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Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

Part 1: Political Language and the ‘Mafia Principles’ of International Relations

Pakistan

Under the administration of Barack Obama, America is waging a global terror campaign through the use of drones, killing thousands of people, committing endless war crimes, creating fear and terror in a program expected to last several more decades. Welcome to Obama’s War OF Terror.

When Obama became President in 2009, he faced a monumental challenge for the extension of American and Western imperial interests. The effects of eight years under the overt ruthless and reckless behaviour of the Bush administration had taken a toll on the world. With two massive ground wars and occupations under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western military forces were stretched thin, while the world’s populations had grown increasingly wary and critical of the use of military force, both at home and abroad. Just as Brzezinski had articulated: “while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low.”[1]

When it came to the ‘War on Terror,’ Obama implemented his electoral visions of “hope” and “change” in the only way he knows: change the rhetoric, not the substance, and hope to hell that the Empire can continue extending its influence around the world. As such, Obama quickly implemented a policy change, dropping the term “war on terror” and replacing it with the equally – if not more – meaningless term, “overseas contingency operations.”[2]

A major facet of Obama’s foreign policy strategy has been the implementation of an unprecedented global terror war with flying killer robots (“drones”) operated by remote control. By 2011, the Washington Post reported that no president in U.S. history “has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”[3]

Every Tuesday, a counterterrorism meeting takes place in the White House Situation Room among two dozen security officials where they decide who – around the world – they are going to illegally bomb and kill that week, drawing up the weekly “kill list” (as it is called).[4]

By October of 2012, Obama’s “kill list” had evolved into a “next-generation targeting list” now officially referred to as the “disposition matrix,” in yet another effort to demean the English language.[5] The “disposition matrix”/kill list establishes the names of “terror suspects” who the Obama administration wants to ‘dispose’ of, without trial, beyond the rule of law, in contravention of all established international law, and in blatant war crimes that kill innocent civilians.

Obama administration officials believe that the use of global drone terror warfare and “kill lists” are likely to last at least another decade, with one top official commenting, “We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us… It’s a necessary part of what we do… We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America’.”[6] Indeed, quite true. That’s one of the actual repercussions – believe it or not – of waging a massive global assassination program against people around the world: they tend to not “love” the country bombing them.

But the Obama administration warned the world that as of 2012, the U.S. had only reached the “mid-point” in the global war on [read: of] terror, with Obama’s assassination program having already killed more than 3,000 people around the world, more than the number of people killed on 9/11.[7] As Glenn Greenwald noted, this represented “concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.”[8]

But in case you had any moral ‘qualms’ about bombing and murdering hundreds of innocent children in multiple countries around the world with flying robots, don’t worry: as Joe Klein of Time Magazine noted, “the bottom line in the end is – whose 4-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”[9]

Quite right. After all, “indiscriminate acts of terror” are only okay when the United States – or the “international community” – does it. But when the U.S. spreads terror, death and destruction around the world, this is referred to as a “war on terror,” instead of the more accurate “war of terror.” It could be argued that as a rule of thumb, whenever the United States declares a “war” ON something, simply remove the word ‘on’ and replace it with ‘of’, and suddenly, everything starts to make more sense. After all, whenever the U.S. declares a war “on” something (drugs, poverty, terror), the result is that there is a great deal more of whatever it is being ‘targeted’, and that U.S. policies themselves facilitate the exponential growth of these so-called ‘targets.’ Hence, the “war on terror” is truly more accurately described as a “war of terror,” since that is the result of the actual policies undertaken in the name of such a war.

A major NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School research report was published in September of 2012 documenting the civilian terror inflicted by Obama’s global assassination-terror campaign. While the Obama administration has claimed that drones are “surgically precise” and “makes the US safer,” the report countered that this was completely “false.” The report noted that Obama’s drone war often uses the strategy of hitting the same target multiple times, thus killing rescuers and humanitarian workers who go to help the injured.[10]

This is referred to as a “double-tap” strategy, and according to the FBI and Homeland Security, this is a tactic which is regularly used in “terrorist attacks” to target “first responders as well as the general population.” Obama’s drones not only target rescuers, but also frequently bomb the funerals of previous drone victims. According to the United Nations, such tactics “are a war crime.”[11] Even the NYU/Stanford Law School report identified the drone program as a terror campaign when it noted that the effects of the drone program are that it “terrorizes men, women, and children.”[12]

John O. Brennan, who served as Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser (and is now the director of the CIA), was the main advocate of the drone program inside the Obama administration. In 2011, he reassured the American people that, “in the last year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, [and] precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop,” and added that, “if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.”[13] That sounds pretty impressive, though unfortunately, it’s an absurd lie.

The New York Times noted that Obama’s method for counting civilian deaths caused by drone strikes was “disputed” (to say the least), because it “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” thus radically underreporting the level of civilian deaths. The “logic” of this view that that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.” This “counting method,” noted the NYT, “may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.” Some administration officials outside the CIA have complained about this method, referring to it as “guilty by association” which results in “deceptive” estimates. One official commented, “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants… They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”[14]

In 2011, it was reported that drone strikes in Pakistan had killed 168 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[15] In Afghanistan, officials note that civilians are killed not only by Taliban attacks but also increasingly by drone attacks, with Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemning the attacks which kill women and children as being “against all international norms.”[16] Afghanistan was in fact the epicenter of the U.S. drone war, even more so than Pakistan, with the CIA having launched upwards of 333 drone strikes in the country over the course of 2012, the highest total ever.[17] The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has evolved into “a new and as yet only partially understood doctrine of secret, unaccountable and illegal warfare,” which is “destroying the West’s reputation,” noted the Telegraph in 2012.[18] And considering the already-existing “reputation” of the West in the rest of the world, that’s quite an impressive feat.

From 2004 to 2012, between 2,400 and 3,100 people were reported to have been killed by U.S. drone strikes, including at least 800 innocent civilians (as a low estimate). As Seumas Milne reported in the Guardian, the drone strikes “are, in reality, summary executions and widely regarded as potential war crimes by international lawyers.”[19]

The UN warned in June of 2012 that drone strikes may constitute “war crimes,” and that the use of drone strikes and “targeted killings” has been found to be “immensely attractive” to other states in the world, and thus, such practices “weaken the rule of law,” as they “fall outside the scope of accountability.” A Pakistani Ambassador declared that, “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.” Ian Seiderman, the director of the International Commission of Jurists noted that as a result of the global drone war, “immense damage was being done to the fabric of international law.”[20]

Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center from 2004 to 2006, commented that the United States was “creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield,” adding that, “If you strike them indiscriminately you are running the risk of creating a terrific amount of popular anger,” and that the strikes could even create “terrorist safe havens.”[21]

In testimony before the U.S. Congress in April of 2013, a Yemeni man who had studied in the United States explained that his community in Yemen – a small village – knew about the United States primarily through stories of his own experiences living there (which were positive), but their positive association with America changed following U.S. drone strikes, commenting: “Now… when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.”[22]

U.S. drone bases operate out of multiple countries, including Afghanistan, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Seychelles, and Saudi Arabia. Drones have conducted “surveillance missions” in Libya, Iran, Turkey, Mexico, Colombia, Haiti, and North Korea. Drone strikes have taken place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia,[23] and there have even been reports of drone strikes taking place in the Philippines.[24] The U.S. has also considered undertaking drone strikes in the African country of Mali.[25]

In February of 2013, the United States sent 100 U.S. troops to Mali to set up a drone base for operations in Western Africa.[26] The U.S. began operating drones out of Mali right away, as “north and west Africa [were] rapidly emerging as yet another front in the long-running US war against terrorist networks,” giving the Pentagon “a strategic foothold in West Africa,” with Niger bordering Mali, Nigeria and Libya, which was already the target of a French-British-American war in 2011.[27]

In September of 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American “suspected terrorist” in Yemen had his name added to Obama’s “kill list” and was murdered in a drone bombing, with Obama reportedly saying that making the decision to kill him was “an easy one.”[28] Two weeks later, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar, also born in America but at the time living in Yemen, was then killed with a drone strike. Obama’s former White House Press Secretary and then-reelection campaign adviser Robert Gibbs was asked how the U.S. justified killing the 16-year-old boy, with the journalist commenting, “It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.” Gibbs replied that the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” Gibbs also noted, “When there are people who are trying to harm us, and have pledged to bring terror to these shores, we’ve taken that fight to them.”[29] Pretty simple: America has decided to take the “terror” to “them.”

At his first inaugural address as President in 2009, Barack Obama said: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Less than two-and-a-half years later, favourable views of the United States in the Middle East had “plummeted… to levels lower than they were during the last year of the Bush administration.” A 2013 Gallup poll found that 92% of Pakistanis disapproved of U.S. leadership, with only 4% approving, “the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” While there was “substantial affection” for American culture and people in the Muslim world, according to the poll, the problem was U.S. policies. Even a Pentagon study undertaken during the Bush administration noted: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies,” specifically, “American direct intervention in the Muslim world,” which, the Pentagon noted, “paradoxically elevate[s] stature of and support for Islamic radicals.”[30]

A June 2012 poll of public opinion sought to gauge the level of support for U.S. drone strikes among 20 countries: the U.S., Britain, Germany, Poland, France, India, Italy, Czech Republic, China, Lebanon, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Greece. The poll found that 17 of the countries had a “clear majority” opposed to drone strikes, while only the U.S. had a “clear majority” (62%) in support.[31]

In May of 2013, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee where he was asked how long the ‘war on terrorism’ will last, to which he replied: “At least 10 to 20 years,” with a Pentagon spokesperson later clarifying that he meant that, “the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.”[32] In other words, according to the Pentagon, the world has at least one-to-two more decades of America’s global terror war to look forward to.

So, if America was actually waging a war on terror which sought to reduce the threat of terror, then why would it be undertaking policies that actively – and knowingly – increase the threat and levels of terrorism? Well the answer is perhaps shockingly simple: America is not attempting to reduce terror. Quite the contrary, America is not only increasing the threat of terror, but is doing so by waging terror against much of the world. So this begs the question: what is the actual purpose of Obama’s drone terror campaign?

Akbar Ahmed, the Islamic Studies chair at American University and former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain, explained in a May 2013 op-ed in the New York Times that the drone war in Pakistan was producing “chaos and rage” as it was “destroying already weak tribal structures and throwing communities into disarray,” threatening the Pakistani government and fueling hatred of America, and that this was also occurring in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, other major target nations of Obama’s terror campaign.[33]

Many of these tribal societies had struggled for autonomy under colonial governments (usually run by the British), and then struggled against the central governments left by the British and other colonial powers. These tribal societies have subsequently come under attack by the Taliban and al-Qaeda (whose growth was developed by the US in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani state), and then they continued to suffer under foreign occupations led by the United States, Britain and other NATO powers in Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilizing the entire Middle East and Central Asia.[34]

Now, these tribal societies are being subjected to Obama’s drone campaign of terror, “causing ferocious backlashes against central governments while destroying any positive image of the United States that may have once existed,” noted Ahmed. In his op-ed, he concluded: “Those at the receiving end of the strikes see them as unjust, immoral and dishonorable – killing innocent people who have never themselves harmed Americans while the drone operators sit safely halfway across the world, terrorizing and killing by remote control.”[35]

So why would the United States knowingly do this, and why target these specific groups? The answer may be that the U.S. is simply targeting so-called “lawless” and “stateless” regions and peoples. In a world where states, corporations, and international organizations rule the day, with the United States perched atop the global hierarchy, the imperial concept of “order” reigns supreme, where the word ‘order’ is defined as control. In a world experiencing increased unrest, protests, rebellions, revolutions and uprisings, “order” is under threat across the globe.

For the American ‘Mafia Godfather’ Empire, control must be established, through whatever means necessary. For, as the ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations dictate: if one state, region, or people are able to “successfully defy” the Godfather/Empire, then other states and people might try to do the same. This could potentially set off a “domino effect” in which the U.S. and its Mafia capo Western allies rapidly lose control of the world. Thus, we have witnessed the United States and the West intimately involved in attempting to manage the ‘transitions’ taking place as a result of the Arab Spring, desperately seeking to not lose control of the incredibly important strategic region of the Arab world.

Meanwhile, the technological capacity of American military force has reached new heights, with the global drone warfare as a major example. It allows the U.S. to reduce its use of large military forces being sent into combat, and thus reduces the domestic political pressure against foreign aggression and warfare. The drone program fits perfectly into Zbigniew Brzezinski’s description in 2009 of how the major state powers of the world are at a stage where “the lethality of their military might is greater than ever.” Yet, as Brzezinski elaborated, and as is evident in the case of the Arab Spring, the monumental political changes in Latin America over the past decade and a half, and the increased unrest of people around the world, the “capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people”[36]

Thus, we attempt a logical reasoning as to why the U.S. is targeting stateless tribal societies with its global terror campaign: if you can’t control them, kill them. Such a strategy obviously could not be publicly articulated to the population of a self-declared “democratic” society which congratulates itself on being a beacon for “freedom and liberty.” Thus, political language is applied. As George Orwell wrote, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

When it comes to Obama’s drone terror campaign against stateless tribal societies, the political language is firmly rooted in the “war on terror.” These people are deemed to be “terror suspects,” and so they are bombed and killed, their families and communities terrorized, and as a result, they become increasingly resentful and hateful toward the United States, thus leading to increased recruitment into terrorist organizations and an increased terror threat to the United States itself. Thus, the policy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: in terrorizing and bombing impoverished, stateless, tribal societies in the name of “fighting terror,” the U.S. creates the terror threat that it uses to justify continued bombing. And thus, the war of terror wages on.

Some may find my use of the term “terror campaign” to refer to Obama’s drone program as hyperbolic or emotive. But what else are we supposed to call a program that produces “chaos and rage” around the world, creating “more enemies than we are removing” as it “terrorizes men, women and children,” so that when people think of America, “they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads”? What do you call this when it has been launched against at least seven different countries in the past four years, killing thousands of people – including hundreds of innocent children – and targeting first responders, humanitarian workers, and funerals?

By definition, this is terrorism. Obama’s global flying-killer-robot-campaign is the implementation of the most technologically advanced terror campaign in history. The fact that Obama’s terror war can continue holding any public support – let alone a majority of public support – is simply evidence of a public with little knowledge of the reality of the campaign, or the terror being inflicted upon people all over the world in their name.

If the objective of U.S. policies were to counter or reduce the threat of terror, one would think that the U.S. would then stop participating in terror. Obviously, that is not the case. Therefore, the objective is different from that which is articulated. As Orwell noted, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” and that committing such horrific atrocities – such as dropping atomic bombs on cities, supporting genocide, civil wars or, in this case, waging a global campaign of terror – “can indeed be defended,” added Orwell, “but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” Thus, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

As Obama sought to justify his global terror campaign, he claimed that it has “saved lives” (except, presumably, for the thousands of lives it has claimed), that “America’s actions are legal,” and that, “this is a just war – a war wage proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Perhaps the most poignant statement Obama made during his May 2013 speech was thus: “the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.”[37]

So the question for Americans then, should be this: do you want to live in a nation – and world – which is defined by the decision to wage a global campaign of terror upon multiple nations and regions, and tens of thousands of people around the world? Obama clearly has no problem with it, nor does the American foreign policy establishment, nor the media talking heads. But… do you?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54.

[2] Scott Wilson and Al Kamen, “‘Global War On Terror’ Is Given New Name,” The Washington Post, 25 March 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/24/AR2009032402818.html

[3] Greg Miller, “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing,” The Washington Post, 27 December 2011:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-12-27/national/35285416_1_drone-program-drone-campaign-lethal-operations

[4] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[5] Greg Miller, “Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists,” The Washington Post, 23 October 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plan-for-hunting-terrorists-signals-us-intends-to-keep-adding-names-to-kill-lists/2012/10/23/4789b2ae-18b3-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_story.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent,” The Guardian, 24 October 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/24/obama-terrorism-kill-list

[9] Glenn Greenwald, “Joe Klein’s sociopathic defense of drone killings of children,” The Guardian, 23 October 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

[10] Glenn Greenwald, “New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones,” The Guardian, 25 September 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/25/study-obama-drone-deaths

[11] Glenn Greenwald, “US drone strikes target rescuers in Pakistan – and the west stays silent,” The Guardian, 20 August 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/us-drones-strikes-target-rescuers-pakistan?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

[12] Glenn Greenwald, “New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones,” The Guardian, 25 September 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/25/study-obama-drone-deaths

[13] Glenn Greenwald, “New study proves falsity of John Brennan’s drone claims,” Salon, 19 July 2011:

http://www.salon.com/2011/07/19/drones/

[14] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[15] Rob Crilly, “168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign,” The Telegraph, 11 August 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8695679/168-children-killed-in-drone-strikes-in-Pakistan-since-start-of-campaign.html

[16] Azam Ahmed, “Drone and Taliban Attacks Hit Civilians, Afghans Say,” 8 September 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/world/asia/two-deadly-attacks-in-afghanistan.html

[17] Noah Shachtman, “Military Stats Reveal Epicenter of U.S. Drone War,” Wired, 9 November 2012:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/11/drones-afghan-air-war/

[18] Peter Osborne, “It may seem painless, but drone war in Afghanistan is destroying the West’s reputation,” The Telegraph, 30 May 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9300187/It-may-seem-painless-but-drone-war-in-Afghanistan-is-destroying-the-Wests-reputation.html

[19] Seumas Milne, “America’s murderous drone campaign is fuelling terror,” The Guardian, 29 May 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/may/29/americas-drone-campaign-terror

[20] Owen Bowcott, “Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur,” The Guardian, 21 June 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/21/drone-strikes-international-law-un

[21] Paul Harris, “Drone attacks create terrorist safe havens, warns former CIA official,” The Guardian, 5 June 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/05/al-qaida-drone-attacks-too-broad

[22] Charlie Savage, “Drone Strikes Turn Allies Into Enemies, Yemeni Says,” The New York Times, 23 April 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/world/middleeast/judiciary-panel-hears-testimony-on-use-of-drones.html

[23] Elspeth Reeve, “The Scope of America’s World War Drone,” The Atlantic Wire, 6 February 2013:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/02/world-war-drone-map/61873/

[24] Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin, “Deadly Drone Strike on Muslims in the Southern Philippines,” 5 March 2012:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/03/05-drones-philippines-ahmed

[25] Raf Sanchez, “US ‘to deploy drones to launch air strikes against al-Qaeda in Mali’,” The Telegraph, 2 October 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9582612/US-to-deploy-drones-to-launch-air-strikes-against-al-Qaeda-in-Mali.html

[26] Craig Whitlock, “U.S. troops arrive in Niger to set up drone base,” The Washington Post, 22 February 2013:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-22/world/37233792_1_drone-base-drone-flights-qaeda

[27] Craig Whitlock, “Drone warfare: Niger becomes latest frontline in US war on terror,” The Guardian, 26 March 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/26/niger-africa-drones-us-terror

[28] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

[29] Conor Friedersdorf, “How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American,” The Atlantic, 24 October 2012:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/how-team-obama-justifies-the-killing-of-a-16-year-old-american/264028/

[30] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama, the US and the Muslim world: the animosity deepens,” The Guardian, 15 February 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/us-obama-muslims-animosity-deepens

[31] Glenn Greenwald, “Obama, the US and the Muslim world: the animosity deepens,” The Guardian, 15 February 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/us-obama-muslims-animosity-deepens

[32] Glenn Greenwald, “Washington gets explicit: its ‘war on terror’ is permanent,” The Guardian, 17 May 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/17/endless-war-on-terror-obama

[33] Akbar Ahmed, “The Drone War Is Far From Over,” The New York Times, 30 may 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/opinion/the-drone-war-is-far-from-over.html

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54.

[37] Barack Obama, “As Delivered: Obama’s Speech on Terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, 23 May 2013:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/05/23/prepared-text-obamas-speech-on-terrorism/

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The Logic of Imperial Insanity and the Road to World War III

The Logic of Imperial Insanity and the Road to World War III
Global Research, January 14, 2011

Defining the Imperial Stratagem

In the late 1990s Brzezinski wrote up the design for America’s imperial project in the 21st century in his book, “The Grand Chessboard.” He stated bluntly that, “it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America,” and then made clear the imperial nature of his strategy:

To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.[1]

He further explained that the Central Asian nations (or “Eurasian Balkans” as he refers to them):

are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region. But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.[2]

Brzezinski emphasizes “that America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it.”[3]

Obama as a Rabid Imperialist

Obama wasted no time in rapidly accelerating America’s imperial adventures. While dropping the term “War on Terror” from usage, the Pentagon adopted the term, “overseas contingency operations.”[4] This was to be the typical strategy of the Obama administration: change the appearance, not the substance. The name was changed, but the “War on Terror” remained, and not only that, it was rapidly accelerated to a level that would not have been possible if undertaken by the previous administration.

The current expansion of American imperialism globally has been rapidly accelerated since Obama became President, and seems intent on starting and expanding wars all over the world. When Obama became President, America and its Western allies were engaged in a number of wars, occupations and covert destabilizations, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, to the Congo, and Obama took office in the midst of Israel’s brutal assault against Gaza. From the beginning of his presidency, Obama immediately justified Israel’s vicious attack against innocent Palestinians, rapidly accelerated the war and occupation of Afghanistan, expanded the war into Pakistan, started a new war in Yemen, and supported a military coup in Honduras, which removed a popular democratic government in favour of a brutal dictatorship. Obama’s administration has expanded covert special operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, and is paving the way for a war against Iran.[5] In fact, the Obama administration has expanded Special Operations forces into 75 countries around the world (compared with a height of 60 during the Bush regime). Among the many countries with expanded operations are Yemen, Colombia, the Philippines, Somalia, Pakistan, among many others.[6] Further, in recent months, the Obama administration has been saber rattling with North Korea, potentially starting a war on the Korean Peninsula. With the creation of the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), American foreign policy on the continent has become increasingly militarized.

