by Ann Wright Common Dreams June 22, 2013
In Yemen, civilians who have no connection with Al Qaeda are killed when the U.S. uses drones to target Al Qaeda members who travel freely throughout the country. High unemployment and feelings of injustice for the killing of people in their area by drones and Yemeni air strikes provide a fertile recruiting ground for al Qaeda in Yemen. Prisons in which young people have been detained and imprisoned for months and years without trial by the Government of Yemen is a key place where radicalization for armed groups, including al Qaeda, occurs.
Several who have been killed by US drone attacks had been released from prison and had been reporting to a government office each month. Their locations were known to government officials. Entsar said that once a person is labeled as an al Qaeda member, there is nothing that person can do to erase the label, including renouncing violence, serving time in prison and reporting back to eh government on a regular basis. Once labeled as al Qaeda by the U.S. government one remains on an assassination list no matter what one does, according to Al-Qadhi.
'Sympathy increases for al Qaeda and other armed groups after a drone strike.' The Yemen government imprisons and then releases former al Qaeda members and then assists in the targeting and killing of those who have served their sentences for al Qaeda affiliation. The community knows that the released prisoners have to report frequently to the government as a part of their release. In Yemeni tribal customs, once a person is “cleansed” of their previous affiliations, they are allowed back into the community. When those who have been “cleansed” are then killed by U.S. drones, the recruitment for armed groups including al Qaeda increases.
Entsar said that some women in her community have told her that while they disagree with violent acts committed by some al Qaeda members, at least they can talk with them, whereas they can’t communicate with a drone operator who is also committing violent acts. Sympathy increases for armed groups after a drone strike.
Al-Qadhi said that in January, 2013, there were five drone strikes in one day in the area where she lives around Marib. The first drone killed 3 brothers in the al Jaradh family. The eldest brother had been a member of al Qaeda, but had turned himself in to Yemeni authorities. He had been imprisoned, but had recently been released by the government. The other brothers were not known to be members of al Qaeda. The brothers had been driving in a car, spotted the drone, left their car and went into a garden where the drone attacked them. All three were killed. As the bodies of the al Jaradh brothers were taken for burial, a car carrying 5 people to their funeral was hit in a drone strike. The driver of the car was known to be an al Qaeda member, but the others in the car were not. Two hours later, another car in the Marib area was blown up by a drone strike. 4 young men ages 16-18 were killed.
Many contend that these al Qaeda could be captured, but the Government of Yemen gets funding for counter-terrorism programs when the U.S. can kill rather than the Government of Yemen capture suspected al Qaeda. From the Government of Yemen’s viewpoint, capture of suspected criminals clogs up the judicial system and becomes a burden on government resources while the killing of suspected criminals is easy and financially rewarding
In a June 10, 2013 letter, Al Karama requested that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions intervene with the United States and Yemen governments to “open a prompt, impartial, independent and effective inquiry on the chain of command and the procedures that allowed for the targeting, tracking and killing of four unarmed civilians, and that individuals responsible for the attack, whether they are American or Yemeni, are impartially judged for their acts.”
The United States has not disciplined those involved in the targeting and assassination of 41 civilians in the December 17, 2009 airstrike in the al-Majalah region in southwestern Yemen. The strike killed a reported 41 people, including at least 21 children. The Yemeni government initially claimed that it had carried out the strike, but leaked US government cables later revealed that Yemen had covered up the US responsibility for the strike.
Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. [Excerpts only]