013.

As Obama Shuns Hearing, Yemeni Says U.S. Drone War Terrifying Civilians, Empowering Militants, 2013.


  1. I definitely agree that drones will only serve to drive fragile populations into the open arms of militant groups, such as al Qaeda, attempting to fill power vacuums in weak states. If the United States wants to fight terrorism as well as maintain positive relationships with governments facing transitions in the wake of the Arab Spring, it must respond with more effective measures. Groups such as al Qaeda take advantage of the fragile state nations such as Yemen are in. They garner support amongst the civilian population by making it seem as though the state cannot protect them. If Yemen's president supports the pro-drone campaign, it helps show even further that the state is not on the side of the population. Drones have several positive aspects, including the fact that they can save the lives of numerous American soldiers. Unfortunately, they are ineffective in dealing with terrorist organizations and only serve to increase anti-American sentiment, as this post discusses. If the United States is worried about how the Arab Spring will affect its relationship with regimes across the region, it must find other solutions to the problem. Direct troop-to-civilian contact will counter the efforts of terrorist organizations. This is the only way to successfully counter militia groups, as it gives the population the sense that the state can in fact provide for them. Unfortunately, this is a sticky situation and will definitely be unpopular following unsuccessful counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq. However, if the United States wants to avoid terrorist organizations filling the power vacuum in weak states, it must come up with a response other than drones.

  2. Drones are essential to protect western interests in MENA. This issue is blown out of proportion and the media has caused panic in regards to this issue. The C.I.A., F.B.I, and U.S. military have operated clandestine missions since their creation, consider the cold war and the influential role American spies played in protecting national security, this issue is very similar however instead of requiring boots on the ground we are able to better protect U.S. lives by taking them out of dangerous environments and utilize our military's technological advancements. The U.S. will have a presence and operations in the areas they patrol with drones no matter what, so thus it comes down to would you rather risk the lives of American's to do this dirty but necessary work, or utilize technology to complete the same mission without the element of human risk? I believe that answer should be pretty obvious to any American citizen. The fact that Yemen's president supports the presence of drones shows how they are genuinely concerned with eradicating terrorist networks inside their country.

  3. Hey Jaime,

    I definitely agree with you on the idea of fighting radicalism with radicalism is counterproductive. While I understand the fact that the US needs to try to prevent the spread of radicalism against the US in other Islamic countries, using tactics of counterinsurgency like drone strikes tends to really piss off the locals. I think a good way to fight the spread of terrorism should lie in a more grassroots method of improving personal relations with the peoples of the countries that could be influenced by terrorism. Simply giving aid, or providing some temporary thing is not good enough to improve these relations. If the US can find a way to do this grassroots campaign effectively, then they should be able to curb spread of radicalism.

  4. My opinion is that if you're not being a terrorist than you won't be blown away. I'm fine with them because they are saving American lives in wars that our citizens should never have to be involved with in the first place.