No continent is safe, it seems. America and its NATO cohorts are undertaking a seemingly insane foreign policy of dramatically accelerating overt and covert military imperialism. This policy seems to be headed for an eventual confrontation with the rising eastern powers, in particular China, but potentially India and Russia as well. China and America, specifically, are headed on an imperial collision course: in East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The competition for access to resources is reminiscent of the ‘Great Game’ of the 19th century, of which Afghanistan was a central battlefield.

One would think that in the midst of a massive global economic crisis, the worst the world has ever seen, the major nations would scale back their imperial over-reach and militarism in order to reduce their debts and preserve their economies. However, there is an ‘imperial logic’ behind this situation, and one that must be placed within a wider geopolitical context.

Conceptualizing the Rise of China

First, we must properly address the nature of China’s rise in the world order. What we are witnessing is an historically unique situation. For the first time, the rise of a ‘new’ power is taking place not in the context of rising against the hegemonic powers of the time, but within the hegemonic order. In short, China’s rise has not been a rise against America, but rather a rise within the American world order. Thus, China has risen as much as the West has allowed it to rise, but that does not mean that China will not seek to serve its own interests now that it has accumulated significant global status and power. China has risen by integrating with the Western-dominated economic system, and in particular the Western banking and central banking systems. China and America are economically dependent upon one another, as America purchases China’s cheap products, and China funds America’s debt. In effect, China is also funding America’s imperial adventurism.

Thus, we are presented with a unique situation: one of mutual dependence and competition. While China and America are dependent upon one another, they are also each other’s greatest competitors, specifically in terms of access to and control over resources. For example, China supports both Iran and Sudan. These two nations are major targets of American imperial ambitions, not because of any humanitarian or anti-terrorism concerns (although that is the propaganda espoused most often), but because of the significant resources and strategic relevance of these nations. As they are not subservient to the West and specifically America, they are considered ‘enemy nations’, and thus the media focus on demonizing these nations so that the public is supportive of military or other means of implementing “regime change.” China supports these nations because of its access to their resources, and as a counter to American influence.

Global Governance

To add another complex feature to this story, we must place this conflicting relationship in the context of the global economic crisis and the world response to it. The G20 is the principle forum for ‘global governance,’ in which the nations of the world are working together to increasingly integrate their governance approaches on a global scale. The economic crisis has provided the impetus to spur on calls for and the implementation of plans to construct a system of global economic governance: a global central bank and global currency. So, as China and America are seeking to further integrate economically and globally, they are also competing for access to and control over resources.

The logic behind this is that both powers want to be able to negotiate the process of constructing a system of global governance from a more secure standpoint. While it is generally acknowledged that the world is witnessing “the rise of the East,” in particular with China and India, we see the center of global power moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Several commentators for years have been analyzing and discussing this issue; however, the fact that power has been centered in the Atlantic for the past 500 years means that it will not be so easily moved to the Pacific. In fact, the Western powers not only acknowledge the rise of the East, but that the East has risen because they have allowed it to and aided it in this process. The Western powers have done this not out of some benevolent design, but because the organized intellectual powers of the West (namely, the principle think tanks and banking interests) have sought to create a perfect global system of governance, one in which power does not sway from nation to nation, or West to East, but rather that power is centralized globally. This is obviously a long-term project, and will not (if ever) be realized for several more decades. Yet, it is through crises – economic, political, and social – that this process of global governance can be rapidly accelerated.

See: “Crisis is an Opportunity”: Engineering a Global Depression to Create a Global Government

Understanding Imperial Dynamics

There is another dynamic to this complicated relationship that must be addressed, that of the internal dynamics between the political, economic and military elite of the dominant nations. For the sake of time, I will focus on the two principle nations: America and China. America’s national security apparatus, namely the Pentagon and intelligence services, have long worked in the service of the economic elite and in close cooperation with the political elite. There is a network that exists, which President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” where the interests of these three sectors overlap and thus America is given its imperial impetus.

It is within the major think tanks of the nation, specifically the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where cohesion between these sectors is encouraged and managed. The think tanks, and the CFR most especially, are the policy-makers of the American Empire. Think tanks bring together elites from most power sectors of society – the military, political, corporate, banking, intelligence, academia, media, etc. – and they discuss, debate and ultimately produce strategy blueprints and recommendations for American foreign policy. Individuals from these think tanks move in and out of the policy-making circles, creating a revolving door between the policy-planners and those that implement them. The think tanks, in this context, are essentially the intellectual engines of the American Empire.

Still, we must not assume that because they are grouped together, work together, and strategize together, that they are identical in views or methods; there is significant debate, disagreement and conflict within and between the think tanks and policy-making circles. However, dissent within these institutions is of a particular nature: it focuses on disagreement over methods rather than aims and objectives. To elaborate, the members (at least the powerful members) of think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations do not disagree on the cause of empire and supporting American hegemony, that is a given, and is not often even discussed. That is the environment in which the elite operate.

What is up for debate and discussion is the methods used to achieve this, and it is here where significant conflicts arise between elites. Bankers and corporations seek to protect their financial and economic interests around the world. Military officials are concerned with preserving and expanding American hegemony, and are largely focused on potential rivals to American military power, and tend to favour military options of foreign policy over diplomatic ones. Political representatives must be concerned with the total influence and projection of American power – economically, militarily, politically, etc. – and so they must weigh and balance these multiple interests and translate it into a cohesive policy. Often, they lean towards the use of military might, however, there have been many incidents and issues for which political leaders have had to reign in the military and pursue diplomatic objectives. There have also been instances where the military has attempted to reign in rabidly militaristic political leaders, such as during the Bush administration with the neo-conservatives pushing for direct confrontation with Iran, prompting direct and often public protests and rebuttals from the military establishment, as well as several resignations of top-ranking generals.

These differences are often represented directly within administrations. The Kennedy years, for example, saw a continual conflict between the military and intelligence circles and the civilian leadership of John Kennedy. His brief term as President was marked by a constant struggle to prevent the military and intelligence services of America – particularly the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA – from starting wars with Cuba, Vietnam and the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved only after Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother and the Attorney General, convinced the Russians that Kennedy was at risk of being overthrown in a military coup, which would result in a direct nuclear war against the USSR.

See: The National Security State and the Assassination of JFK

Thus, within the key policy circles – namely the think tanks and presidential cabinets – there is always a delicate balancing act of these various interests. Fundamentally, with American power, they all rest and support American corporate and banking interests. Diplomacy, especially, is concerned with supporting American corporate and financial interests abroad. As the Wikileaks diplomatic cables have revealed in a number of cases, diplomats directly intervene on behalf of and work with various corporate interests. US diplomats acted as sales agents to foreign governments promoting Boeing planes over European competitors, they pressured the government of Bangladesh to reopen a widely-opposed mine in the country operated by a British company, they lobbied the Russian government directly on behalf of the interests of Visa and Mastercard, engaged in intelligence sharing with Shell in Nigeria, and in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, US diplomats worked with major British business interests and British Prince Andrew, who stated that, “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too,” were “back in the thick of playing the Great Game,” and that, “this time we aim to win!”[7]

The military, in turn, acts in the interests of the corporate and financial elite, as those countries that do not submit to American economic hegemony are deemed enemies, and the military is ultimately sent in to implement “regime change.” Strategic concerns are de facto economic concerns. The military is concerned with preserving and expanding American hegemony, and to do so they must be focused on threats to American dominance, as well as securing strategic locations in the world. For example, the war in Yemen, a country with very little to offer economically, has a lot to do with strategic-economic interests. The ‘threat’ in Yemen is not in the form of al-Qaeda, though that is what is most propagandized, but rather it is the fact that the long-supported dictatorship of President Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, is threatened by a rebel movement in the North and a massive secessionist movement in the South, as the central government controls barely one-third of the country. In short, Yemen is on the verge of revolution, and thus, America’s trusted ally and local despot, President Saleh, is at risk of being usurped. Thus, America has heavily subsidized Yemen’s military, and has even directly launched cruise missiles, sent in Special Forces and other forms of assistance to help Yemen’s dictator suppress, repress and ultimately crush these popular people’s movements for independence and liberty.

Now why is this a strategic-economic concern to America, for a country that has little dwindling resources to offer? The answer is in Yemen’s geographic location. Directly below Saudi Arabia, a revolutionary government that would be highly antagonistic towards America’s trusted Saudi proxy state would be a threat to America’s interests throughout the entire Middle East. It would be likely that Iran would seek to ally itself and aid such a government, allowing Iran to expand its own political influence in the region. This is why Saudi Arabia is itself taking direct military action in Yemen against the rebels in the North, along its border. The Saudi elite are fearful of the rebellious sentiments spreading into Saudi Arabia itself. No wonder then, that America recently signed off on the largest arms deal in U.S. history with Saudi Arabia, totaling $60 billion, in an effort to support operations in Yemen but principally to act as a counter to Iranian influence in the region. Further, Yemen sits atop the Gulf of Aden, directly across from the Horn of Africa (namely Somalia), connecting the Black Sea to the Arabian Sea, which is itself one of the major oil transport routes in the world. Strategic control over the nations lining the Gulf of Aden is of primary interest to American imperial strategists, whether they are military, political or economic in nature.

Yemen is also directly across the water from Somalia, another country ravaged by the American war machine. As the diplomatic cables confirmed, in 2006, “the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts,” which is exactly what happened, and Somalia has been a ‘failed state’ mired in civil war ever since.[8] The piracy that has exploded in the waters off of Somalia are a result of the massive toxic waste dumping and over-fishing done by European and American and other major shipping lines, and have served as an excuse for the militarization of the waters. In this context, it would be unacceptable from a strategic standpoint to allow Yemen to fall from American influence. Thus, America is at war in Yemen.

See: Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire

China, alternatively, does not have such direct cohesion between its political, economic and military sectors. China’s military is intensely nationalistic, and while the political elite are more cooperative with U.S. interests and often work to achieve mutual interests, the military sees America as a direct challenge and antagonistic (which of course, it is). China’s economic elite, specifically its banking elite, are heavily integrated with the West, so much so that it is very difficult to separate the two. There is not such an integration between the Chinese and American military establishments, nor is there an internal dynamic within China that reflects the American system of empire. The divisions between military, political and economic circles are more pronounced within China than in America. The Chinese political leadership is put into a very challenging situation. Determined to see China advance economically, they must work with America and the West. However, on key political issues (such as with Taiwan), the political leadership must adhere to an intensely nationalistic approach, which is counter to U.S. interests, and supportive of Chinese military interests. Increasing military superiority is seen as a key aspect and objective of China’s increasing political dominance in the world scene. As one top Chinese general stated in 2005, “China should use nuclear weapons against the United States if the American military intervenes in any conflict over Taiwan.” The General cited “war logic” which “dictates that a weaker power needs to use maximum efforts to defeat a stronger rival.” His view suggested that elements within the Chinese military are ‘determined’ to respond with extreme force if America intervenes in any potential conflict over Taiwan, saying that, “We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”[9]

The Logic of Competitive Co-Operation

The Chinese military must be ready to protect its economic interests abroad if it is to have control over its own economic growth and thus maintain international power. Thus, China’s political impetus to support and increase its international influence is very conflicting. On the one hand, this means actively cooperating with America and the West (primarily in economic matters, as we see with the G20, where China is engaging in the dialogue and the implementation of global governance arrangements); and on the other hand, China must also challenge America and the West in order to secure its own access to and control over vital resources necessary for its own economic and political growth. China is placed in a paradoxical situation. While working with the West to construct the apparatus of global governance, China does not want to be dictated to, and instead wants a strong negotiating position in these arrangements. So while engaging in discussions and negotiations for the construction of a system of global governance, China must also actively seek to increase its control over key strategic resources in the world in order to strengthen its own negotiating position. It is often the case that when warring parties come to the table for negotiations, the on-the-ground operations are rapidly accelerated in order to strengthen the negotiating position of the respective party.

This was the case during the Rwandan Civil War, where throughout the Arusha Peace Process, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), heavily supported by America against the Rwandan government (which was supported by France and Belgium), rapidly accelerated its military campaign, thus gaining the upper hand during negotiations, which worked in its favour, ultimately resulting in the Rwandan genocide (which was sparked by the RPF’s assassination of the Rwandan president), and the RPF usurped power in Rwanda.  This is also the case in Israel-Palestine “peace” negotiations, such as during the Oslo process, where Israel rapidly accelerated its expansion of settlements into the occupied territories, essentially ethnically cleansing much of the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This expanded process of ethnic cleansing is what the Western political leaders and media call a “peace process.” Thus, when Palestinians react to this ethnic cleansing and expansion of the settlements (which is an inherently violent process), or a suicide bombing or mortar attack takes place in reaction to this expansion of settlements, Western political leaders and media blame the Palestinians for breaking a period of “relative peace” or “relative calm.” Apparently, it is considered to be “relative peace” if only Palestinians are being killed. Thus, Israel always ensures that through any negotiation process, its interests are met above all others.

So we see this logic with China and America today. While not directly at war with one another, they are each other’s greatest competition. This competition is prevalent in Central Asia, where America is seeking dominance over the region’s enormous natural gas reserves, thus depriving China of access to and control over these vital strategic resources. It is also heavily present in Africa, where China has presented an alternative to going to the World Bank and IMF for African governments to get loans and support in exchange for resource access. In this context, America established its newest Pentagon command, Africa Command (AFRICOM) to merge American diplomatic, civil society and military policy in Africa under command of the Pentagon. In the Middle East, America is primarily dominant, thus leaving China pushed to ally itself with Iran. In South America, China is allying itself with the somewhat progressive governments which rose in opposition to American military and economic hegemony over the region.

This logic holds for both America and China. Both seek to secure a dominant position while engaging in discussions and the implementation of a global governance apparatus. This leads both powers to seek cooperation and mutual benefit, yet, simultaneously, compete globally for control of resources. This is magnified by the global economic crisis, which has revealed the weaknesses of the global economy, and indeed the global monetary and banking systems. The world economy is on the verge of total collapse. The next decade will be scarred by a new Great Depression. This provides a further impetus for both of these powers to rapidly accelerate their control over resources and expand their military adventurism.

The American Empire is in decline, and is utterly bankrupt; however, its elites, which are in fact more global than national in their ideology and orientation, are seeking to not simply have American power disappear, or be replaced with Chinese power, but rather to use American power to construct the apparatus of a new global structure of authority, and that the American Empire will simply fade into a global structure. This is a delicate balancing act for the global elite, and requires integrating China and the other dominant powers within this system. It also inherently implies the ultimate domination of the ‘global south’ (Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia). This is an entirely new process being undertaken. Empires have risen and fallen throughout all of human history. This time, the fall of the American Empire is taking place within the context of the rise of a totally new kind of power: global in scope, structure and authority. This will no doubt be one of the defining geopolitical events of the next several decades.

Historically, periods of imperial decline are marked by a rapid acceleration of international conflict and war, as the declining power seeks to control as much as it can as fast as it can (thus we see America’s seemingly insane expansion of war, conflict and militarization everywhere in the world), while rising powers seek to take advantage of this decline in order to accelerate the collapse of the declining power, and secure their position as the next dominant power. Yet, in this geopolitical landscape of the 21st century, we are faced with this entirely new context, where the decline of one empire and the rise of a new power are taking place while both seek to integrate and construct an entirely new system and structure of power, yet both seek to secure for themselves a dominant position within this new structure. The potential for conflict is enormous, possibly resulting in a direct war between America and China, or in a mass of global proxy wars between them.

This new century will indeed be an interesting one. The prospects of a new global war are increasing with every accelerated military adventure. The primary antagonist in this theatre of the absurd is without a doubt, the United States. If the world is headed for World War III, it is because America has made such a situation inevitable. One cannot preclude that for many global elites, such a result may be desirable in and of itself. After all, World War I provided the impetus for the formation of the League of Nations, and World War II provided the push for the United Nations to “secure peace between nations.” In a world largely run by global strategists, it would be naïve to assume that it has not occurred to some that a new world war could be precisely the event they need to convince the people of the world to accept their desired system of global governance; no doubt to secure ‘world peace.’ At least, I am sure it will be sold under that pretense.

Notes

[1]        Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books, 1997: Page 40

[2]        Ibid, page 124.

[3]        Ibid, page 148.

[4]        Scott Wilson and Al Kamen, ‘Global War On Terror’ Is Given New Name, The Washington Post: 25 March 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/24/AR2009032402818.html

[5]        MARK MAZZETTI, U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast, The New York Times, 24 May 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?_r=1

[6]        Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role, The Washington Post, 4 June 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[7]        Eric Lipton, Diplomats Help Push Sales of Jetliners on the Global Market, The New York Times, 2 January 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/business/03wikileaks-boeing.html?_r=2; Fariha Karim, WikiLeaks cables: US pushed for reopening of Bangladesh coal mine, The Guardian, 21 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/21/wikileaks-cables-us-bangladesh-coal-mine?INTCMP=SRCH; Luke Harding and Tom Parfitt, WikiLeaks cables: US ‘lobbied Russia on behalf of Visa and MasterCard’, The Guardian, 8 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/08/wikileaks-us-russia-visa-mastercard; David Smith, WikiLeaks cables: Shell’s grip on Nigerian state revealed, The Guardian, 8 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/dec/08/wikileaks-cables-shell-nigeria-spying; Borzou Daragahi and Alexandra Sandels, CENTRAL ASIA: WikiLeaks dispatches reveal a Great Game for the 21st century, Babylon & Beyond: LA Times Blog, 14 December 2010: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/12/great-game-wikileaks-turkmenistan-prince-edward-chevron-kazakhstan-kyrgyzstan-azerbaijan-turkmenista.html

[8]        Rob Prince, WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia’s Arm to Invade Somalia, Global Research, 26 December 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22512

[9]        JOSEPH KAHN, Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if U.S. Intrudes, The New York Times, 15 July 2005: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/asia/15china.html

Wikileaks and the Worldwide Information War

Wikileaks and the Worldwide Information War
Power, Propaganda, and the Global Political Awakening
Global Research, December 6, 2010

Introduction

The recent release of the 250,000 Wikileaks documents has provoked unparalleled global interest, both positive, negative, and everywhere in between. One thing that can be said with certainty: Wikileaks is changing things.

There are those who accept what the Wikileaks releases say at face value, largely due to the misrepresentation of the documents by the corporate-controlled news.

There are those who see the documents as authentic and simply in need of proper interpretation and analysis.

Then there are those, many of whom are in the alternative media, who approach the leaks with caution and suspicion.

There are those who simply cast the leaks aside as a ‘psy-op’ designed to target specific nations that fit into U.S. foreign policy objectives. Finally, then, there are those who deplore the leaks as ‘treason’ or threatening ‘security’. Of all the claims and notions, the last is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous. This essay aims to examine the nature of the Wikileaks releases and how they should be approached and understood. If Wikileaks is changing things, let’s hope people will make sure that it changes things in the right direction.

Media Propaganda Against Iran: Taking the Cables at Face Value

This perspective is perhaps the most propagated one, as it is largely influenced and undertaken by the mainstream corporate media, which present the leaked diplomatic cables as ‘proof’ of the media’s take on major world issues; most notably among them, Iran’s nuclear program. As per usual, the New York Times steps center stage in its unbridled contempt for truth and relentless use of propaganda to serve U.S. imperial interests, headlining articles with titles like, “Around the World, Distress Over Iran,” which explained how Israel and the Arab leaders agree on Iran as a nuclear threat to the world, with the commentary in the article stating that, “running beneath the cables is a belief among many leaders that unless the current government in Tehran falls, Iran will have a bomb sooner or later.”[1] Fox News ran an article proclaiming that, “Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran,” and commented that, “the seismic document spill by WikiLeaks showed one area of profound agreement — that Iran is viewed in the Middle East as the region’s No. 1 troublemaker.”[2]

This, it should be understood, is propaganda. Yet, we need to properly refine our understanding of propaganda in order to assess what is specifically propagandistic about these stories. While one should remain skeptical of sources and disinformation campaigns (as those who critically analyze the media have known take place time and time again), one must also consider the personal perspective of the source and decipher between authenticity and analysis. These documents, I truly believe, are authentic. In this sense, I do not adhere to the notion that these are a part of a psychological operation (psy-op) or propaganda effort, in terms of the actual release of the documents. We must keep in mind that the sources for these cables are U.S. diplomatic channels, and thus the statements within them reflect the perspectives and beliefs of U.S. diplomatic personnel. The documents are an authentic representation of their statements and beliefs, but that does not imply that they are an accurate representation of reality.

This is where the media comes in to propagandize the information within the leaks. The two above examples claim that the leaks show that there is a “consensus” on Iran, and thus, that the U.S. and indeed Israeli positions on Iran for the past several years have been “vindicated,” namely in that they fear Iran is making nuclear weapons. This is nonsense. The media has essentially read and propagated the documents at face value, meaning that because U.S. diplomats, Middle Eastern and Arab leaders all agree that Iran is a “threat” and is trying to make a “nuclear weapon,” it therefore must be true. This is a non sequitur. If a military general tells several soldiers to commit a raid on a house because there are “suspected terrorists” inside, the fact that the soldiers carry out the raid – and that they believe there are terrorists inside – does not make it so. In contextualizing this example with the current Wikileaks release, just because Middle Eastern and Arab leaders see Iran as a threat, does not make it so.

Again, consider the sources. What makes the Arab leaders trustworthy sources for ‘unbiased’ information? For example, one ‘revelation’ that made its way around the world was the insistence of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to America to “cut off the head of the snake” of Iran, and urging America to launch military strikes against Iran.[3] This has largely been interpreted in the media as “proof” that there is a “consensus” on the “threat” posed by Iran to the Middle East and the world. This has been the propaganda line towed by the New York Times, Fox News and the Israeli government, among many others. Yet, we need to properly contextualize this information, something which the New York Times has a long record of failing to properly do (intentionally, I might add). I do not doubt the authenticity of these statements or the beliefs of the Arab leaders that Iran is a ‘threat’. Iran, on the other hand, has claimed that the leaks are “mischievous” and that they serve US interests, and claimed that Iran is “friends” with its neighbours.[4] This too, is propaganda. Again, we need to contextualize.

Iran is a Shi’a nation, while the Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, are predominantly Sunni. This presents a means of division among these nations in the region, at least on a superficial basis. The reality, however, is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are far from “friendly”, and have not been on good terms since the Shah was deposed in 1979. Iran is Saudi Arabia’s primary contender and competition for power and influence in the region, and thus Iran is, inherently, a threat to Saudi Arabia, politically. Further, the Arab states, whose claims against Iran have been widely publicized, such as those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE and Egypt, must be understood in their relation to the United States. The Arab states are American proxies in the region. Their armies are subsidized by the American military industrial complex, their political regimes (all of which are dictatorships and dynasties), are propped up and supported by America. The same goes for Israel, although it has at least the public outward appearance of a democracy, much like the United States, itself.

The Arab nations and leaders know that the only reason they have and maintain their power is because the United States allows them and helps them to do so. Thus, they are dependent upon America and its political, financial and military support. Going against America’s ambitions in the region is a sure way to end up like Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The history of the Middle East in the modern era is replete with examples of how one-time puppets and personal favourites of the American Empire can so easily turn into new enemies and “threats to peace.” American sponsored regime change takes place, and a new puppet is installed. If Arab leaders said that Iran was not a threat to peace, they would soon find themselves targets of Western imperialism. Further, many, like King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, are so virulent in their hatred and distrust of Iran simply because they are regional competitors for influence. One thing can be said of all states and their leaders, they are inherently self-interested and obsessed with self-preservation and personal power expansion.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, is not a passive actor in the regional battle of influence with Iran. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is involved in another American imperial war of conquest, in suppressing secessionist and indigenous liberation movements in the North and South of Yemen. Yemen, ruled by an American supported dictator, Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, is also working with the Americans to suppress its own population in order to maintain its hold on power. Much of the presentation of the conflict, however, is in propagandizing the conflict, portraying it as a regional battle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While there is no doubt, and clear admissions, of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war, there has been no information that Iran has had any involvement, yet it is constantly accused by both Saudi Arabia and Yemen of being involved. This may be an attempt to draw Iran into a regional proxy war, if not to simply demonize the nation further. In the midst of this new Yemeni war, America made an arms deal with Saudi Arabia which broke the record as the largest U.S. arms deal in history, at $60 billion. The deal, of which it is no secret, is aimed at building up Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities in order to both engage more effectively in the Yemen war, but primarily to challenge and counter increased Iranian influence in the region. In short, America is arming its proxy nations for a war with Iran.

[For a detailed examination of the war in Yemen, see: “Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire.”]

Israel did not denounce the arms deal as it was taking place, simply because it ultimately served Israel’s interest in the region as well, of which its main target is Iran. Further, Israel is left subdued to American interests, as an American proxy itself. If Israel’s military financing and hardware comes from America (which it does), thus making it dependent upon America for its own military power, Israel is in no position to tell America to not arm its other regional proxies. If indeed there is a regional war against Iran in the making, which it has appeared for some time that there is, it is certainly in Israel’s interest to have allies against Iran in the region.

Is Wikileaks a Propaganda Effort?

The leaders of Israel have been very adamant that the Wikileaks documents do not embarrass Israel to any extent. Prior to the release, the U.S. government briefed Israeli officials on the type of documents that would be released by Wikileaks regarding Israel.[5] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “there is no disparity between the public discourse between us and Washington, and the mutual understanding of each other’s positions.”[6] The Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, claimed that the documents “show a more accurate view of reality.”[7] One top Turkish politician stated that looking at which countries are pleased with the releases says a lot, and speculated that Israel “engineered the release” of documents in an attempt to advance its interests and to “pressure Turkey.”[8]

Further, the Internet and various alternative news organizations are abuzz with speculation that Wikileaks itself may be a propaganda front, perhaps even a CIA front organization, a method of “controlling the opposition” (which, historically we know, is no stranger to CIA activities). Yet, this speculation is based upon the use of the information that is released in the cables, and it strikes me as a lack of contextualizing the documents.

So, how should one contextualize this? Let’s begin with Israel. Certainly, Israel is without a doubt a criminal state (as all states essentially are), but its criminality is amplified more so than most states on this planet, possibly outdone only by America, itself. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is one of the most horrific and long-lasting crimes against humanity seen in the past 50 years, and posterity will view Israel as the vicious, war-mongering, dehumanizing and abhorrent state it is. Yet, for all that Israel is, one thing Israel is not, is subtle. When the Israeli PM states that the Wikileaks releases are not embarrassing to Israel, he is mostly correct. This is not because Israel has nothing to hide (remember, the Wikileaks documents are not ‘top secret’ documents, but merely diplomatic cables), but because the diplomatic exchanges Israel makes largely reflect the reality of the public statements Israel makes. Israel and its political elite are no strangers to making absurd public statements, to constantly threatening war with Iran and other neighbours, or to propagandizing their beliefs that Iran is making nuclear weapons (something which has never been proven). Thus, the leaks do not ‘hurt’ Israel’s image, because Israel’s image, internationally, is already so abysmal and despicable, and because Israeli diplomats and politicians are generally as brazen in what they say publicly as they say to each other, that Israel’s image has largely remained the same. Of course, Israeli leaders – political and military – are using the leaks to suggest that it “vindicates” their perspective on Iran as a threat, which of course is an absurd propaganda ploy, the exact same technique taken on by the corporate media, in taking the cables at face value.

While Iran has slammed the Wikileaks releases as Western propaganda aimed at Iran, this statement itself should be taken as a form of propaganda. After all, Iran claimed that it is “friends” with all its neighbours, a claim which is an historical and present falsity. Iran, like all states, uses propaganda to advance its own interests. Iran is not by any means a wonderful nation. However, compared to the American favourites in the region (such as Saudi Arabia), Iran is a bastion of freedom and democracy, which isn’t saying much. Those who attempt to battle the spread of misinformation and propaganda, myself included, must remain highly critical of media representations and campaigns against Iran, of which there are many. Iran is firmly in the targets of America’s imperial ambitions, this is no secret. Yet, there is nothing in the current batch of Wikileaks releases that strikes me as inauthentic in relation to Iran, especially those documents pertaining to the perspectives of Western diplomats and Arab leaders in relation to Iran. No doubt, they have these perspectives simply because they reflect the policy priorities of America and the West, itself, not because they are factual in their substance. In this, we must decipher between authenticity and accuracy.

Iran stating that the Wikileaks documents are propaganda is a misnomer and is misleading. Analysts must not only critically assess the authenticity of documents (and the sources from which they come), but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they must critically analyze the interpretation of those documents. So while I do not doubt the authenticity of documents pertaining to Western and Middle Eastern perceptions of Iran (as it fits in with the wider geopolitical realities of the region), it is the interpretation of the documents that I view as active propaganda efforts on the part of Western governments and media. The methods of this propaganda effort, however, are in depicting the documents as ‘factual assessments’ of the on-the-ground reality, which they are not. The documents are factual in how they represent the views of those who wrote them, which does not mean that they are factual in their substance. There is a difference, and acknowledging this difference is incredibly important in both the exposure of propaganda and assessment of truth.

The Truth About Diplomacy

Craig Murray is one voice that should be heard on this issue. Craig Murray was a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan who made a name for himself in exposing intelligence from Uzbekistan related to al-Qaeda as entirely unreliable, due to the methods of torture used to get the information (such as boiling people alive). This intelligence was passed to the CIA and MI6, which Murray said was “factually incorrect.” When Murray expressed his concerns with the higher-ups in the British diplomatic services, he was reprimanded for talking about “human rights.”[9] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told Murray that he had one week to resign, and was threatened with possible prosecution or jail time for revealing “state secrets.”[10] He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial position, and has since become something of a political activist. In short, Murray is exactly the type of diplomat a person should want: honest. But he was also exactly the type of diplomat that Western imperial powers don’t want: honest.

In the midst of the latest Wikileaks releases of diplomatic documents, Craig Murray was asked to write an article for the Guardian regarding his interpretation of the issue. As Murray later noted, the paper placed his article, largely reduced, hidden in the middle of a long article which was a compendium of various commentaries on Wikileaks. Murray, however, posted the full version on his website. In the article, Murray begins by assessing the claims of government officials around the world, particularly in the United States, that Wikileaks exposes the United States to “harm,” that it puts lives at risk, and that they will “encourage Islamic extremism,” and most especially, the notion that “government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe.” Murray explains that having been a diplomat for over 20 years, he is very familiar with these arguments, particularly that as a result of Wikileaks, diplomats will no longer be candid in giving advice, “if that advice might become public.” Murray elaborates:

Put it another way. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today’s globalised world, the Embassy is not a unique source of expertise. Often expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice which is shielded from peer review.

What of course the establishment mean is that Ambassadors should be free to recommend things which the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?[11]

Murray pointedly asked why a type of behaviour that is considered reprehensible for most people – such as lying – “should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.” Murray explained that for British diplomats, “this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality.” He explained that diplomats come from a very narrow upper social strata, and “view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality” who are socially connected to the political elite. In criticizing the claims made by many commentators that the release of the leaks endanger lives, Murray pointedly wrote that this perspective needs to be “set against any such risk the hundreds of thousands of actual dead from the foreign policies of the US and its co-conspirators in the past decade.” Further, for those who posit that Wikileaks is a psy-op or propaganda operation or that Wikileaks is a “CIA front”, Murray had this to say:

Of course the documents reflect the US view – they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.

There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because wikileaks have censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.[12]

Murray concluded his article with the statement that all would do well to keep in mind: “Truth helps the people against rapacious elites – everywhere.”[13]

World Order and Global Awakening

In attempting to understand Wikileaks and its potential effects (that is, if the alternative media and citizens activists use this opportunity), we must place Wikileaks within a wider geopolitical context. Our human world exists as a complex system of social interactions. As powerful and dominating as elites are and have always been, we must understand that they are not omnipotent; they are human and flawed, as are their methods and ideas. There are other forces at work in the human social world, and these various interactions created and changed the world into what it is, and will determine where it is going. In effect, nothing is preordained; nothing is exact. Plans are made, certainly, by elites, in designing ideas and reshaping and controlling society. However, society – and in the globalized world, a ‘global society’ – react and interact with elite forces and ideas. Just as the people must react to and experience repercussions from changes in elite processes, so too must the elite react to and experience repercussions from changes in social processes. Today, we can conceptualize this dichotomy – the geopolitical reality of the world – as ‘The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order’:

There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world; it is unprecedented in reach and volume, and it is also the greatest threat to all global power structures: the ‘global political awakening.’ The term was coined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and refers to the fact that, as Brzezinski wrote:

For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.

It is, in essence, this massive ‘global political awakening’ which presents the gravest and greatest challenge to the organized powers of globalization and the global political economy: nation-states, multinational corporations and banks, central banks, international organizations, military, intelligence, media and academic institutions. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), or ‘Superclass’ as David Rothkopf refers to them, are globalized like never before. For the first time in history, we have a truly global and heavily integrated elite. As elites have globalized their power, seeking to construct a ‘new world order’ of global governance and ultimately global government (decades down the line), they have simultaneously globalized populations.

The ‘Technological Revolution’ involves two major geopolitical developments. The first is that as technology advances, systems of mass communication rapidly accelerate, and the world’s people are able to engage in instant communication with one another and gain access to information from around the world. In it, lies the potential – and ultimately a central source – of a massive global political awakening. Simultaneously, the Technological Revolution has allowed elites to redirect and control society in ways never before imagined, potentially culminating in a global scientific dictatorship, as many have warned of since the early decades of the 20th century. The potential for controlling the masses has never been so great, as science unleashes the power of genetics, biometrics, surveillance, and new forms of modern eugenics; implemented by a scientific elite equipped with systems of psycho-social control.

Brzezinski has written extensively on the issue of the ‘Global Political Awakening,’ and has been giving speeches at various elite think tanks around the world, ‘informing’ the elites of this changing global dynamic. Brzezinski is one of the principle representatives of the global elite and one of the most influential elite intellectuals in the world. His analysis of the `global politicl awakening`is useful because of his repesentation of it as the primary global threat to elite interests everywhere. Thus, people should view the concept of the `global political awakening`as the greatest potential hope for humanity and that it should be advanced and aided, as opposed to Brzezinski`s perspective that it should be controlled and suppressed. However, it would be best for Brzezinski to explain the concept in his own words to allow people to understand how it constitutes a `threat`to elite interests :

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination… The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.

…America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world’s population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America’s global role? … The central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.

… It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.

The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million “college” students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.

Brzezinski thus posits that to address this new global “challenge” to entrenched powers, particularly nation-states that cannot sufficiently address the increasingly non-pliant populations and populist demands, what is required, is “increasingly supranational cooperation, actively promoted by the United States.” In other words, Brzezinski favours an increased and expanded ‘internationalization’, not surprising considering he laid the intellectual foundations of the Trilateral Commission. He explains that “Democracy per se is not an enduring solution,” as it could be overtaken by “radically resentful populism.” This is truly a new global reality:

Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world’s underprivileged.

Thus, writes Brzezinski, “an effective response can only come from a self-confident America genuinely committed to a new vision of global solidarity.” The idea is that to address the grievances caused by globalization and global power structures, the world and America must expand and institutionalize the process of globalization, not simply in the economic sphere, but in the social and political as well. It is a flawed logic, to say the least, that the answer to these systemic problems is to enhance and strengthen the systemic flaws that created them. One cannot put out a fire by adding fuel.

Brzezinski even wrote that, “let it be said right away that supranationality should not be confused with world government. Even if it were desirable, mankind is not remotely ready for world government, and the American people certainly do not want it.” Instead, Brzezinski argues, America must be central in constructing a system of global governance, “in shaping a world that is defined less by the fiction of state sovereignty and more by the reality of expanding and politically regulated interdependence.” In other words, not ‘global government’ but ‘global governance’, which is simply a rhetorical ploy, as ‘global governance’ – no matter how overlapping, sporadic and desultory it presents itself – is in fact a key step and necessary transition in the moves toward an actual global government structure.

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order, Global Research, 24 June 2010]

Conceptualizing Wikileaks

I feel that Wikileaks must be conceptualized within our understanding of this geopolitical reality we find ourselves in today. While indeed it is necessary to be skeptical of such monumental events, we must allow ourselves to remember that there are always surprises – for everyone – and that the future is nothing if not unknown. Anything, truly, can happen. There is of course logic behind the automatic skepticism and suspicion about Wikileaks from the alternative media; however, they also risk losing an incredible opportunity presented by Wikileaks, to not only reach more people with important information, but to better inform that information itself.

For those who view Wikileaks as a conspiracy or plot, as a psy-op of some kind, while indeed these things have taken place in the past, there is simply no evidence for it thus far. Every examination of this concept is based upon speculation. Many nations around the world, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, are pointing to the Western nations as engaging in a covert propaganda campaign aimed at creating disunity between states and allies. Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan have made such claims. It is no surprise that most of these are nations, particularly Iran, are targets of U.S. imperial policy. Since, however, the Wikileaks releases speak heavily and negatively about Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc., one must remember that these are ‘diplomatic cables’, and represent the ‘opinions and beliefs’ of the diplomatic establishment, a social group which is historically and presently deeply enmeshed and submissive to elite ideology and methodology. In short, these are the foreign imperial envoys, and as such, they are ideological imperialists and represent imperial interests.

As has been the case both historically and presently, imperial objectives are hidden with political rhetoric. Since, politically, these are target nations of the American imperial elite, America’s diplomatic representatives will focus on these nations, and adopt the same ideas and beliefs. How many people have ever been given a raise by questioning and then disregarding their superior’s management technique? Thus, in their respective nations and operations, the diplomats will seek information that targets these nations or serve specific American imperial objectives. If all the information they come up with are rumours and conjectures and repeated talking points, that is what will be seen in the diplomatic cables. Indeed, that was exactly the case. The cables are full of rumours and unsupported allegations. So naturally, they would target these specific nations – deemed geopolitically significant by American imperial interests – and why there would be far less information on Israel and other allied nations. This is why it seems to me that these cables are authentic. They seem to represent the reality of the ‘diplomatic social group’, and thus they are a vivid exploration in the study of imperialism. We have been given the opportunity to see the ‘communications’ of imperial diplomacy. It is in this, that we are presented with an incredible opportunity.

Further, in regards to many Middle Eastern and Asian nations framing Wikileaks as a “Western plot,” as critical thinkers we must take note of the geopolitical reality of the ‘global political awakenng.’ All states are self-interested, that is the nature of a state. Elites all over the world are aware of the reality and potential political power of the ‘global political awakening’ and thus, seek to suppress or co-opt its potential. States which are often viewed by the critical press as ‘targets’ by Western imperial powers (such as Iran), may seek to use this power to its own advantage. They may attempt to steer the ‘global awakening’ and the ‘alternative media’ to their favour, which gives them political power. But the alternative media must not ‘pick sides’ in terms of global elites and power structures, we must remain critical of all sides and all actors.

Wikileaks is receiving an incredible readership and is reaching out to new audiences, globally, in the American homeland itself, and to the youth of the world. People’s perceptions are beginning to change on a variety of issues. The question is: will the alternative media ignore Wikileaks and isolate itself, or will they engage with Wikileaks, and prevent the mainstream corporate media from having a ‘monopoly of interpretation’, which becomes inherently propagandistic. Wikileaks is having global repercussions, and has been very good for the newspaper and mainstream news industries, which have been on a steady decline. This too, can be an issue to reach out to this new and growing audience, and to bring them to a new perspective. If we do not reach out, we are left talking to each other, further isolating ourselves, and ultimately becoming subverted and ineffective for change. We need to reach out to new audiences, and this is an incredible opportunity to do so. People are interested, people are curious, people are hungry for more.

Wikileaks and the Media

Instead of deriding Wikileaks as “not telling us anything we didn’t know” before, perhaps the alternative media should use the popularity and momentum of Wikileaks to take from it the documentation and analysis that further strengthens our arguments and beliefs. This will allow for others, especially new audiences of interested people worldwide, to place the Wikileaks releases within a wider context and understanding. The reports from Wikileaks are ‘revelations’ only to those who largely adhere to the ‘illusions’ of the world: that we live in ‘democracies’ promoting ‘freedom’ around the world and at home, etc. The ‘revelations’ however, are not simply challenging American perceptions of America, but of all nations and their populations. The fact that these people are reading and discovering new things for which they are developing an interest is an incredible change. This is likely why the corporate media is so heavily involved in the dissemination of this information (which itself is a major source of suspicion for the alternative media): to control the interpretation of the message. It is the job of the alternative media and intellectuals and other thinking individuals to challenge that interpretation with factual analysis. The Wikileaks releases, in fact, give us more facts to place within and support our interpretations than they do for the corporate media.

We must ask why the Wikileaks releases were ‘revelations’ for most people? Well, it was surprising simply for the fact that the media itself has such a strong hold on the access, dissemination and interpretation of information. They are ‘revelations’ because people are indoctrinated with myths. They are not ‘revelations’ to the alternative media because we have been talking about these things for years. However, while they may not necessarily be ‘revelations’, they are in fact, ‘confirmations’ and ‘vindications’ and bring more information to the analysis. It is in this, that a great opportunity lies. For since the leaks support and better inform our perspectives, we can build on this concept and examine how Wikileaks adds to and supports critical analysis. For those who are newly interested and looking for information, or for those who are having their previous perceptions challenged, it is the alternative media and critical voices alone who can place that information in a wider context for everyone else. In this, more people will see how it is the alternative media and critical perspectives which were more reflective of reality than say, the mainstream media (for which Wikileaks is a ‘revelation’). Thus, more people may soon start turning to alternative media and ideas; after all, our perspectives were vindicated, not those of the mainstream media (though they attempt to spin it as such).

We are under a heavy propaganda offensive on the part of the global corporate and mainstream media to spin and manipulate these leaks to their own interests. We, as alternative media and voices, must use Wikileaks to our advantage. Ignoring it will only damage our cause and undermine our strength. The mainstream media understood that; so too, must we. Wikileaks presents in itself a further opportunity for the larger exposure of mainstream media as organized propaganda. By ‘surprising’ so many people with the ‘revelations’, the media has in effect exposed itself as deeply inadequate in their analysis of the world and the major issues within it. While currently it is giving the mainstream media a great boost, we are still immersed in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution’ and there is still (for now, anyway) Internet freedom, and thus, the tide can quickly turn.

Like the saying goes, ‘the rich man will sell you the rope to hang him with if he thinks he can make a buck on it.’ Perhaps the mainstream media has done the same. No other organized apparatus was as capable of disseminating as much material as quickly and with such global reach as the mainstream media. If the leaks initially only made it into alternative media, then the information would only reach those whom are already reading the alternative press. In that, they would not be such grand ‘revelations’ and would have had a muted effect. In the mainstream media’s global exposure of Wikileaks material (never mind their slanted and propagandistic interpretations), they have changed the dynamic and significance of the information. By reaching wider and new audiences, the alternative and critical voices can co-opt these new audiences; lead them away from the realm of information ‘control’ into the realm of information ‘access’. This is potentially one of the greatest opportunities presented for the alternative and critical voices of the world.

Wikileaks is a globally transformative event. Not simply in terms of awakening new people to ‘new’ information, but also in terms of the effect it is having upon global power structures, itself. With ambassadors resigning, diplomats being exposed as liars and tools, political rifts developing between Western imperial allies, and many careers and reputations of elites around the world at great risk, Wikileaks is creating the potential for an enormous deterioration in the effectiveness of imperialism and domination. That, in itself, is an admirable and worthy goal. That this is already a reality is representative of how truly transformative Wikileaks is and could be. People, globally, are starting to see their leaders through a lens not filtered by ‘public relations.’ Through mainstream media, it gets filtered through propaganda, which is why it is an essential duty of the alternative media and critical thinkers to place this information in a wider, comprehensive context. This would further erode the effectiveness of empire.

With the reaction of several states and policing organizations to issue arrest warrants for Julian Assange, or in calling for his assassination (as one Canadian adviser to the Prime Minister suggested on television), these organizations and individuals are exposing their own hatred of democracy, transparency and freedom of information. Their reactions can be used to discredit their legitimacy to ‘rule’. If policing agencies are supposed to “protect and serve,” why are they seeking instead to “punish and subvert” those who expose the truth? Again, this comes as no surprise to those who closely study the nature of the state, and especially the modern phenomenon of the militarization of domestic society and the dismantling of rights and freedoms. However, it is happening before the eyes of the whole world, and people are paying attention. This is new.

This is an incredible opportunity to criticize foreign policy (read: ‘imperial strategy’), and to disembowel many global power structures. More people, now, than ever before, will be willing to listen, learn and investigate for themselves. Wikileaks should be regarded as a ‘gift’, not a ‘distraction.’ Instead of focusing on the parts of the Wikileaks cables which do not reflect the perspectives of the alternative media (such as on Iran), we must use Wikileaks to better inform our own understanding not simply of the ‘policy’ itself, but of the complex social interactions and ideas that create the basis for the ‘policy’ to be carried out. In regards to the diplomatic cables themselves, we are better able to understand the nature of diplomats as ‘agents of empire,’ and so instead of discounting the cables as ‘propaganda’ we must use them against the apparatus of empire itself: to expose the empire for what it is. Wikileaks helps to unsheathe and strip away the rhetoric behind imperial policy, and expose diplomats not as ‘informed observers’, but as ‘agents of power.’ The reaction by nations, organizations and institutions around the world adds further fuel to this approach, as we are seeing the utter distaste political leaders have for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of information’, despite their rhetoric. Several institutions of power can be more widely exposed in this manner.

A recent addition to this analysis can be in the role played by universities not in ‘education’ but in ‘indoctrination’ and the production of new ‘agents of power.’ For example, Columbia University is one of the most “respected” and “revered” universities in the world, which has produced several individuals and significant sectors of the political elite (including diplomats). In reaction to the Wikileaks releases, Columbia University has warned “students they risk future job prospects if they download any of the material,” which followed “a government ban on employees, estimated at more than two-and-a-half million people, using work computers and other communication devices to look at diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.” The University “emailed students at the university’s school of international and public affairs, a recruiting ground for the state department.”[14] Good for Columbia! What do they think university is for, ‘education’ or something? How dare students take education into their own hands, especially students who will likely be future diplomats. This university reaction to Wikileaks helps call into attention the role of universities in our society, and specifically the role of universities in shaping the future ‘managers’ of the imperial apparatus.

Wikileaks as an Opportunity

If Wikileaks is a psy-op, it is either the stupidest or most intelligent psychological operation ever undertaken. But one thing is for sure: systems and structures of power are in the process of being exposed to a much wider audience than ever before. The question for the alternative media and critical researchers, alike, is what will they do with this information and this opportunity?

Julian Assange was recently interviewed by Time Magazine about Wikileaks, in which he explained to the inadequately informed editor of Time Magazine that organizations which are secretive need to be exposed:

If their behavior is revealed to the public, they have one of two choices: one is to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavors, and proud to display them to the public. Or the other is to lock down internally and to balkanize, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient.[15]

Assange further explained some of his perspectives regarding the influence of and reactions to Wikileaks, stating that the Chinese:

appear to be terrified of free speech, and while one might say that means something awful is happening in the country, I actually think that is a very optimistic sign, because it means that speech can still cause reform and that the power structure is still inherently political, as opposed to fiscal. So journalism and writing are capable of achieving change, and that is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it. Whereas in the United States to a large degree, and in other Western countries, the basic elements of society have been so heavily fiscalized through contractual obligations that political change doesn’t seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn’t result in change.[16]

In the interview, Assange turned to the issue of the Internet and community media:

For the rise of social media, it’s quite interesting. When we first started [in 2006], we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on. And we thought that was a natural, given that we had lots of quality, important content… The bulk of the heavy lifting – heavy analytical lifting – that is done with our materials is done by us, and is done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human-rights activists. It is not done by the broader community. However, once the initial lifting is done, once a story becomes a story, becomes a news article, then we start to see community involvement, which digs deeper and provides more perspective. So the social networks tend to be, for us, an amplifier of what we are doing. And also a supply of sources for us.[17]

As researchers, media, and critics, we must realize that our perspectives and beliefs must be open to change and evolution. Simply because something like this has never happened before does not mean that it isn’t happening now. We live in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution,’ and the Internet has changed economics, politics and society itself, on a global scale. This is where the true hope in furthering and better informing the ‘global political awakening’ will need to take speed and establish itself. True change in our world is not going to come from already-established or newly-created institutions of power, which is where all issues are currently being addressed, especially those of global significance. True change, instead, can only come not from global power structures, but from the global ‘community’ of people, interacting with one another via the power unleashed by the ‘Technological Revolution.’ Change must be globally understood and community organized.

We are on the verge of a period of global social transformation, the question is: will we do anything about it? Will we seek to inform and partake in this transition, or will we sit and watch it be misled, criticizing it as it falters and falls? Just as Martin Luther King commented in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam, that it seemed as if America was “on the wrong side of a world revolution,” now there is an opportunity to remedy that sad reality, and not simply on a national scale, but global.

Despite all the means and methods of power and domination in this world, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As things progressively get worse and worse, as any independent observer of the world has noticed, life has a way of creating means and methods to counter these regressions. As ‘globalization’ has facilitated the emergence of a global elite, and several global institutions and ideologies of global power, so too has this process facilitated the ‘globalization of opposition.’ So while elites, globally, actively work to integrate and expand global power structures, they are inadvertently integrating and expanding global opposition to those very same power structures. This is the great paradox of our time, and one which we must recognize, for it is not simply a factual observation, but it is a hopeful situation.

Hope should not be underestimated, and it is something that I have personally struggled with in my views of the world. It is hard to see ‘hope’ when you study so much ‘horror’ in the world, and see how little is being done about it. But activism and change need hope. This is very evident from the Obama campaign, which was splashed with rhetoric of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, something that all people rightfully want and need. However, Obama’s ‘hope’ and ‘change’ were Wall Street brands and patents, it was a glorious practice in the art of propaganda, and a horrific blow to true notions of ‘hope’ and ‘change’. There is a reason why the Obama campaign took the top prizes in public relations industry awards.[18]

Hope is needed, but it cannot be misplaced hope, as it was with Obama. It must be a hope grounded not in ‘blind faith’ but in ‘honest analysis.’ While indeed on most fronts in the world, things are getting progressively worse, the alternative media has focused almost exclusively on these issues that they have blinded themselves to the positive geopolitical developments in the world, namely the ‘global political awakening’ and the role of the Internet in reshaping global society. While these issues are acknowledged, they are not fully understood or explained within the wider context: that these are in fact, hopeful developments; that there is hope. Wikileaks strengthens this notion, if it is to be taken as an opportunity. A critique without hope falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear that things are ‘hopeless’, so while an examination of what is wrong in the world is integral to moving forward, so too is an examination of what is hopeful and positive. This spreads the message and builds its supporters. The Internet as a medium facilitates the spread of this message, and after all, as one of the foremost media theorists, Marshall McLuhan, noted, “The medium is the message.”

Appendix of ‘Revelations’ and ‘Vindications’: A Call to Action for Alternative Media

So what are some of the supposed ‘revelations’ which can be used as ‘vindications’ by the alternative media? Well, for one, the role of royalty as a relevant and powerful economic and political actor in the world today. And by this I do not simply refer to states where monarchs remain as official rulers, such as in Saudi Arabia, but more specifically to West European and notably the British monarchs. For those who have studied institutions like the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, the relevance of European royalty in international affairs is not a new concept. For the majority of people (who haven’t even heard of the Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission), these monarchs are largely viewed as symbolic figures as opposed to political actors. This is, of course, naïve, as all monarchs have always been political actors, however, it is a naivety that has now been challenged on a much wider scale and to a much wider audience. There was a time when I would discuss the relevance of monarchs in the modern world, and it would be a subject that would be treated by many others as an absurd notion: “but the Queen has no real power, she’s a figurehead,” etc. Wikileaks has exposed that notion as a falsity, and it should be an issue that is expanded upon.

For example, within the Wikileaks cables, take the British Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, who has been subject to many cable ‘revelations.’ The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan wrote a cable regarding a meeting she attended with several British and Canadian businessmen and Prince Andrew, who is a special U.K. trade representative to the Middle East and Central Asia. At the meeting, Prince Andrew ranted against “those [expletive] journalists … who poke their noses everywhere,” and he “railed at British anticorruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia,” particularly “referencing an investigation, subsequently closed, into alleged kickbacks a senior Saudi royal had received in exchange for the multi-year, lucrative BAE Systems contract to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces.” When he ranted against the media – specifically the Guardian paper – for making it harder to do business abroad, the U.S. Ambassador noted that the businessmen in attendance “roared their approval” and “practically clapped.”[19] Again, evidence for how elites despise true representations of democracy and freedom.

At that same meeting, Prince Andrew made another startling claim, and one which had not been as widely publicized in the media to date. He stated that to the U.S. Ambassador that: “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game,” and, “this time we aim to win!” Further, Prince Andrew – the ‘Duke of York’ – “then stated that he was very worried about Russia’s resurgence in the region,” and referred to Chinese economic and political expansion in the region as “probably inevitable, but a menace.” On the way out of the meeting, one British businessman said to the U.S. Ambassador, “What a wonderful representative for the British people! We could not be prouder of our royal family!”[20] Well, there you have it, a rich prince running around the world with rich businessmen promoting their economic interests in foreign countries and referring to it as the age-old imperial competition between Britain and Russia in the “Great Game” for dominance over Central Asia. And we call our countries ‘democracies’ and exporters of ‘freedom’?

This is quite typical behaviour of the royal family, however, as a former South African MP and anti-corruption campaigner, Andrew Feinstein, explained, “the royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected,” and that, “the royal family was involved in trying to persuade South Africa to buy BAE’s Hawk jets, despite the air force not wanting the planes that cost two and a half times the price of their preferred aircraft. As an ANC MP at the time, I was told that £116m in bribes had been paid to key decision-makers and the ANC itself. The royal family’s attitude is part of the reason that BAE will never face justice in the UK for its corrupt practices.”[21]

The British royals are also very close with Arab monarchs, which makes sense, considering it was the British Empire (and the ‘Crown’ behind it) that created the Arab monarchs and gave them power in the first place. Prince Andrew went on hunting trips with the King of Jordan and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the UAE.[22] Further, Prince Charles is considered a strategic diplomatic figure in regards to Saudi Arabia, as the cables reveal. The British media headlined with the ‘revelation’ that Prince Charles is not as “respected” as Queen Elizabeth, but the real story was buried in the same article beneath the royal gossip, as cables revealed that Prince Charles and his wife “have helped to overcome ‘severe strains’ following Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment and torture of five Britons from December 2001 to August 2003 and the UK’s official fraud investigations of British Aerospace operations in Saudi Arabia in 2004.” As one U.S. diplomatic cable explained, the British royals “helped re-build UK-Saudi ties” as “the House of Saud and the House of Windsor build upon their royal commonality.” In other words, they both represent unelected and unaccountable elite dynastic power, and so they should naturally work together in ‘their’ own interests. How ‘democratic’ of them. Further, a Saudi royal threw a lavish party for Prince Charles in Saudi Arabia with the help of an unnamed British businessman.[23]

It looks, however, like the British royals will have to again move in to “smooth out” ties with Saudi Arabia, as ‘revelations’ about the country and its monarch paint a picture of a not-so-helpful Western ally. In short, Saudi Arabia and its monarch have received one of the largest public relations disasters in recent history. The British monarch may be too busy cleaning up their own mess, or have too much light on them at the moment, to be able to ‘gracefully’ maneuver through yet another ‘imperious’ royal visit. What am I referring to here in terms of bad PR for the Saudis? It’s quite simple, the Saudi royals, good friends of the British monarch, are incidentally the principle financiers of Sunni terrorists (which includes what we commonly refer to as ‘al-Qaeda’) worldwide.

While this comes as no surprise to those who have critically analyzed al-Qaeda or the “war on terror,” it is indeed a ‘revelation’ to the majority of people. While Western governments and media propaganda machines have for years blamed terrorist financing and support on ‘target’ nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and more recently, Pakistan and Yemen, the Wikileaks cables ‘vindicated’ the historical and present reality that it is in fact the main Western allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, but also the other major Gulf Arab states (and their monarchs), who are the main financiers and supporters of terrorism, and most notably, al-Qaeda. A memo signed by Hillary Clinton confirmed that Saudi Arabia is understood to be “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” as well as al-Qaeda itself. Further, three other Arab states, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are listed as other chief terrorist financiers. As the Guardian put it, “the cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea.” While Pakistan is largely blamed for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is in fact Saudi Arabia as well as UAE-based businesses which are its chief financiers. Kuwait, another staunch U.S. ally, is a “source of funds and a key transit point” for al-Qaeda.[24]

While the New York Times was busy declaring Wikileaks as providing a “new consensus” on Iran, with the Saudi King urging America to attack and “cut the head off the snake,” they mentioned only in passing, how “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.”[25] Now, while these are indeed ‘revelations’ to many, we must place these facts in their proper context. This is not simply to be taken as Saudi Arabia and Arab states being responsible, alone, for support of terrorism and al-Qaeda, but that they are simply playing the role they have always played, and that diplomacy is sidelined and kept in the dark on this issue as it always has been.

What I mean by this is that the contextualization of these facts must be placed in a comprehensive historical analysis. Looking at the history of al-Qaeda, arising out of the Soviet-Afghan War, with major covert support from America and other Western allies, the center of this operation was in the ‘Safari Club,’ which constituted a secret network of Western intelligence agencies (such as those of France, Britain and America) and regional intelligence agencies (such as those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), in carrying out the financing, training, arming and operational support of the Mujahideen, and subsequently the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The ‘Safari Club’ was established in 1976 (with the help of CIA director at the time, George H.W. Bush, another close friend of the Saudi royals), and was designed to respond to increasing political oversight of intelligence operations in America (as a result of the Church Committee investigations on CIA operations), and so the Safari Club was created to allow for a more covert and discreet network of intelligence operations, with no oversight. Diplomats were kept in the dark about its operations and indeed its existence, while the quiet covert relationships continued behind the scenes. This network, in some form or another, exists up to the present day, as I recently documented in my three-part series on “The Imperial Anatomy of al-Qaeda.”

[See: The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign]

In short, there is a reason that while diplomats complain quietly about Saudi and Arab financing and support for al-Qaeda, nothing is actually done: because through other avenues, the American imperial structure and apparatus supports and facilitates this process. Diplomacy is more overt in its imperial ambitions, thus the reality of the cables reflecting a focus on Iran and Pakistan, yet intelligence operations are a much more covert means of establishing and maintaining particular imperial relationships. This information again should not be taken “at face value,” but rather placed within its broader geopolitical context. In this sense, the information is not ‘disinformation’ or ‘propaganda’, but rather additional factual ‘vindication’ and information.

While Western governments and media publicly scorn Iran and accuse it of “meddling” in the affairs of Iraq, and of supporting terrorism and destabilization of the country, the reality is that while Iran certainly exerts influence in Iraq, (after all, they are neighbours), Saudi Arabia is a far greater source of destabilization than Iran is accused of being, and this is from the mouths of Iraqi leaders themselves. Iraqi government officials, reported the Guardian, “see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.” In a cable written by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, it was explained that, “Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging given Riyadh’s money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes and [Saudi] suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence.” Further, “Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to varying degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government.” In short, that would mean that Saudi Arabia is actually doing what the West accuses Iran of doing in Iraq. So while Iran certainly has been promoting its own interests in Iraq, it is more interested in a stable Shi’a government, while Saudi Arabia is more interested in a weak and fractured government, and thus promotes sectarian conflict. One interesting fact to note that came out of the cables, is the increasing perspective among Iraqi youth rejecting foreign interference from any government, with diplomatic cables articulating that, “a ‘mental revolution’ was under way among Iraqi youth against foreign agendas seeking to undermine the country’s stability.”[26]

It should come as no surprise, then, that one top Saudi royal (in fact the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency and thus the man responsible for handling Saudi Arabia’s relationship with terrorists), Prince Turki al-Faisal, said that the source of the diplomatic leaks should be “vigorously punished.” Turki, who has also been the Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. and America, said, “the WikiLeaks furor underscored that cyber security was an increasing international concern.”[27]

What other areas can Wikileaks be used to further inform and ‘vindicate’ the critical media? Well, start with Saudi Arabia’s neighbour to the south, Yemen. Whether or not most Americans (or for that matter, most people in general) are aware that America is waging a war in Yemen, just across the water from where America is waging another war against Somalia (since 2006/07). This past October, I wrote an article about the imperial war in Yemen as a war being fought under the auspices of the “War on Terror” and fighting al-Qaeda (financed by the Saudi elite); but which in reality is about America and other Western imperial powers (such as the U.K.) propping up a despotic leaders who has been in power since 1978, by supporting him in his campaign to eliminate a rebel movement in the North and a massive secessionist movement in the South. Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in August of 2009 by bombing rebel holdouts in the North along the Saudi border, as the Saudi elite are afraid of the movement spreading to disaffected groups within Saudi Arabia itself.

America inserted itself into the war by increasing the amount of money and military aid given to Yemen (in effect, subsidizing their military, as they do heavily with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, all the Arab states, and dozens of other states around the world), as well as providing direct special forces training and assistance, not to mention carrying out missile strikes within Yemen against “al-Qaeda training camps” which American intelligence officials claimed killed 60 ‘militants’. In reality, 52 innocent people died, with over half of them being women and children. At the time, both Yemen and America claimed it was an al-Qaeda training camp and that the cruise missile was fired by the Yemeni government, despite the fact that it had no such weapons in its arsenal, unlike the U.S. Navy patrolling the coastline. The missile strike was carried out by America “on direct presidential orders.”

Several days later, there was the bizarre “attempted terrorist attack” in which a young Nigerian man was arrested attempting to blow up his underwear (who was helped onto the plane by a mysterious Indian man in a suit who claimed he was a diplomat, according to witnesses), and who was subsequently linked to “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (an organization which started up not much earlier when a Guantanamo inmate returned to Saudi Arabia only to ‘escape’ Saudi custody, and flee to Yemen to start a new al-Qaeda branch). This provided the justification for America to dramatically increase its military aid to Yemen, which more than doubled from $67 million to $150 million, and came with increased special forces training and assistance, as well as increased CIA activity, discussing using drone attacks to kill innocent people (as they do in Pakistan), and more missile strikes.

This previous September, the Yemen government “laid siege” to a town in the South while the Obama administrations top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for ‘talks’ with President Saleh. The town was claimed to be a “sanctuary for al-Qaeda,” but it has key strategic significance as well. It is just south of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline, and the town happened to be home to many people involved in the Southern secessionist movement. The Yemeni government “barred” any outside or independent observers from witnessing the siege, which lasted days. However, for the many who fled the conflict and “siege,” they were claiming that the Islamic militants were working with the government against the rebel movement in the North and secessionist movement in the South, and according to one NPR reporter, “this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida.”

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire,” Global Research, 5 October 2010]

The Wikileaks ‘revelations’ further inform and confirm much of this analysis. In regards to the missile strike that killed innocent women and children on Obama’s orders, Wikileaks cables revealed that Yemeni President Saleh “secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.” As Saleh told John Breannan in September of 2009, “I have given you an open door on terrorism. So I am not responsible.” Regarding the December 21 strike that killed the innocent civilians, a cable explained, “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease,” and days later in a meeting with U.S. Central Command head, General David Patraeus, “Saleh admitted lying to his population about the strikes.” He told the General, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”[28]

In regards to Pakistan, while it is important to be highly critical of the validity of the ‘perspectives’ within the cables in regards to Pakistan and the Taliban, since Pakistan is a current and escalating target in the “War [OF] Terror,” there are things to keep in mind: historically, the Pakistani ISI has funded, armed and trained the Taliban, but always with U.S. assistance and support. Thus, we must examine the situation presently and so historically. Wikileaks revealed (as I mentioned previously), that Arab Gulf states help fund the Taliban in Afghanistan, so the common claim that it is Pakistan ‘alone’ is immediately made to be erroneous. Is it possible that Pakistan is still working with the Taliban? Of course. They have historically through their intelligence services, the ISI, and while they have never done it without U.S. support (mostly through the CIA), the ISI still receives most of its outside funding from the CIA.[29] The CIA funding of the ISI, a reality since the late 70s, picked up dramatically following 9/11, the operations of which the ISI has been itself complicit in financing.[30] Thus, the CIA rewarded the financiers of 9/11 by increasing their funds.

The trouble with discounting information that does not fit in with your previously conceived ideas is that it does not allow for evolution or progress in thinking. This should never be done in regards to any subject, yet it is commonly done for all subjects, by official and critical voices alike. With Pakistan, we must understand that while historically it has been a staunch U.S. ally in the region, propping up every government, supporting every coup, American geopolitical ambitions have changed as a result of the changing geopolitical reality of the world. Pakistan has drawn increasingly close to China, which built a major seaport on Pakistan’s coast, giving China access to the Indian Ocean. This is a strategic threat to India and the United States more broadly, which seeks to subdue and control China’s growing influence (while simultaneously attempting to engage in efforts of international integration with China, specifically economically). India and Pakistan are historical enemies, and wars have been fought between them before. India and America are in a strategic alliance, and America helped India with its nuclear program, much to the distaste of the Pakistanis, who drew closer to China. Pakistan occupies an area of the utmost strategic importance: with its neighbours being Afghanistan, China, India and Iran.

American policy has changed to support a civilian government, kept weak and subservient to U.S. interests, while America covertly expands its wars inside Pakistan. This is creating an incredible potential for absolute destabilization and fragmentation, potentially resulting in total civil war. America appears to be undertaking a similar policy in Pakistan that it undertook in fracturing Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s. Only that Pakistan has a population of 170 million people and nuclear weapons. As America expands its destabilization of Pakistan, the risk of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India dramatically increases, as does the risk of destabilization spreading regionally to its neighbours of India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. The American-urged separation of the Pakistani military from official power in Pakistan (as in, it’s not a military dictatorships), was designed to impose a completely U.S. dependent civilian government and isolate an increasingly frustrated and antagonized Pakistani military.

As the Wikileaks cables revealed, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, threatened to depose the Pakistani government in a coup in March of 2009, and he discussed this in meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson. The cables revealed that the Pakistani Army Chief disliked the civilian government, but that they disliked the opposition even more, which was rallying people in the streets.[31] This reveals the intimate nature the U.S. has with the Pakistani military, as it always has. The U.S. did not support this proposal, as it currently favours a weak civilian government, and therefore a strong military dictatorship is not in America’s (or India’s) interest. Thus, there was no coup. Hence, Wikileaks can be used to further inform and vindicate analysis of Pakistan. For those who have been speaking about the destabilization of Pakistan for years, and there have been many, Wikileaks provides more resources to a critical analysis, and suddenly more people around the world might be interested in new ideas and perspectives, as Wikileaks has challenged so many of their previously held beliefs.

The list of examples surfacing from the Wikileaks cables is endless in the amount of additional information it can add in the alternative media’s dissemination of information and analysis. These were but a few examples among many. Make no mistake, this is an opportunity for the spread of truth, not a distraction from it. Treat it accordingly.


Notes

[1]        David E. Sanger, James Glanz and Jo Becker, Around the World, Distress Over Iran, The New York Times, 28 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29iran.htmlin

[2]        Fox, Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran, Fox News, 29 November 2010: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/29/leaked-documents-middle-east-consensus-threat-posed-iran/

[3]        Ross Colvin, “Cut off head of snake” Saudis told U.S. on Iran, Reuters, 29 November 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AS02B20101129

[4]        FT reporters, Iran accuses US over WikiLeaks, The Financial Times, 29 November 2010: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/940105fc-fbd1-11df-b79a-00144feab49a.html?ftcamp=rss#axzz16zUOP500

[5]        Barak Ravid, Netanyahu: Israel will not stand at center of new WikiLeaks report, Ha’aretz, 28 November 2010: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-israel-will-not-stand-at-center-of-new-wikileaks-report-1.327416?localLinksEnabled=false

[6]        Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Unexpectedly, Israel Welcomes WikiLeaks Revelations, IPS News, 1 December 2010: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53731

[7]        JPOST.COM STAFF, Barak: ‘Wikileaks incident has not damaged Israel’, Jerusalem Post, 30 November 2010: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=197357

[8]        Haaretz Service, Senior Turkey official says Israel behind WikiLeaks release, Ha’aretz, 2 December 2010: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/senior-turkey-official-says-israel-behind-wikileaks-release-1.328373

[9]        Craig Murray, Extraordinary Rendition, CraigMurray.org, 11 July 2005: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/07/extraordinary_r_1.html

[10]      Nick Paton Walsh, The envoy who said too much, The Guardian, 15 July 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/jul/15/foreignpolicy.uk

[11]      Craig Murray, Raise A Glass to Wikileaks, CraigMurray.org, 29 November 2010: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/11/raise_a_glass_t.html

[12]      Ibid.

[13]      Ibid.

[14]      Ewen MacAskill, Columbia students told job prospects harmed if they access WikiLeaks cables, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/05/columbia-students-wikileaks-cables

[15]      RICHARD STENGEL, Transcript: TIME Interview with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Time Magazine, 30 November 2010: http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20101201/wl_time/08599203404000

[16]      Ibid.

[17]      Ibid.

[18]      Matthew Creamer, Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year, AdAge, 17 October 2008: http://adage.com/moy2008/article?article_id=131810; Mark Sweney, Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards, The Guardian, 29 June 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[19]      David Leigh, Heather Brooke  and Rob Evans, WikiLeaks cables: ‘Rude’ Prince Andrew shocks US ambassador, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cables-rude-prince-andrew

[20]      US embassy cables: Prince Andrew rails against France, the SFO and the Guardian, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/175722

[21]      Rob Evans and David Leigh, WikiLeaks cables: Prince Andrew demanded special BAE briefing, The Guardian, 30 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/30/prince-andrew-wikileaks-cables

[22]      US embassy cables: Prince Andrew hunts with Arab leaders, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/8446

[23]      Robert Booth, Wikileaks cable: Prince Charles ‘not respected like Queen’, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cable-prince-charles-queen

[24]      Declan Walsh, WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/wikileaks-cables-saudi-terrorist-funding

[25]      SCOTT SHANE and ANDREW W. LEHREN, Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy, The New York Times, 28 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29cables.html

[26]      Simon Tisdall, WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia rated a bigger threat to Iraqi stability than Iran, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/wikileaks-cables-saudi-meddling-iraq

[27]      William Maclean, Saudi royal: Punish WikiLeaks source “vigorously”, Reuters, 5 December 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B41VA20101205

[28]      Robert Booth and Ian Black, WikiLeaks cables: Yemen offered US ‘open door’ to attack al-Qaida on its soil, The Guardian, 3 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-yemen-us-attack-al-qaida

[29]      Greg Miller, CIA pays for support in Pakistan, Los Angeles Times, 15 November 2009: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/15/world/fg-cia-pakistan15

[30]      Andrew Gavin Marshall, 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign, Global Research, 10 September 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20975

[31]      David Batty and Declan Walsh, Pakistan army reacts to WikiLeaks cables with democracy pledge, The Guardian, 4 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/04/pakistan-army-supports-government-wikileaks

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire
Global Research, October 5, 2010

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his least known and ultimately one of his most important speeches ever, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he spoke out against the American war in Vietnam and against American empire in all its political, military and economic forms. In his speech, King endorsed the notion that America “was on the wrong side of a world revolution.” Dr. King explained:

During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”[1]

This is the nature of war of today: during King’s time, the pretext for war was to stop the spread of Communism; today, it’s done in the name of stopping the spread of terrorism. Terror has since time immemorial been a tactic used by states and governments to control populations. Al-Qaeda is no exception, as it was created and continues to largely function as a geopolitical extension of the covert apparatus of American empire. In short, al-Qaeda is an arm of the covert world of American intelligence agencies. In particular, the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], US Special Forces, and multinational mercenary companies such as Blackwater [now Xe Services]. Where they go, al-Qaeda goes; where al-Qaeda goes, they accumulate; where they lay the groundwork, the American empire stands behind.[2]

Yemen is perhaps an excellent example of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution,” as the secret war in Yemen being exacerbated in the name of “fighting al-Qaeda” is in actuality, about the expansion and supremacy of American power in the region. It is about the suppression of natural democratic, local, revolutionary elements throughout the country seeking self-autonomy in changing the nation from its current despotic, authoritarian rule sympathetic to American interests, into a nation of their own choosing. It is about repressing struggles for liberation.

This brings in the involvement of Saudi Arabia, itself interested in ensuring Yemen is a loyal neighbour; so they too must suppress indigenous movements within Yemen seeking autonomy, especially those that are Shi’a Muslims, as the Saudi state is a strict Wahhabist Sunni Muslim regime. Shi’as are primarily represented in the region through the state of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s “natural” enemy; both vying for influence in Iraq and both vying for influence in Yemen. Through this we see another key American imperial aim in this war, that of seeking to stir up a conflict with Iran, perhaps through a proxy-war within Yemen, or perhaps in hopes that the proxy war would expand into a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, naturally drawing in Israel, Egypt and the United States. Finally, we have the strategic location of Yemen to consider, bridging one of the largest oil transport routes in the world, parallel to Somalia and the Horn of Africa (where America is waging another war, again on the “wrong side of a world revolution”).

Just as American geopolitical strategists had chosen to favour Tutsis over Hutus in Central Africa in an effort to expand the American presence and business interests in the region; so too have American strategists chosen to favour a brand of radical Sunni Islam over the Shi’a or moderate Sunnis, and thus they support oppressive Sunni governments (such as Saudi Arabia), and denounce Shi’a governments as oppressive (such as Iran). Not to say that there is no oppression within Iran (there is oppression within all states everywhere in the world, Iran is no exception), but compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran is a bastion of freedom. Al-Qaeda is manifestly a significant facet of the pro-Wahhabist fundamentalist Sunni strategy of American imperialists. If they finance, train and arm the Sunni rebels or send in already-trained, armed and well-funded terrorists (commonly known as ‘al-Qaeda’ – the “database”), then they create a counter to any other domestic opposition or regional Shi’a dominance.

This essay examines the American war in Yemen as a war of empire, as a war against the rising tide of people’s movements and the “global political awakening” that is taking place around the world.

Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Art of Empire

To understand the current conflict in Yemen, as with all conflicts, we must go to history. To simply cast the conflict aside in the light of “fighting al-Qaeda” is a gross misrepresentation. Yemen’s history is deeply entwined with that of Arab nationalist politics in the Middle East, adding to that a balance of imperial power in the region.

The location of modern Yemen is vital in the notion of Yemen’s significance to imperial powers. Millennia ago, a settled civilization was established in the fertile south-west region of Arabia, and was “comprised by the kingdoms of Ma’in, Saba, and Himyar.” These kingdoms “were significant in the broader history of the Middle East, in part because of the long-distance trade links to India and the states at the top of the Red Sea.”[3] When Islam arose:

Yemen became part of the Arab and Islamic worlds and contributed both militarily to the Islamic conquests and culturally to the mediaeval Islamic period. From the tenth century onward, Yemen … ceased to be part of the broader Islamic empires … [and] it was ruled by a succession of dynasties, controlling more or less of to-day’s Yemeni territory. The last of these to control most of to-day’s North and South were the Qasimis, who ruled in the mid-seventeenth century. In the early modern period, Yemen fell under various degrees of external influence and control – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Dutch and the Portuguese yielding to the Ottomans, and in the nineteenth century the Ottomans and the British dividing the country between them.[4]

When the Ottomans left in 1918, following their defeat in World War I, Zeidi Imam took over North Yemen, which was run by the Imams, while South Yemen was controlled by the British.[5] From the late eighteenth century, the British being the dominant power in the Arabian Peninsula, “sought to protect its imperial communications by entering into a series of treaties with the ruling shaykhs of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and by bringing the strategic southern tip of the peninsula under direct British control as the Aden Protectorate [South Yemen].”[6]

Various families competed for power in Arabia, with Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa’ud emerging victorious when in 1924 he exiled the previously imposed leader (supported by the British, but highly unpopular), Sharif Husayn. Britain quickly negotiated an agreement with Ibn Sa’ud in 1927, called the Treaty of Jeddah, which “recognized Ibn Sa’ud as the sovereign king of the Hijaz and sultan of Najd and its dependencies; he, in turn, acknowledged Britain’s special relationships with the coastal rulers [of the Arabian Peninsula] and pledged to respect their domains.” In 1932, the state became known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[7]

Following World War II, the United States became the single greatest superpower and it overtook the colonial possessions of the old European empires that collapsed prior to, during, and following World War II. In the Middle East:

New social and political forces emerged after 1945 to challenge the old elites and demand reform. Among them were pro-Soviet communist parties, but much more important and popular were radical nationalist movements and independent groups of young army officers determined to free their countries from lingering foreign control and chart a new course toward development and greater social justice.[8]

The Imams in North Yemen had begun laying claim to all of “natural Yemen,” directly challenging British rule in the south. In the 1940s, “there began to develop political oppositions, to both the Imams in the North and the British in the South.” The “Free Yemeni” movement in the North staged a failed coup in 1948 to free the North from the authoritarian rule of the Imams.[9]

Egypt saw the most significant upheavals in the immediate post-War years. In 1952, a group of junior military officers in the Egyptian Army orchestrated a bloodless coup in which they overthrew the Egyptian Monarchy and Colonel Abd al-Nasser took power, forming the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The RCC’s primary political rival in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood, so when an assassination attempt on Nasser took place in 1954, the RCC outlawed the Brotherhood, arrested thousands of its members and executed several of its leaders. Nasser was not only the primary progenitor of nationalism in the region, but he was considered the exalted leader of the pan-Arab movement for unity.

Nasser set up a Soviet arms deal in 1955, in which Egypt exchanged cotton for Soviet military equipment, which dealt Nasser an impressive propaganda effect among Arab peoples who saw it as a rebuff of the Anglo-American grip on Egypt. Nasser, meanwhile, had been attempting to construct a dam at Aswan, and sought funds to do so from the World Bank in 1955. The World Bank approved a loan package (designed by the British and Americans), which would have required Egypt to accept particular conditions of the loan. Nasser had not made a decision on the package, when, in July of 1956, America announced it was withdrawing the offer.[10]

On July 26, 1956, days following the loan withdrawal, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, giving Nasser incredible support across the Muslim and Arab worlds, as the Canal, “built with Egyptian labour but operated by a French company and used as the lifeline of the British Empire, had stood as a symbol of Western exploitation.”[11] On October 29, 1956, Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and a UN-sponsored cease-fire was signed by Britain and France on November 6, following the condemnation of the attack by both the USSR and America. The Suez Crisis, an Egyptian military defeat, had become a political success for Nasser.[12]

In Yemen, the struggle of the Free Yemenis in the North waged on against both the rule of the Imams in the North and the British in the South. The Free Yemenis were largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt initially, but changed the rhetoric as the 1950s changed the dynamic of politics in the region, with the rise of Arab nationalism, and thus, “the predominant politics of the oppositions in North and South was nationalistic, involving support not only for the general goal of ‘Arab unity’ but also for ‘Yemeni’ unity.” Following the failed coup in 1948, the opposition in the North was split between intellectuals and groups of officers. In 1962, the officers overthrew the Imams and proclaimed the “Yemen Arab Republic.”[13]

When this took place in the North, opposition spread to the countryside in the South where a guerilla movement developed. Between 1963 and 1967, the guerilla movement became a powerful force competing for power in Aden and the countryside, and was split into two: a Nasser-influenced group and a more radical Marxist “National Liberation Front” (NLF). Nasser inserted himself into the Yemeni civil war in 1962. The deposed Imam of Yemen had escaped to the mountains and rallied tribesmen to his cause, with significant support from powerful regional monarchs (and staunch American allies), Saudi Arabia and Jordan. So the new Yemeni regime turned to Nasser for assistance, and by 1965, close to 70,000 Egyptian troops were in Yemen fighting for the military regime in power. After several years of fighting rebels and traversing harsh terrain, Egypt withdrew in 1968.[14]

During the civil war, the British were still holding onto their protectorate in the South, and were still very much politically bruised by Nasser since the Suez Crisis. Thus, the British “devised a scheme with Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, to aid the anti-Nasser forces in Yemen by supplying them with arms and financial help.” This effort was aided by the CIA, as well as Saudi intelligence and the Iranian SAVAK.[15] Throughout the 1960s, the United States rapidly accelerated a program of military support for Saudi Arabia, which included a $400 million Anglo-American air defense program, military bases, infrastructure, “and a $100 million U.S. program to supply Saudi Arabia with trucks and military transport vehicles.”[16] The aim was to weaken Egypt and Nasser through a civil war in Yemen, with each side using various groups for their own geopolitical ambitions.

In 1967, the National Liberation Front (NLF) came to power in South Yemen, as the British left, and South Yemen became an independent state. Subsequently, North and South Yemen supported opposition movements within each other’s territory. In 1972, the two sides briefly went to war with one another, when the North attempted to conquer the South with Saudi and Libyan support.[17] While Yemen’s civil war had seen Yemen divided among itself, it had also become a regional conflict between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, when the radical Marxist NLF government came to power in South Yemen in 1967, the NLF had “pledged its support for the overthrow of all the traditional monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula”:

The Saudi regime thus faced two hostile Yemens, both of them with radical governments, both of them supported by the Soviet Union, and both of them committed to the establishment of republican forms of rule. [Saudi] King Faysal responded to this danger by mending fences with the northern Yemen Arab Republic and attempting to foment discord between it and the People’s Republic of the south.[18]

The situation Saudi Arabia faced to its south created an impetus for the acceleration and growth of the Saudi armed forces. Thus, in the 1970s, “the Saudis allocated between 35 and 40 percent of their total annual revenues to defense and security expenditures.” In 1970, the defense budget had increased to $2 billion; by 1976 it was $36 billion.[19]

In North Yemen, the radical left fought a guerilla war against the government from 1978 until 1982, with support from South Yemen. This movement in the North “saw itself as the vanguard of a mass movement that would bring about unity through overthrowing the military and tribal forces dominating the country.”[20] The North Yemen government was not centralized, and so lacked a strong measure of legitimacy. During the 1970s, the President “promoted closer ties with the South as part of an attempt to strengthen the central government.”[21] Throughout the 1980s, closer ties between the two nations were sought, and “unity” committees were established, but with little if any success. Not until the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1989-1990 was progress on unity made, when “the internal weaknesses of both regimes led them to agree to enter a provisional unification,” which occurred in May 1990.[22]

Each state thought that they could exploit the process of unification to exert their own authority over the other region. Thus, unity was “not a policy aimed at fusion but an instrument for inter-regime competition.”[23] The North, in particular, “believed it could impose its will on the South,” following the 1993 elections and through the process of misleading negotiations. Eventually, this goal started to be realized, and “Yemeni unity was thus achieved by the successful imposition of the Northern regime’s power on the South, in alliance with both Islamists in the North, and with dissident exiles from the South.”[24]

However, these disagreements and problems “led to a de facto split in the country in early 1994, followed at the end of April by an outright Northern attack on the South. On 7 July 1994 Northern forces entered Aden, thus effectively unifying the country under one regime for the first time in several centuries.”[25]

Operation Scorched Earth

During the 1994 civil war in Yemen, the North was aided in its war against the south by Wahhabist Sunni rebels (practicing the strict branch of Islam common to Saudi Arabia as well as al-Qaeda). Following the war and the success of the North, the government had granted the Wahhabis a stronger voice in the government. This is a major complaint of the Zaydis, a Shi’a branch of Islam. The Zaydis had Saada as their main stronghold in the North, but were driven from power in the 1962 revolution, left to a region that remained undeveloped. Saudi Arabia drew increasingly worried about having a rebellious group of Shi’a Islam fighters (the Houthi) so close to their border, with the potential to stir up groups within Saudi Arabia itself.[26]

In 2004, the Yemen government tried to arrest the leader, Hussein al-Houthi, a Zaydi religious leader, which sparked fighting and the leader was subsequently killed in an air strike, leaving the movement to be run by his brothers. In 2004, between 500-1000 people were killed in the fighting. In 2005, the fighting continued, and an estimated 1,500 people were killed. Fighting broke out again in 2007 between the government and the rebels, in which hundreds of people were killed.[27] In 2008, a Shi’a mosque was bombed during prayer in the Northern stronghold of Saada, with the Yemen government blaming the Shi’a rebels, who both denied responsibility and denounced the attack.[28] This spurred on further clashes between the government and the rebels, so that by late 2008, since the outbreak of fighting in 2004, between 3,700 and 5,500 “militants and civilians” had been killed in the fighting.[29]

In June of 2009, nine foreigners were kidnapped while having a picnic in Saada, “the bodies of three of them, a South Korean teacher and two German nurses were discovered. Five Germans, including three children and a Briton, are still missing and their status is unknown.” It was never determined who was behind the kidnappings and murders, but the government blamed the Houthi rebels. The Houthis in turn blamed drug cartels in the region for the murders. Yemen was faced simultaneously with a secessionist movement in both the North and the South, and was reportedly facing a “greater threat from al-Qaeda,” which had been a “growing concern” of the United States. In July of 2009, Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, “and an accompanying delegation, flew to Yemen and met with [President] Saleh,” at which one of the topics of discussion was “how to better combat terrorism.” In August of 2009, Yemen launched a military offensive against Houthi rebels in the North.[30]

This was Operation Scorched Earth, launched by the Yemen military on August 11, 2009. Troops, tanks and fighter aircraft were used in this Yemeni blitzkrieg against the Houthi and Zaydi in the North, with the President vowing to crack down with an “iron fist.”[31]

This led to a refugee crisis in which, by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[32] In November, the rebels had a border fight with Saudi Arabia, killing a Saudi officer and injuring several others.[33] Saudi Arabian “warplanes and artillery bombarded a Shiite rebel stronghold,” and Saudi Arabia and Yemen were “cooperating and sharing intelligence in the fight.”[34] Moroccan special forces trained in guerilla warfare were accompanying Saudi soldiers, and Morocco cut off relations with Iran, which was being accused of arming the Houthi rebels. Jordan also reportedly sent 2,000 of its own special forces to help Saudi Arabia.[35]

The American Empire in the Gulf of Aden and Africa

What is America’s particular interest in Yemen, and more broadly, in the region that encompasses the Gulf of Aden, over which Yemen rests at the pinnacle? The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, with Yemen positioned directly across the water from Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The Gulf of Aden is a vital transport route for the shipment of Persian Gulf oil, forming “an essential oil transport route between Europe and the Far East.”[36] Clearly, control of the major oil transport routes is a key strategic imperative of any global power; in this case, America. Yemen, situated beneath Saudi Arabia, positions itself as even more significant to American strategic initiatives, in securing their interests in the world’s most oil-rich nation and key US ally. An American-friendly government in Yemen is a Saudi-friendly government.

Another key facet of American imperial strategy in the Gulf of Aden and Yemen regards the American imperial strategy in Africa. In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the main policy-planning group of the US elite, published a Task Force Report on US strategy in Africa called, “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.” In the report, it was stated that:

Africa is becoming more important because of its growing role in supplying the world with oil, gas, and non-fuel minerals. Now supplying the United States with 15 percent of oil imports, Africa’s production may double in the next decade, and its capacity for natural gas exports will grow even more. In the next decade, Africa could be supplying the United States with as much energy as the Middle East.[37]

The report stated that, “The United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa,” identifying India and primarily China as its main competitors “in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent.”[38] In particular, “China presents a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests.”[39]

Further, “To compete more effectively with China, the United States must provide more encouragement and support to well-performing African states, develop innovative means for U.S. companies to compete, give high-level attention to Africa, and engage China on those practices that conflict with U.S. interests.”[40] In analyzing how the War on Terror had been brought to Africa, the report stated:

Post-9/11, the U.S. counterterror approach to Africa has been led by the U.S. military: CENTCOM in the Horn; EUCOM in West, Central, and southern Africa; and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). More quietly, U.S. intelligence cooperation with key states has expanded in parallel with the enlargement of the U.S. military’s role.[41]

As the Guardian reported in June of 2005, “a new ‘scramble for Africa’ is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.” A key facet of this is that “corporations from the US, France, Britain and China are competing to profit from the rulers of often chaotic and corrupt regimes.”[42] In May of 2006, the Washington Post reported that in Somalia, the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”[43]

In December of 2006, Ethiopia, heavily backed and supported by the US, invaded and occupied Somalia, ousting the Islamist government. The US support for the operations was based upon the claims of Somalia being a breeding ground for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. However, this was has now turned into an insurgency. Wired Magazine reported in December of 2008 that, “for several years the U.S. military has fought a covert war in Somalia, using gunships, drones and Special Forces to break up suspected terror networks – and enlisting Ethiopia’s aid in propping up a pro-U.S. ‘transitional’ government.”[44] Again, another case of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution.”

The Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia for a couple years, and in January of 2009, the last Ethiopian troops left the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2007, the UN authorized an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In March of 2007, Ugandan military officials landed in Somalia. Essentially, what this has done is that the more overt Ethiopian occupation of Somalia has been replaced with a UN-mandated African Union occupation of the country, in which Ugandan troops make up the majority. Since Uganda is a proxy military state for the US in the region, the more overt US supported Ethiopian troops have been replaced by a more covert US-supported Ugandan contingent.

Africom

In 2007, Newsweek reported that, “America is quietly expanding its fight against terror on the African front. Two years ago the United States set up the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership with nine countries in central and western Africa. There is no permanent presence, but the hope is to generate support and suppress radicalism by both sharing U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID, including well building and vocational training.” The Pentagon announced the formation of a new military strategic command called “Africom” (Africa Command), which “will integrate existing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian programs into a single strategic vision for Africa, bring more attention to long-ignored American intelligence-gathering and energy concerns on the continent, and elevate African interests to the same level of importance as those of Asia and the Middle East.”[45]

The article gave brief mention to critics, saying that, “not surprisingly, the establishment of a major American base in Africa is inspiring new criticism from European and African critics of U.S. imperial overreach.” Some claim it represents a “militarization of U.S. Africa policy,” which is not a stretch of the imagination, as the article pointed out, “the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there.”[46] The article continued:

The problem is that, increasingly, African leaders appear not to want Africom. They see it as the next phase of the War on Terror—a way to pursue jihadists inside Africa’s weak or failed states, which many U.S. officials have described as breeding grounds for terror. They worry that the flow of arms will overwhelm the flow of aid, and that U.S. counterterrorism will further destabilize a region already prone to civil wars.[47]

Ever since the 2007 US-supported air strikes and invasion of Somalia, piracy has been a significant issue in the waters off of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. In 2009, several major nations, including America, Britain and China, sent navy ships into Somali waters to combat the pirates who were negatively impacting trade through the region. As Johann Hari explained in the Independent:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died…

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving… This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.[48]

In 2009, an American Navy commander suggested that the Somali pirates were in receivership of not only a great amount of sympathy from Yemeni people (while the government would help combat the piracy), but that “private citizens in Yemen are selling weapons, fuel and supplies to Somali pirates. And maritime experts worry that pirates are increasingly able to find refuge along Yemen’s vast coast.” Some Yemeni officials “suggest the extensive international attention to piracy is just a pretext for big powers like the U.S. to gain control of the Gulf of Aden, a waterway through which millions of barrels of oil pass every day.” One member of the Yemeni Parliament suggested that, “Western powers are allowing piracy to continue as a way to serve their own interests.”[49]

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

The current war in Yemen and US support for it is predicated on the basis of aiding Yemen in the fight against al-Qaeda. Said Ali al-Shihri was arrested by the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan, and was promptly taken to Guantanamo Bay. The Americans released him into Saudi custody in 2007, and he “passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In other words, the US handed him over to Saudi Arabia, who enrolled him in a program for ‘former jihadists’, and then he became the second in command in Al-Qaeda in Yemen. As one American intelligence official stated, “he returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.” One Saudi security official had reported (on condition of anonymity) that, “Mr. Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia [in 2008] after finishing the rehabilitation program.”[50]

In June of 2009, US officials were reporting that Al-Qaeda fighters were leaving Pakistan to go fight in Somalia and Yemen. The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House reported that Al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia were “communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions.” The CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said that, “the United States must prevent Al Qaeda from creating a new sanctuary in Yemen or Somalia.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Brookings Institution, a major US policy think tank, “I am very worried about growing safe havens in both Somalia and Yemen, specifically because we have seen Al Qaeda leadership, some leaders, start to flow to Yemen.”[51] So the American national security establishment had refocused its efforts on Yemen. War seemed inevitable.

In the 1980s, millions of Yemeni men had worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sending remittances back home to Yemen. In 1991, in the lead-up to the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia viewed these migrant workers as a potential security threat, so they expelled 800,000 Yemeni workers back to Yemen, and henceforth, Yemeni labour was banned in Saudi Arabia. Saudi financed Wahhabi madrasas sprung up across Yemen, providing a place for the disenchanted and unemployed Yemeni Sunni population to find an outlet for their political and economic dislocation. President Saleh of Yemen had often used Yemeni Wahhabis “to fight his domestic opponents – first the communists, then the Zaidis, and then the H[o]uthis.”[52]

In August of 2009, as the Saudi assault on the Houthi rebels in the North was underway, a Houthi leader and brother to the slain former leader, Yahya al-Houthi, spoke to a Middle Eastern news agency. He was a former Yemeni Member of Parliament, who had fled to Libya, and subsequently sought political asylum in Germany. He told Press TV:

Saudi Arabia wants the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh to remain in power because he is meeting all the Saudi demands especially those related to terrorism. Yemen is now a main party in carrying out terrorist plots sponsored by Saudi Arabia, therefore it is important for Saudi Arabia to keep Ali Abdullah Saleh in power as the overthrow of his regime would lead to many big secrets being revealed. The regime in Saudi Arabia also supports the Wahhabi ideology and is trying to spread this ideology amongst our people in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also suffering from internal problems which it wants to export to Yemen. Many members of al-Qaeda , Yemenis and non Yemenis, are now in Yemen. In recent months [Yemeni President] Ali Abdullah Saleh has taken many recruits of Al-Qaeda who were afraid of falling into the hands of their regimes in countries like Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His plan was to use these fighters from al-Qaeda to battle the Houthis in Saada. A training camp was also erected for these terrorists which still exists today in the area of Waila. These members of al-Qaeda and also Baathist elements are now taking part in the fighting alongside the Yemeni army against the Houthis. The areas of Malahit and Hasana which the Houthis have taken control over were used to transfer weapons from Saudi Arabia to the terrorists. These areas are also where most of the terrorists’ plans are made.[53]

In other words, according to al-Houthi, Yemen (along with Saudi Arabia) are directly supporting the al-Qaeda contingent in Yemen in an effort to sow chaos (thus providing a pretext for the military assault), as well as aiding in the fight against the Houthis. In October, as the fighting raged on, it was reported that the Yemeni governor in the northern province had “signed a deal” with al-Qaeda, in which the government “would provide the militants with arms, budget and other military requirements to assist the Yemeni army against the Shia fighters.”[54] Saudi Arabia remains, as it did throughout the entire history of the movement (since the 1980s), as the principle financier of al-Qaeda.[55]

In fact, in 2009, it was revealed that members of the Saudi royal family directly provide “extensive financial support for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.” The documents were revealed in a court case in which families of victims of the September 11th attacks were seeking to bring legal action against the Saudis for their financial support. The documents were leaked to their lawyers, and the US Justice Department stepped in (on behalf of the Saudis), and “had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.”[56] Clearly, al-Qaeda is not an organization autonomous of Saudi financing.

The Southern Secessionist Movement

Apart from simply the Houthis, the Saleh dictatorship seeks to suppress a Southern Yemeni secessionist movement seeking autonomy and liberation against the illegitimate central government. Since 2007, “southern Yemenis have been staging mass protests calling for reinstatement of southerners dismissed from the civil service and army, higher pensions, a fairer share of the country’s dwindling national wealth, and an end to corruption.” The protests were met with “severe repression by the security services, which seemed to only spur on the demand for secession by the south, where most of the country’s oil is located.”[57] One Yemeni analyst stated that, “If there is one thing that will break the country, it’s going to be the southern secession.” One southern secessionist activist stated that Saleh’s government was using the pretext of al-Qaeda and it’s war on terror “for the liquidation of the southern movement,” and that, “the southern movement is trying to continue the peaceful struggle. But the powers in Yemen have used excessive violence against peaceful protests.” The government, for its part, has attempted to propagate the baseless claim that the southern secessionists have links with al-Qaeda.[58]

Interestingly, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, in a recorded statement, “declared support for the Southern Movement, but Southern leaders have thus far rejected his endorsement.”[59] In an interview with France24, former South Yemen President, Ali Salem al-Beidh, explained that, “We have nothing to do with al Qaeda, we have never been in contact with this organization. Our movement rejects terrorism, which in contrast thrives in the north of the country. President Ali Abdallah Saleh uses al Qaeda to scare westerners and the United States.”[60] Saleh’s government has committed several human rights abuses against the movement in the South, unlawfully and unjustly killing innocents during protests, with the military surrounding peaceful protests and opening fire.[61]

The “rapidly spreading” protest movement in the South, explained the New York Times, “now threatens to turn into a violent insurgency if its demands are not met.” While the leaders of the movement favour peaceful protest, the government’s violent repression has made it so that “their ability to control younger and more violent supporters is fraying.” One southern leader stated, “We demand an independent southern republic, and we have the right to defend ourselves if they continue to kill us and imprison us.” Again refuting claims that the movement is tried to al-Qaeda, the leaders “say that they stand for law, tolerance and democracy, and that it is the north that has a history of using jihadists as proxy warriors.” A major problem arises within the Southern movement in that it remains deeply divided, with no clear singular leadership, drawing from an array of people, from socialists to Islamists, “with wildly different goals and unresolved disputes.”[62]

The Underwear Bomber

On December 25, 2009, a 23-year old Nigerian-born man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, when he tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. This incident, still shrouded in mystery, provided the excuse for American involvement in the conflict in Yemen, as it was reported that Farouk had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the newly-formed Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda group.

However, how Farouk managed to get on the plane, let alone past security with explosives on his person, is still an important question. After all, America knew about Farouk for up to two years prior to the incident, and even had him “on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization.”[63] Britain’s MI5 knew three years prior to the incident that Umar had connections with Islamic extremists in Britain.[64] Umar’s father, a former Nigerian government minister and successful banker, had even warned the US Embassy in Nigeria of his son’s extremist beliefs.[65] Umar even had a US entry visa, and when the State Department stepped in to have his visa revoked, “intelligence officials asked [the State Department] not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.”[66]

Suddenly, there was a flurry of reports from “respected” newspapers (such as the Washington Post and New York Times propaganda rags), that this “failure” of following through with the intelligence that was available on Umar meant that a review of security was needed, both in terms of possibly expanding the “watch lists” and in terms of expanding airport security, and proposing the use of body-scanners. Several politicians and news-rags were also calling for expanded military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.[67]

Interestingly, there were several reports of eyewitnesses on board the plane who contradict the official account of Umar’s attempted terrorist act. An attorney on board the plane said that, “he saw another man come to the assistance of accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when he tried to board the airplane in Amsterdam without a passport.” The attorney and his wife had both seen this incident. The wife, also a lawyer, stated, “My husband noticed two men walk up to the ticket counter lady. The only reason he noticed them is that he thought they were really a mismatched pair.” She said that Umar “wore older, scraggly clothing, but the man who was assisting him, who appeared to be of Indian descent, was dressed in what looked like an expensive suit and shoes.” She recounted that the well-dressed man had told the ticket agent, “We need to get this man on the plane,” and that, “He doesn’t have a passport.” The ticket agent responded that no one was allowed to board the plane without a passport, to which the Indian man replied, “We do this all the time; he’s from Sudan.”[68] Yet no further information has come forward about this mysterious ‘second man’ who helped Umar board the plane. Nevertheless, the propaganda of this attempted terrorist ‘attack’ had taken effect, as people were again afraid of the menace of “Islamic terror” and “al-Qaeda,” and the U.S. got the pretext to justify its intervention in Yemen.

American Imperialism in Yemen

While the ‘Underwear Bomber’ was used as a propaganda vehicle for supporting direct US military intervention in Yemen, covert US military involvement in Yemen had already been underway for some time (as well as British). In 2002, a mere six months following 9/11, President Bush authorized the deployment of 100 US troop to Yemen “to help train that nation’s military to fight terrorists.” The troops “would consist predominantly of Special Forces, but could also include intelligence experts and other specialists. The main target would be Al Qaeda fighters who are hiding in Yemen.”[69] In September of 2002, it was reported that the United States was deploying Special Forces and CIA agents into the Horn of Africa in an effort to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen, and “800 US special forces have been moved to Djibouti, which faces Yemen.”[70] In November of 2002, a CIA Predator drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAV) launched an attack on an al-Qaeda target within Yemen, killing six suspected al-Qaeda members, one of whom was an American citizen.[71]

Prior to the ‘Underwear Bomber’ (as he has come to be known), the conflict in Yemen was primarily viewed as a civil war, and then with the participation of Saudi Arabia, as a regional Arab conflict. In September of 2009, it was reported that while the Yemeni government attempted to subdue a rebel Shi’a army in the north (Houthi), a refugee crisis was emerging, and a wider conflict was erupting, which could “suck the US into another sensitive conflict zone.” Many observed that if the US manages to stay out of the war, “the conflict might be subsumed in a regional war by proxy,” as in, through Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, further, was accusing Iran of supporting the Shi’a rebels in northern Yemen, with both money and arms, but Saudi Arabia “has produced no hard evidence.” From the time the Saudi assault on northern Yemen began in August of 2009, between 25,000 and 100,000 Yemeni refugees were displaced. One top official with the World Food Program (WFP) stated that, “We’re not confronted with a humanitarian crisis, it’s becoming a humanitarian tragedy.”[72]

A member of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said, “that the United States might be forced to intervene as the security situation worsened to prevent Yemen becoming a ‘failed state’.” Further, “the country has been used as an al-Qaeda base before, and its strategic location between the oil supply routes of the Gulf and the piracy haven of Somalia means its stability is regarded as a key western interest.” Thus, said the ICG analyst, “You might well see American advisers, maybe even some special troops, go in for special operations.” President Obama declared in September of 2009 that, “the security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States.”[73]

In November of 2009, it was reported that a “delegation of military officers from Yemen arrived in the United States recently” for training, of which the purpose “was to familiarize the Yemeni military officers with formal training programs currently in use by the United States Marine Corps. Support to Yemeni military officer training is likely to increase the effectiveness of [Yemen’s] military force.”[74] On December 13, 2009, (less than two weeks prior to the “Underwear Bomber” incident), it was reported that, “US special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda.”[75]

It would appear, then, that the “Underwear Bomber” incident arrived just in time for the United States to have an excuse to expand its war in the region. Without the propagandized attempted terrorist attack, the American public would not readily accept America’s entry into yet another war. Questions might be asked about the nature of the war, such as the US supporting the government of Yemen in its suppression and oppression of its own people and the autonomous movements developing within Yemen seeking change. Whereas with a terrorist attack (or attempted, rather), and the convenient link to al-Qaeda, which suddenly was reported to be heavily represented in Yemen, Americans see their involvement in Yemen as a war against al-Qaeda, and a necessary one at that.

Two days after the “Underwear Bomber” incident took place, the New York Times reported that, “in the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In 2008, “the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country,” and simultaneously, “some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.” Further:

The Pentagon is spending more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and using teams of Special Forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels.[76]

It was even reported that the US had been providing both intelligence and “fire power” to Yemen in its air strikes against “suspected al-Qaeda targets” throughout December, prior to the “Underwear Bomber.”[77] The New York Times did its part to propagandize the al-Qaeda issue by stating that, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has rapidly evolved into an expanding and ambitious regional terrorist network thanks in part to a weakened, impoverished and distracted Yemeni government.”[78] Naturally, the British were not far behind in supporting an imperialist campaign to crush indigenous movements for autonomy, directed against western-supported dictators. After all, the British have been doing this for centuries. Roughly one week following the attempted Detroit plane bomber story broke, it was reported that the UK sent counter-terrorist forces to Yemen, where they will train the Yemeni military “and will assist in planning operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The British media referred to Yemen as “the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden,” and had revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that:

Even before the attack, Britain quietly sent a military unit, believed to be about 30-strong and include members of the SAS, to train and mentor Yemeni forces in surveillance and strike operations, intelligence gathering, hostage rescue and interrogation techniques. It is understood that the detachment is being assisted by members of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.[79]

There further seems to be an effort to not only use al-Qaeda to advance US interests in the region, but also to draw a link to Iran, so as to further demonize Iran and even draw it into a regional war.

Pushing for a Proxy War With Iran

Government officials in Yemen had been declaring that the greatest threat to Yemen’s security comes not from al-Qaeda, but Iran, as they blame Iran “for fermenting the Shia rebellion,” and the chairman of Yemen’s national security agency stated that, “there are indeed signs, proof of Iranian interference.” While these allegations are made without any proof, “Western diplomats claim it is probable that Iran is providing money or materiel to the group, as it has to Hizbollah in Lebanon.”[80]

In November of 2009, when Saudi Arabia had stepped up its military campaign in Yemen, the New York Times reported that, “the border skirmish could lead to the realization of Saudi Arabia’s worst fear: a proxy conflict with its archrival, Iran, on its doorstep.” Quoting a Yemeni professor as saying that the Iran link to the Houthis was “a myth,” the Saudi assault against the Shi’a group could provoke Iran to “turn myth into reality”:

A battle between the Arab world’s leading Sunni power and Shiite Iran, even at one remove, could significantly elevate sectarian tensions across the region. Iran gained tremendous leverage over the Israeli-Palestinian problem by supporting the militant groups Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Hamas, in Gaza. Helping the Houthis, another guerrilla group with great staying power, could give them a way to put pressure on Saudi Arabia.[81]

However, even as the New York Times acknowledged, the idea that the Houthis are more religiously aligned to Iran than the Arab Gulf nations is a misnomer, as the Houthi religion of Zaydism “is doctrinally closer to Sunnism than to mainstream Shiism.”[82] However, facts take a back seat to war propaganda.

On December 18, 2009, roughly one week before the “Underwear Bomber,” Time Magazine ran an article in which they reported on the claims of Yemen and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis “are receiving their funding, weapons and training from Iran in a bid to destabilize the region.” While acknowledging that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement, the Time article was entitled, “Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble?” and the last sentence in the article wrote, “As for Iran — the only party that doesn’t seem to have any real involvement just yet — the time may soon be ripe to jump in.”[83] The Washington Post carried an article entitled, “Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’,” yet only in the final paragraph of the article did they report, “Yemen has accused Iran of funneling arms and providing financial backing to the rebels, but the Yemeni government has not provided evidence to support the assertions. The rebels have insisted that they receive no support from Iran or any other foreign powers.”[84]

Saudi and Yemeni media and government propaganda presented a view that Iran was extensively involved in the internal conflict in Yemen. Yemen had seized an Iranian ship which it claimed was transporting weapons to Houthi rebels, while Saudi papers reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was training the Houthi rebels. Another Saudi media outlet “reported that a dozen Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon were killed during battles in October,” and Saudi Arabia placed blame for the conflict on Iran, saying that “the insurgents are working for Tehran and [are] wanting to take their front to the Saudi border.”[85]

While there has been no actual evidence of Iranian involvement put forward, the situation could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the Saudis and Yemenis, in the sense that the more they accuse Iran of involvement, the more they demonize and publicly lambaste Iran, the more likely it is that Iran will be drawn into the conflict. If they are already the target of a campaign aimed at blaming their alleged involvement for creating the crisis, what do they have to lose from entering the conflict? Thus, Yemen could “possibly become a battleground for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Regardless of whether or not the Iranians are or will be physically involved in the conflict, it has resulted in a war of rhetoric between both Saudi Arabia and Iran, further inflaming tensions between the two nations.[86]

In January of 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of US Forces in the Middle East, said that, “the domestic conflict in Yemen could become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” He explained that, “it is not a proxy war now, but has the potential to become one, and there may already have been some movement in that direction.”[87]

There was even a pathetic attempt on the part of the Washington Times to link Iran to al-Qaeda.[88] Obviously, the Washington Times seemed to be blithely unaware of the fact that Iran is a Shi’a dominated state, which is religiously and ideologically opposed to al-Qaeda, which practices a strict Wahhabist Sunni brand of Islam, as propagated and practiced by Saudi Arabia, a major regional antagonist of Iran’s. To claim that there would be a link between Iran and al-Qaeda is simply to proclaim one’s own ignorance. No wonder then, that Senator John McCain, while on the campaign trail for President in 2008, so often ‘proclaimed his ignorance’ by several times making the claim that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda.[89]

Could the United States be seeking to foment a wider war in the region? Could the civil war in Yemen be expanded into a proxy-war against Iran? Well, the United States (with the participation of several other NATO partners) fueled the proxy war in the last civil war, where the target was Nasserist Egypt. Could the US simply be employing the same strategy today as they were then, with simply a change of target? To understand this answer, we must look to the direct role played by the United States in the Yemeni civil war.

America Wages War on Yemen

Over a week prior to the “underwear bomber” fiasco, on December 16, 2009, the United States reportedly “perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplane,” according to the Houthi fighters. Over 120 people were reported to have been killed in the US bombing.[90] The Houthi rebels have even reported that U.S. fighter jets “have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa’ada.”[91]

On December 21, 2009, days before the “underwear bomber” pretext, ABC news reported that the US had begun launching cruise missile attacks in Yemen under the authorization of President Obama, and the French media reported on one such strike having massacred “49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women.” While the air strikes were reportedly undertaken to target al-Qaeda in Yemen, they took place in the south near where some of the leaders of the secessionist movement were reportedly living. These raids had been increasingly taking place, and as the New York Times reported, “the United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids.”[92]

Over 2009, the Pentagon supplied the Yemeni military with $70 million, effectively subsidizing their military (as they do with a plethora of nations worldwide, most notably Colombia, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), in order for Yemen’s military to be more able to crush the secessionist uprising in the South, the rebels in the North, and that pesky al-Qaeda which rears its head in any nation America seeks to conduct military operations in. As Newsweek reported in late December of 2009:

Over the past year U.S. and Yemeni interests have increasingly begun to align as Al Qaeda’s presence in the country has grown. “We started seeing a lot of foreign fighters coming in—Saudis, Pakistanis,” says one Yemeni diplomatic source. Many of those have arrived (or returned) from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. As they have, the networks of militants have begun to launch quiet, pinpoint strikes on local Yemeni intelligence chiefs—six or seven in the past several months alone. The government’s retaliatory raids were launched partly in response to those strikes… Government raids are almost certainly the products of close cooperation with the U.S.—perhaps carried out by CIA-operated Predator drones launched from nearby Djibouti. A. A. Al-Eryani, a former Yemeni prime minister who advises the current president, says that there is “complete intelligence cooperation” with the U.S. on counterterrorism.[93]

In other words, as the US brought in key Pakistani and Saudi assets (who themselves make up both the financial and operational arms of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda militants began to emerge and launch strikes against Yemen. Suddenly, then, a pretext for US military involvement in the nation is delivered in the guise of fighting the “War on Terror.” Just as during the Cold War, the threat of ‘Communism’ was used to rally support for suppressing and waging war against national liberation movements all across the world, so now these movements are suppressed and waged war against under the guise of “fighting terror.” An odd ‘irony’ of history, then, that in order to “fight terror,” the West simply spreads it.

On December 29th, 2009, the Australian reported that, “the Americans have quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the al-Qa’ida terror network in Yemen, to combat a new generation of militants keen on transforming the country into a launching pad for jihad against the US, its Arab allies and Israel.” Besides the blatant propagandizing in the opening sentence, the first part reveals the fact of a new ‘secret war’ that America is waging. The article explained that a year previous, “CIA sent many of its top field operatives with counter-terrorism experience to the country, while some of the most secretive US special operations commandos began training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics.”[94]

As US Senator Joe Lieberman proclaimed, “Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” Barbara Bodine, the former US Ambassador to Yemen, said that, “I think it would be a major mistake to turn this into a third front, if Iraq and Afghanistan are somehow front number one and number two.” She explained, “If we try to deal with this as an American security problem and dealt with by American military, we risk exacerbating the problem.” She astutely observed the nature of occupational forces when she warned, “If we go in and make this our war … it is suddenly going to become a war against us and we will lose it.”[95]

The United States took it upon itself to “press” the Yemeni government – a hard-line oppressive dictatorship – to “toughen its approach.”[96] In February of 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved “more than doubling U.S. funding to train and equip Yemeni security forces to combat al Qaeda” at a figure of $150 million, up from $67 million the previous year. However, “the sum does not include covert U.S. assistance for Yemen, which has quietly increased in recent months.” U.S. CIA Director Leon Panetta, however, raised doubts as to whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al-Qaeda.[97] Covertly, the United States had increased ‘assistance’ to Yemen through U.S. Special Forces, the CIA and the National Security Agency, “sharing satellite and surveillance imagery, intercepted communications and other sensitive information to help Yemen pinpoint strikes against al Qaeda targets,”[98] or at least what are said to be al-Qaeda targets, but usually end up as civilian casualties.

In April of 2010, it was announced that the Pentagon had implemented plans to “boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen’s special operations forces to lead an offensive targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” AQAP, providing roughly $34 million in “tactical assistance” to Yemen’s special forces. A further $38 million will provide Yemen with military transport aircraft.[99]

As the United States has dramatically increased CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent civilians,[100] in May of 2010, the United States announced that it had deployed drones to Yemen to target al-Qaeda.[101] In June of 2010, it was leaked that the U.S. “secret war” has expanded globally, as “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60” at the beginning of 2009. As the Washington Post reported:

In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia… Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group… Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed “things that the previous administration did not.”

Special Operations commanders have also become a far more regular presence at the White House than they were under George W. Bush’s administration, when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We have a lot more access,” a second military official said. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

… Bush-era clashes between the Defense and State departments over Special Operations deployments have all but ceased. Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saw them as an independent force, approving in some countries Special Operations intelligence-gathering missions that were so secret that the U.S. ambassador was not told they were underway. But the close relationship between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is said to have smoothed out the process… In every place, Special Operations forces activities are coordinated with the U.S. ambassador and are under the operational control of the four-star regional commander.[102]

The British are also involved in supporting the conflict in Yemen. In July of 2010, the head of Yemen’s Special Forces met with a British military delegation, in which “aspects of bilateral military cooperation between Yemen and the UK were discussed in addition to training, and ways to benefit from British military expertise to bolster the military and security capabilities of Yemen’s armed forces.”[103]

In May of 2010, an air strike took place, which was reported to have killed al-Qaeda militants, in “a secret mission by the U.S. military.” However, “the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk al-Qaida members into giving up their fight.”[104] As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “that would be the equivalent of some foreign military force killing the lieutenant governor of an American state in an air strike.” Further, the “U.S. attacks have had no apparent impact on al-Qaida or on anyone else in Yemen, apart from its civilian population who have taken casualties in badly targeted attacks.” Commenting on the fact that US Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen, the reporter asks some important questions:

Why is Mr. Saleh our ally? Why are we killing innocent civilians in the back country of Yemen? Why are we stirring up the kind of trouble that can end up trashing Yemen the way we have trashed Iraq and Afghanistan? Does anyone believe for one minute that we are any safer for all that we are doing in those 12 countries — probably more — than we would be if we had normal, mutually respectful, mutually helpful relations with them?[105]

The questions are surprising to see being asked in the American media, as the rest of the corporate controlled media outlets simply report (without questioning) the government line, and explain that the U.S. has decided to expand the drone attacks in Yemen, which “would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan,” and that the Obama “administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen,” without questioning who they are killing. As Glenn Greenwald of Salon Magazine pointed out:

There is anti-Americanism and radicalism in Yemen; therefore, to solve that problem, we’re going to bomb them more with flying killer robots, because nothing helps reduce anti-American sentiments like slaughtering civilians and dropping cluster bombs from the sky… And it’s therefore unsurprising that the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate [Obama] is rapidly becoming as disliked in the Muslim world as the prior U.S. President:  what looks to five Norwegians sitting in Oslo to be a Man of Peace looks much different in the region where his bombs are falling, his hit squads deploying, his war commitments expanding, and his sky robots multiplying.[106]

In September of 2010, it was reported that the Pentagon was considering expanding Yemen’s military ‘assistance’ to $1.2 billion over the next five years, but don’t worry, “the US is also providing significant development and humanitarian assistance” to Yemen.[107]

The ‘Cleansing’ of a Liberation Movement

In September 2010, while the Obama administration’s top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for talks with President Saleh, Yemeni security forces “laid siege” to a town in the South, Hawta, “where several dozen Qaeda militants were said to be holed up,” which led to thousands of civilians being forced to flee, while the military, as the New York Times reported, “was intermittently shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on the jihadists from attack helicopters.” As the article explained:

Hawta, in southern Yemen’s mountainous Shabwa Province, is at the heart of the remote area east and south of the capital where Al Qaeda’s regional arm has sought sanctuary. It is also just to the north of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline — a crucial resource in a country that is rapidly running out of oil and water — and Yemeni officials have voiced concern about the possibility that jihadists could rupture the line.[108]

In other words, the Yemeni government, under intense pressure and support from the United States, is laying siege to a town in the South – in the midst of a massive and growing secessionist movement – which represents the greatest threat to the stability of the staunch U.S.-ally, and which also happens to be home to natural gas reserves. But we are told that the siege is a fight against ‘al-Qaeda’. Meanwhile, civilians were being killed, and one fleeing family said that, “the troops did not spare any one from their fire over the past two days.”[109] The reality of what is going on in the village is “hard to know,” as NPR points out, “because the government is banning any independent observers from going in there.” As a reporter with NPR explained:

In fact, what the locals are saying is that this is a blood feud against the government. And that, in fact, these are local or armed tribesmen [i.e., Islamist forces such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP] that are sort of fighting with the government. And that this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida… The government says about 2,000 people have fled. But actually, the Yemen Red Crescent and other aid groups that have had some contact with the people on the ground there put the numbers much higher. They say about 12,000. And that would be about three-quarters of the town emptying out and running away.

And this has created a real problem, because this is a very poor area. And so the other villages in the area cannot really accommodate or absorb these refugees. And so, you have a lot of people, now, living outdoors without any water, food or tents or any sort of medical, ’cause one can assume that there are probably injuries, if not deaths. So it’s become a real humanitarian crisis.[110]

Yemen’s government is not new to media censorship and obfuscation, as there have been “dozens of extralegal abductions, politicised trials, illegal confiscations, writing bans, and censorship over the years. What’s particularly alarming is a recent legislative push to erect an elaborate legal facade to obscure repressive tactics.” The government is also attempting to pass “a repressive bill designed to regulate television, radio and online media. If passed, these changes would significantly reduce an already narrow margin for free expression.” The government has even arrested, tortured and tried critical journalists as “supporting al-Qaeda” with absolutely no evidence.[111]

The “Friends” of Yemen: ‘Democratic Imperialism’ and NGOs as Modern Missionaries

In January of 2010, a group of nations and organizations met in London to form the “Friends of Yemen,” which includes the United States, U.K., 20 other countries, as well as the UN, EU, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, World Bank and IMF. The purpose of the group was to coordinate foreign aid to Yemen, so that it coincides with military, economic and civil assistance aid programs, including forcing Yemen to cooperate with the conditions set by the IMF in order to receive foreign aid. The overall aid would be used to combat what the ‘Friends’ refer to as “appalling indicators,” which include “a growing population, dwindling oil reserves, water shortages and political instability as the government battles Houthi insurgents in the north and secessionists in the south.”[112]

In September of 2010, the Friends of Yemen met in New York to organize a plan for Yemen’s foreign aid. As part of the package, Yemen has been forced to accept an IMF plan to increase taxes by 10% and to eliminate fuel subsidies.[113] At the meeting in New York, the UN reported that there are “168,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, as well as 304,000 Yemeni civilians who continue to be displaced by the seven-month conflict between government forces and Houthis rebels which ended with a shaky truce in February.”[114] The ‘Friends’ further encouraged “progress in the negotiations towards Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organisation, which they hoped would be concluded by the end of 2010,” and while acknowledging that the proposed economic reforms would have an “adverse impact on the poor,” the Friends thus “committed to provide additional support for social protection,” as well as supporting the formation of national multi-party elections.[115]

At the ‘Friends’ meeting, the United States vowed to commit $67 million for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “to work in partnership with communities to directly address local needs.  This includes health, education, and water projects; mobile health and veterinary clinics; and support for increasing the capacity of local governments to deliver essential services.” Further plans include funneling millions of dollars through NGOs aimed at providing social services and ‘poverty alleviation’ programs.[116]

While sounding very pleasant and helpful, we must place the concept of promoting ‘democratization’ and the spread of NGOs in their proper geopolitical context. The fact that NGOs, ‘democratization’, economic programs under the direction of the IMF, and military assistance from the West are taking place at the same time is very significant, and not as contradictory as it might seem.

In Africa, the IMF and World Bank’s “Structural Adjustment Programs” that deconstructed society to service illegitimate debts to Western banks had the effect of spreading poverty and effectively induced “social genocide.” The national leaders became very rich, creating a tiny elite which was subservient to Western imperial interests. Western nations would arm the nation and use it as a proxy force in the region when necessary or help it in the oppression of its own people, in order to ensure the stability of their interests. The people of these various nations would protest, demonstrate, riot and rebel, so much so that between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF ‘austerity measures’ in 39 countries around the world.[117] Governments, in response, would generally resort to violence to suppress these demonstrations, with “strikes declared illegal, universities were closed, and trade unions, student organizations, popular organizations and political parties also became the target of repressive legislation or actions.”[118] This essentially created a “crisis of legitimacy,” where the economic ‘reforms’ were seen as destructive, where the political process was seen as corrupt, where the state oppressed and foreigners profited, while the people suffered. It didn’t help the situation that it was often authoritarian governments introducing these economic reforms.[119]

In 1989, the World Bank concluded that the reason for the failure of ‘structural adjustment’ across Africa was not due to the destructive poverty-inducing nature of the reforms, but was do to the corrupt governments implementing them. Thus, it was a “crisis of governance.”[120] The solution, in this sense, was to promote ‘democratization’, as in, a neoliberal concept of democracy. Africa had been experiencing a growth of democratic movements around the continent during the time of Structural Adjustment, which led the IFIs (International Financial Institutions) and Western nations to conclude that democratization and economic liberalization go hand-in-hand. In short, Structural Adjustment is ‘inherently’ democratic. The failure of this analysis was quite obvious: the pro-democracy movements that had arisen across Africa “reflect, to a significant extent, a popular reaction against the socially painful effects of structural adjustment.”[121]

The ‘democratization’ movement is largely an effort to maintain ‘stability’ in the hegemony of the IMF/World Bank and Western interests over Africa and other regions, as instead of rotating from one coup to another, there is a parliamentary democracy where you go from one party to another (who all accept the dominance of the West and the ‘advice’ of the IFIs), which produces a more ‘stable’ environment for Western interests, as it also has the effect of pacifying popular opposition under the guise of promoting democratic accountability. However, these are not true democracies (nor are those in the West), where you simply vote between competing factions of elites who are collectively co-opted by the same international financial elites. They impose the institutions of democracy (legislatures, political parties, judiciaries) “without combining political democracy and social reform.” Thus, these democracies are essentially stillborn (dead before they even exited), as “formal democracy without social reform increases economic inequality and thereby intensifies unequal distribution of power in society.”[122] As Noam Chomsky has argued, “the guardians of world order have sought to establish democracy in one sense of the term, while blocking it in a different sense.” He argued that “power holders use democracy as justification for their power and as an ideological instrument for keeping the public quiescent and out of decision-making processes.”[123]

Alison Ayers analyzes ‘democratization’ as a multi-faceted approach in Africa, entailing: multiparty elections, constitutionalism, the rule of law, a “particular conception of human rights,” ‘good governance’, and an “independent civil society.”[124] Multiparty elections comprise an occasional election in which people choose between competing factions of elites, while constitutionalism implies establishing a “set of rules securing property rights, governing civil and commercial behaviour, and limiting the power of the state.”[125] In promoting ‘multiparty systems’, “the dominant agents of the democratization project have established a veritable ‘elections industry’ comprising voter and civic education campaigns, party-building activities, and electoral assistance and monitoring.”[126] The “engineering of civil society” has taken on an explicitly neo-liberal form, in which it focuses on the “liberation of civil society” from the state, and of which NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have come to play a decisive role. Western aid agencies heavily finance international and local NGOs (thus often negating the notion that they are non-governmental), with the World Bank exponentially increasing its support of NGOs (often through governments).[127]

In fact, NGOs have come to play a pivotal role in the modern imperial project, as they have been co-opted into a program of “welfare provision, a social initiative that could be more accurately described as a programme of social control.”[128] The NGOs were used to respond to the social upheaval brought about by the age of ‘Structural Adjustment’, to provide a degree of social services that were formerly provided by the state. Thus, as the spread of Structural Adjustment increased throughout Africa, so too did the spread of Western NGOs. Western nations heavily support these supposed non-governmental organizations, with the U.S. transferring nearly 40 percent of its aid through NGOs.[129] They have become an essential aspect of the ‘development’ agenda in Africa, itself based upon a colonial mindset. Whereas in the formal colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Africans were considered “uncivilized,” and so colonialism in Africa was not about oppression and economic exploitation, but was rather a ‘civilizing mission.’ Today, Africa is not ‘uncivilized’ but rather, ‘undeveloped’, and so, just as the missionaries of the formal colonial period played a role in ‘civilizing’ Africa – in the vision of the West (akin to how God created man in ‘his own image’) – the NGOs of the new imperial era have come to Africa in a ‘developing mission’. The ‘development’ paradigm had the effect of sterilizing popular opposition, as it framed the problem in Africa not as one of ‘emancipation’ (from colonial and oppressive powers), but as a problem of ‘poverty’ and ‘basic needs’.[130] The role of NGOs in ‘development’:

Represents a continuity of the work of their precursors, the missionaries and voluntary organizations that cooperate in Europe’s colonization and control of Africa. Today their work contributes marginally to the relief of poverty, but significantly to undermining the struggle of African people to emancipate themselves from economic, social and political oppression.[131]

There are further concerns to take into account in regards to ‘democratization’ and ‘aid’ through NGOs, not simply in the establishment of a system of lobotomizing resistance – preventing emancipation – and promoting the legitimization of the status quo powers (by treating the symptoms of poverty and oppression rather than the causes), but NGOs and ‘democratization’ often play a very covert role in imperialism, particularly through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as well as a host of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (which happen to be funded by the government), such as the National Endowment for Democracy. These organizations are effectively able to organize opposition to a national ruler, create a parallel media system, provide activist training and funding to covertly orchestrate a “soft power” coup, in which it is seen as a “democratic revolution” or a “peaceful revolution,” often following contested elections. This is done to create the illusion that these are popular people’s movements elevating leaders of “change”, but which simply are leaders that are subservient to Western imperial interests. Often, the CIA itself operates through such agencies covertly.

In South Vietnam for example, USAID provided cover for the CIA so extensively, “that the two became almost synonymous.”[132] In the 1980s, during the largest CIA covert operation in history, funding the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union, the CIA and USAID worked very closely, coordinating their efforts, as “the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.” The textbooks, made in America at the University of Nebraska with tens of millions of dollars of financing from USAID, taught children “to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines,” and while USAID dropped funding for the program in 1994, the books continued in circulation, even after the Taliban came to power in 1996, and “private humanitarian groups paid for continued re-printings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops.”[133] The entire program was coordinated with the CIA.[134]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is another particularly covert imperial force, a NGO that gets all it’s funding from the US government, and about which U.S. Congressman Ron Paul explained eloquently:

The misnamed National Endowment for Democracy is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED does in foreign countries … would be rightly illegal in the United States. The NED injects ‘soft money’ into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favor of one party or the other.

Imagine what a couple of hundred thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’ How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?[135]

The NED and a host of other NGOs (backed by government funding), as well as private foundations, have implemented a “soft power” approach to implementing “democratic regime change” in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, often aimed at replacing former Western puppet leaders with new puppet leaders to better promote imperial interests in the nations where they take place. This has occurred in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and many other countries.[136] An effort was undertaken to impose a similar “democratic regime change” with the CIA funneling $400 million for implementing this “soft power” strategy in Iran, resulting in the Iranian elections protests in the summer of 2009. While the strategy failed in its aims of “regime change” it mounted an incredibly successful international propaganda campaign, so much so that the world was lashing out against Iran for what the West claimed were fraudulent elections (but turned out to be free and fair elections), and at the same time, the Western media failed to cover a successful military coup in Honduras, in which the democratically elected President was kidnapped and sent to a foreign country, while the subsequent dictatorship brutally repressed people’s protests and demonstrations, with the new regime all the while being supported by the United States.[137]

From this we can see that the “Friends of Yemen” promoting democratization and “good governance” in Yemen serves Western imperial ambitions. In the very least, it is designed to stifle and ultimately lobotomize organic, indigenous liberation, self-determination, and autonomy movements, while the same Western nations militarily arm and support the oppressive government in its repression of these people. It seems that for the time being, America has chosen to support the current Yemeni dictatorship, propping it up to crush its own people and their struggles for liberation. Simultaneously, America and the West are preparing themselves for a long-term strategy of “democratization,” in which they may have to replace Saleh and the current regime with a new client regime to secure American interests and hegemony in the region.

In this context we may view the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a program of the U.S. State Department aimed at supporting “reforms” in the Middle East and North Africa, in which they support international and local NGOs, educational institutions, local governments and private businesses to implement projects designed to directly engage and invest in the people of the region. MEPI has completed roughly 28 programs in Yemen alone, with roughly seven grants ongoing, aimed at organizing journalists, ‘human rights’ activists, improving the Parliamentary process, improving political participation, promoting women’s ‘empowerment’, and “raising democratic awareness.”[138]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is also active in Yemen, funding and running programs aimed at promoting “civic and human rights awareness,” facilitating “the free flow of independent news information to Yemenis on issues related to social, political, and economic growth of the country and to build the capacity of journalists to effectively monitor and report on human rights issues,” as well as identifying “the political needs and concerns of women, and to push political parties to adopt women’s issues in their party platforms.” One program of the NED includes nearly $200,000 of funding for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). According to their website, CIPE “strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy,” and is also an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[139] The $184,000 grant to CIPE from the NED is to “facilitate access to information and analysis about economic reform,” which will include producing “thirty 20-30 minute radio programs on economic reform in Yemen and sponsor economic reform pages in two independent newspapers,” in order to “empower Yemenis to participate in the democratic and economic reform process.”[140] However, considering the group promotes “private enterprise” and is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “information and analysis” about economic reform is more likely to be misinformation and propaganda. In total, the NED is operating roughly 13 programs in Yemen at the moment.[141]

USAID’s programs in Yemen aim at taking the “missionary position” in addressing some of the symptoms of conflict, deprivation, disenfranchisement, and oppression, without allowing the people to seek emancipation and liberation. These programs includes a “new three-year Responsive Governance Project [which] aims to strengthen government institutions, support reforms including decentralization, and improve the delivery of public services while encouraging more citizen participation in the political process,” as well as “the Community Livelihoods Project that is focusing on improving agriculture and increasing employment opportunities in highly vulnerable communities, especially for youth.” Other programs aim at promoting education, health care, and ‘peace and security.’[142]

So, while the U.S. government uses the IMF to wreck the economy of Yemen, spreading poverty and dismantling health care, social services and education; the U.S. simultaneously funds and arms the Yemeni dictatorship to repress the people rising up against their economic, social and political conditions; yet, again simultaneously, the United States – through USAID and various other “democratization” programs – aims to alleviate some of the social repercussions to maintain stability of their interests. Imperialism has an economic facet (the IMF), a political facet (military-intelligence support), and a social facet (NGOs and ‘democratization’).

Thus we also see the significance in that while the CIA expands its operations in Yemen (in support of the dictatorship), the current CIA Director holds doubts about “whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al Qaeda, citing internal unrest that threatens to destabilize the government and break up the country, along with growing anti-American sentiment.”[143] This is made all the more interesting to take into account that the CIA Director announced that the CIA will be expanding its use of under-cover assets through a variety of unofficial organizations – such as corporations or other organizations.[144]

War, Empire, and “Perception Management”: Propaganda Creates ‘Cultural Schizophrenia’

So who exactly is the US supporting in Yemen? Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power since 1978, first ruling North Yemen, and subsequently ruling all of Yemen. Saleh has managed to remain the ruler of a ‘united’ Yemen by “clamping down on the press, concentrating military and economic power in the hands of friends and family and winning elections by suspiciously high margins.” Time Magazine reported that Saleh described ruling Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Saleh, however, can hardly act as if he rules a ‘united’ Yemen, when “two-thirds of the country is in the hands of either separatist groups or local tribes.” Further:

Yemen’s most volatile regions are among those hardest hit by drought and government neglect — are at the heart of most of those conflicts, especially the war between the government and Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, that is being waged in the northern province of Sa’ada.[145]

The significance of this piece of information, located in the Time article, which was otherwise propagandistic of the “fight against al-Qaeda,” is that it acknowledges that the key to Yemen’s issues today is the legitimacy of the central government’s rule over the people of Yemen. The essential issue is that this is about people’s rights to govern themselves, to not be oppressed, not be murdered, nor economically devoured by international capital and national industrial interests. Our nations and our media call these people “terrorists”; our intelligence agencies sponsor ‘terrorists’ in these nations, who kill these people, and then we use that as an excuse to send in the military to kill more of these people. We support an illegitimate government, an oppressive and brutal dictator who vowed to crack down with an “iron fist” in August of 2009. His subsequent “iron fist” created “a humanitarian tragedy,” where by September over 25,000 people had become refugees,[146] by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[147] These are the people the West is helping the Yemeni dictator kill. And not only him, but Saudi Arabia is helping, as are Pakistan and Jordan, three other nations subservient to American interests, and whose militaries are ‘American made’. Saudi Arabia especially, as it seeks to prevent the spread of the Shi’a resistance, which to the illegitimate state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, combined with several other resistant and oppressed groups, could create the political, economic and social conditions for revolution. No wonder then, that the United States is planning to undertake the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, valued at $60 billion, which “is aimed at establishing air superiority over rival Iran while also addressing weaknesses bared in border fighting with Yemeni rebels.”[148]

A state seeks only its own survival and growth in power; that is the nature of all states. This is why nation-states are naturally inclined to forgo competition for power with the economic sphere, and simply merge interests and elite social structures. It is in their interest for both survival and growth in power.

Our oppressive and illegitimate nation-states seek to aid in the oppression of other peoples in other places, and increasingly so at home. However, it is through the media that this massive collective wave of ignorance and ‘cultural schizophrenia’ takes place. This is why most in the west see the world, blissfully unaware of its realities. The media leads the people through that old wardrobe into the land of Narnia: the media’s ‘perception management’ of the world is nothing but a ‘fantasy’. A good example of this ‘fantasy world’ is located in a Time Magazine article. It wrote:

On Dec. 17 and 24, joint Yemeni-U.S. strikes against purported AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] training camps took place and killed more than 60 militants, U.S. intelligence officials claimed.[149]

The attack, in reality, killed 52 people, more than half of them being women and children, in which a US missile armed with cluster ammunition was used, with both the Yemeni and American governments claiming the target was an al-Qaeda training camp. The cruise missile was designed to be fired from a warship or submarine, and was filled with “cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings.” However, “the Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.”[150] The missiles were “launched on direct presidential orders.”[151]

Our governments kill these people and call them “militants” and “terrorists,” our media repeat the accusation with no dissent. War is like no other situation that can lead to the growth of the state. War is the ultimate organizing principle in society, for with war powers, a nation can build, destroy, grow, oppress, control, expand, consume, corrupt and continue. As this power grows, so too does the power of all the other various major spheres of influence over humanity, such as the media and the academics. We can add to that the scientific and technological elite, who help to create the conditions, understanding, technology, and means of expanding power and controlling the masses so that today we have unmanned aerial vehicles called “Predator Drones” flying over Yemen killing innocent civilians, while the drones are operated from American military bases in Florida. America has been doing the exact same thing in Pakistan at a much more significant rate and for a much longer period of time (and most rapidly accelerated under the Obama administration of ‘change’).

This ‘invisible empire’ is managed through ‘perception management’ – propaganda – which infects all spheres of social power structures, but which is arguably most prominent and powerful in the media. This creates among western citizens, and most particularly among Americans, a type of ‘cultural schizophrenia’ in which the ‘mind of the nation’ (how the majority of people view their nation and their world) is so contrary to the reality of that nation and the world around it, that it creates a nation or a people ‘of two minds’, holding both the fantasy world of those who encompass it, and the hard-bitten reality of global power structures and systems.

This ‘cultural schizophrenia’ is most emblematic in the United States, where the majority of those within it view it as a force for good in the world, spreading freedom, democracy and ‘free markets’ around the world; while the reality is so different, that the majority of the rest of the world view the United States as a force for spreading fear, war, economic exploitation and power. This is the view, especially, of those to whom the United States has attempted to spread “freedom and democracy.”

This has slightly changed in the context of the “war on terror”, which has allowed for flowery rhetoric about democratic rights and liberty to subside beside the urgency of “fighting terror.” Around the world, people were rejecting the “liberal democratic” project in replacing the dictatorships of the 70s – 90s with [neo]liberal democratic governments, which were democratic only so much as they created political powers and held usually corrupt elections in which various power factions would compete for the authority to plunder the nation in cooperation with international corporations, financial institutions and western governments. Democracy in the ‘Third World’ had essentially proven itself a farce, and people’s movements were increasing. The “war on terror” has subsequently fiercely mobilized the American military (and its NATO cohorts), vastly increased its scope, operations, abilities and entanglements; and created the political conditions for the nation to rapidly accelerate the use of its military apparatus around the world, something which the American people would not support without what is perceived to be a good reason. After all, they will largely be the ones forced to fight and partake in these wars.

And so we come back to Yemen. As Martin Luther King said in 1967, “We are on the wrong side of a world revolution.”

Notes

[1]        Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City:
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

[2]        Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”, Global Research, 5 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20907
; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network, Global Research, 8 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20944; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign, Global Research, 10 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20975

[3]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Arab Nationalism in the Arab Middle East. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), page 30

[4]        Ibid.

[5]        Ibid, page 31.

[6]        William L Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Westview Press, 2004), page 231

[7]        Ibid, pages 231-232

[8]        Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), page 116

[9]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, Op Cit, page 31

[10]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, pages 310-311

[11]      Ibid, page 311.

[12]      Ibid, page 312.

[13]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 31.

[14]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, page 315

[15]      Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Owl Books, 2005), pages 140-141

[16]      Ibid, page 142.

[17]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 32.

[18]      William L Cleveland, op cit, page 455.

[19]      Ibid, pages 455-456.

[20]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 40.

[21]      Ibid, page 39.

[22]      Ibid, page 32.

[23]      Ibid, page 38.

[24]      Ibid, page 39.

[25]      Ibid, page 32.

[26]      Profile: Yemen’s Houthi fighters, Al Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981294214604934.html

[27]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[28]      Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque, BBC, May 2, 2008:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7379929.stm

[29]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[30]      Mohammed Jamjoom, Yemen lays out truce terms to rebel fighters, CNN, August 13, 2009:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/13/yemen.truce/index.html

[31]      Yemen targets northern fighters, Al-Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981262048170260.html

[32]      Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[33]      Yemen rebels ‘seize Saudi area’, BBC, November 4, 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8341875.stm

[34]      Saudis still bombing us, Yemen rebels say, MSNBC, November 7, 2009:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33755909/

[35]      Mohammed Al-Amrani, Moroccan, Jordanian Soldiers Fight along Saudi Troops, Yemen Gazette, December 5, 2009:
http://www.yemengazette.com/topnews/politics/524-moroccan-jordanian-soldiers-fight-along-saudi-troops.html

[36]      ESA, Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil. European Space Agency: April 13, 2006:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMWOXNFGLE_index_0.html

[37]      Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations, 2005: page 32

[38]      Ibid.

[39]      Ibid, page 33.

[40]      Ibid, page 48.

[41]      Ibid, page 81.

[42]      David Leigh and David Pallister, Revealed: the new scramble for Africa. The Guardian: June 1, 2005:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jun/01/g8.development

[43]      Emily Wax and Karen DeYoung, U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia. The Washington Post: May 17, 2006:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/16/AR2006051601625.html

[44]      David Axe, U.S. Losing ‘Secret’ War in Somalia. Wired, December 30, 2008:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/12/us-losing-sec-1/

[45]      Scott Johnson, The Next Battlefront. Newsweek: September 17, 2007:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/40797

[46]      Ibid.

[47]      Ibid.

[48]      Johann Hari, You are being lied to about pirates. The Independent, January 5, 2009:
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-you-are-being-lied-to-about-pirates-1225817.html

[49]      Kelly McEvers, In Anti-Piracy Fight, Yemen May Be Part Of Problem. NPR, May 8, 2009:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103904390

[50]      ROBERT F. WORTH, Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief. The New York Times: January 22, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/world/middleeast/23yemen.html

[51]      ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER, Some in Qaeda Leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen. The New York Times, June 11, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/world/12terror.html

[52]      Mai Yamani, Yemen, haven for jihadis. The Guardian, May 25, 2009:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/yemen-jihadi-guantanamo-saudi-arabia

[53]      Saudi, al-Qaeda support Yemen crackdown on Shias, Press TV, August 29, 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/104778.html

[54]      Yemeni gov,deal with al-Qaeda to crush Shia fighters, Shebastan News Agency, October 28, 2009:
http://www.shabestan.net/en/pages/?cid=2720

[55]      Josh Meyer, Saudis faulted for funding terror. The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2008:
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/02/nation/na-terror2

[56]      ERIC LICHTBLAU, Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists. The New York Times: June 23, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/world/middleeast/24saudi.html

[57]      Daniel Schwartz, Al-Qaeda is almost the least of Yemen’s problems, CBC News, 29 January 2010:
http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/01/28/f-indepth-yemen.html

[58]      Andrew England, Gunmen attack Yemen security office, The Financial Times, 14 July 2010:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e66c91a8-8f1b-11df-a4de-00144feab49a.html

[59]      Stephen Day, The Political Challenge of Yemen’s Southern Movement, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2010: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=40411

[60]      ‘The Southern Movement has nothing to do with al Qaeda’, France24, 3 August 2010:
http://www.france24.com/en/20100308-southern-movemen-al-qaeda-yemen-southern-mobility-movement-secession

[61]      Human Rights Watch alert over Yemen ‘climate of fear’, BBC News, 15 December 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8413271.stm

[62]      Robert F. Worth, In Yemen’s South, Protests Could Cause More Instability, The New York Times, 27 February 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html

[63]      Eileen Sullivan, US officials knew name of terror suspect who tried to blow up airliner in Detroit. AP, December 26, 2009:
http://www.news889.com/news/world/article/11645–ap-source-us-officials-knew-name-of-terror-suspect-who-tried-to-blow-up-airliner-in-detroit

[64]      David Leppard and Dan McDougall, MI5 knew of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s UK extremist links. The Times, 3 January 2010: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6973954.ece

[65]      Father of Terror Suspect Reportedly Warned U.S. About Son. Fox News, December 26, 2009:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2009/12/26/father-terror-suspect-reportedly-warned-son-1857952999/

[66]      Current TV, Terror suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation. The Detroit News, February 3, 2010:
http://current.com/news/92056789_terror-suspect-kept-visa-to-avoid-tipping-off-larger-investigation-detnews-com-the-detroit-news.htm

[67]      Karen DeYoung and Michael Leahy, Uninvestigated terrorism warning about Detroit suspect called not unusual. The Washington Post, December 28, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/27/AR2009122700279.html; ERIC LIPTON and SCOTT SHANE, Questions on Why Suspect Wasn’t Stopped. The New York Times, December 27, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/us/28terror.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

[68]      Paul Egan, Atty. Says He Saw Man Try to Help Nigerian on Flight Without a Passport. The Detroit News, December 29, 2009:
http://www.ticklethewire.com/2009/12/29/atty-says-he-saw-man-try-to-help-nigerian-on-flight-without-a-passport/

[69]      MICHAEL R. GORDON and JAMES DAO, U.S. Broadens Terror Fight, Readying Troops for Yemen. The New York Times, March 2, 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/02/world/nation-challenged-military-us-broadens-terror-fight-readying-troops-for-yemen.html

[70]      Duncan Campbell and Brian Whitaker, US elite force gets ready for Yemen raid. The Guardian, 19 September 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/19/duncancampbell.brianwhitaker

[71]      Dana Priest, U.S. Citizen Among Those Killed In Yemen Predator Missile Strike. The Washington Post, November 8, 2002:
http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N54/long4-54.54w.html

[72]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[73]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[74]      Gunnery Sgt. Christian Harding, Yemen military observes Marine training. United States Central Command, 3 November 2009:
http://www.centcom.mil/news/yemen-military-observes-marine-training

[75]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[76]      ERIC SCHMITT and ROBERT F. WORTH, U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion. The New York Times, 27 December 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html?_r=1

[77]      Ibid.

[78]      Steven Erlanger, Yemen’s Chaos Aids the Evolution of a Qaeda Cell. The New York Times, 2 January 2010:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/world/middleeast/03yemen.html?pagewanted=1

[79]      Sean Rayment, et. al., Detroit terror attack: Britain sends counter-terrorist forces to Yemen. The Telegraph, 3 January 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6924502/Detroit-terror-attack-Britain-sends-counter-terrorist-forces-to-Yemen.html

[80]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[81]      Robert F. Worth, Saudis’ Efforts to Swat Rebels From Yemen Risk Inflaming Larger Conflict. The New York Times, 12 November 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/world/middleeast/13saudi.html

[82]      Ibid.

[83]      Abigail Hauslohner, Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble? Time Magazine, 18 December 2009:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1947623,00.html

[84]      Sudarsan Raghavan, Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’. The Washington Post, 12 November 2009:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/11/AR2009111126674.html

[85]      Olivier Guitta, Iran and Saudi Arabia drawn to Yemen. Asia Times Online, 11 November 2009:
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KK11Ak01.html

[86]      Meris Lutz, YEMEN: Raging insurgency exacerbates tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Los Angeles Times Blog, 13 November 2009: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/11/yemen-internal-fighting-threatens-to-descend-into-regional-conflict.html

[87]      Al Pessin, US General Says Yemen Could Become Iran-Saudi Proxy War. VoA, 22 January 2010:
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/US-General-Says-Yemen-Could-Become-Iran-Saudi-Proxy-War-82427857.html

[88]      EDITORIAL: Iran’s al Qaeda connection in Yemen, The Washington Times, 6 January 2010:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/06/irans-al-qaeda-connection-in-yemen/

[89]      Sam Stein, McCain Repeats Iran-Al Qaeda Gaffe Yet Again. Huffington Post, 19 March 2008:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/19/mccain-repeats-iranal-qae_n_92349.html

[90]      Robert Taylor, US bombs Yemen, kills 120, just another day in the life of an empire. The Examiner, 16 December 2009:
http://www.examiner.com/sunset-district-libertarian-in-san-francisco/us-bombs-yemen-kills-120-just-another-day-the-life-of-an-empire

[91]      ‘US fighter jets attack Yemeni fighters’, Press TV, 14 December 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/113687.html

[92]      Paul Woodward, US-backed raid killed 49 Yemeni civilians, officials said. The National, 21 December 2009:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091221/GLOBALBRIEFING/912219995/1009/FOREIGN?template=globalbriefing

[93]      Kevin Peraino, Friends for Now. Newsweek, 29 December 2009:
http://www.newsweek.com/2009/12/28/friends-for-now.html

[94]      Agencies, US fighting covert war against terror in Yemen. The Australian, 29 December 2009:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/us-fighting-covert-war-against-terror-in-yemen/story-e6frg6so-1225814224061

[95]      Michelle Shephard, Yemen: Terror threat? U.S. ally? Nearly failed state? Toronto Star, 2 January 2010:
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/744948–yemen-terror-threat-u-s-ally-nearly-failed-state

[96]      Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. increases efforts to boost security in Yemen amid increasing terror threat, The Washington post, 20 January 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/19/AR2010011904604.html

[97]      Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[98]      Adam Entous, U.S. gives Yemen key intelligence to strike al Qaeda, Reuters, 27 January 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60Q5KA20100127

[99]      Adam Entous, Pentagon to boost Yemen’s special operations forces, Reuters, 20 April 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63J32A20100420

[100]    Salman Siddiqui, Drone attacks hit all-time high, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2010:
http://tribune.com.pk/story/54883/drone-attacks-hit-all-time-high/

[101]    Con Coughlin and Philip Sherwell, American drones deployed to target Yemeni terrorist, The Telegraph, 2 May 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7663661/American-drones-deployed-to-target-Yemeni-terrorist.html

[102]    Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role, The Washington Post, 4 June 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[103]    Mohammed Al-Amrani, Special Forces Commander Meets UK Military Delegation, Yemen Gazette, 10 July 2010:
http://www.yemengazette.com/lastweek/morenewsx1/677-special-forces-commander-meets-uk-military-delegation.html

[104]    SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI AND ROBERT F. WORTH, Veil lifts on covert action in Yemen, The New York Times, 14 August 2010: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012625717_covertwar15.html

[105]    Dan Simpson, The U.S. spreads the misery to Yemen, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 18 August 2010:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10230/1080682-374.stm

[106]    Glenn Greenwald, An exciting new Muslim country to drone attack, Salon, 25 August 2010:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/25/yemen

[107]    AFP, US looks at bolstering funding for Yemeni military, The Jordan Times, 3 September 2010:
http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=29747

[108]    Robert F. Worth, Yemen Military Attacks Town It Says Is Militant Hide-Out, The New York Times, 21 September 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html

[109]    Yemen civilians killed in ‘al-Qaeda hunt’, Press TV, 21 September 2010:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/143318.html

[110]    Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Steve Inskeep, Civilians Flee From Battle In Southern Yemen, NPR, 24 September 2010:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130093677

[111]    Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Yemen’s veneer of legality, The Guardian, 29 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/29/yemen-press-repression-veneer-legality

[112]    Mark Landler, As Nations Meet, Clinton Urges Yemen to Prove Itself Worthy of Aid, The New York Times, 27 January 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28diplo.html

[113]    Brian Whitaker, Can Yemen’s friends really help? The Guardian, 20 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/20/friends-of-yemen

[114]    James Reinl, Friends of Yemen discuss extremist threat, The National, 26 September 2010:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100926/FOREIGN/100929723/1011

[115]    Ministerial Meeting of Friends of Yemen, Joint statement from the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of Yemen, British Commonwealth Office, 24 September 2010: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=22916622

[116]    Aaron W. Jost, A Comprehensive Approach to Yemen, The White House Blog, 24 September 2010:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/24/a-comprehensive-approach-yemen

[117]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, “The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3, (2002), p. 578

[118]    Ibid.

[119]    Ernest Harsch, “Structural Adjustment and Africa’s Democracy Movements,” Africa Today, Vol. 40, No. 4, (1993), p. 14

[120]    Ibid, page 10.

[121]    Ibid, page 12.

[122]    Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora, “Low Intensity Democracy,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, (1992), p. 502

[123]    Ibid, page 503.

[124]    Alison J. Ayers, “Demystifying Democratisation: The Global Constitution of (Neo)liberal Polities in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2, (2006), p. 323

[125]    Ibid, page 325.

[126]    Ibid, page 326.

[127]    Ibid, page 329-331.

[128]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, op cit, page 579.

[129]    Ibid, page 580.

[130]    Ibid, pages 574-575.

[131]    Ibid, page 568.

[132]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[133]    Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad, The Washington Post, 23 March 2002:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A5339-2002Mar22?language=printer

[134]    Carol Off, Back to school in Afghanistan, CBC, 6 May 2002:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/schools.html

[135]    Harley Sorensen, NED’s feel-good name belies its corrupt intent, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 November 2003:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2003/11/17/hsorensen.DTL

[136]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III, Global Research, 3 November 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15767

[137]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, A New World War for a New World Order, Global Research, 17 December 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16535

[138]    MEPI, Ongoing MEPI Local Grants – Yemen, Middle East Partnership Initiative, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.abudhabi.mepi.state.gov/abstracts/yemen.html

[139]    CIPE, Who We Are, Center for International Private Enterprise:
http://www.cipe.org/

[140]    NED, Country Profile – Yemen, The National Endowment for Democracy, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/yemen

[141]    Ibid.

[142]    USAID, Yemen, United States Agency for International Development:
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/middle_east/countries/yemen/

[143]    Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, Reuters, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[144]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[145]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[146]    Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[147]    Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[148]    Paul Handley, Huge Saudi arms deal aimed at Iran, Yemen troubles: analysts, AFP, 12 September 2010: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jxlLTtu2Ccx7EsT_qH_tPhukgKCA

[149]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[150]    Kim Sengupta, US cruise missile parts found in Yemeni village where 52 died, The Independent, 7 June 2010:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-cruise-missile-parts-found-in-yemeni-village-where-52-died-1993253.html

[151]    Gilbert Mercier, Yemen: US Strikes Used Cluster Bombs And Killed 41 Civilians. NewsJunkiePost, 7 June 2010:
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/06/07/yemen-us-strikes-used-cluster-bombs-and-killed-41-civilians/