Top Obama Advisor Embraces Use of Drones in Yemen
John Brennan, President Obama's adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, lauded the increasing use of drone strikes on Yemen saying that they were "part of the solution" to deal with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Brennan said that the "targeted strikes against the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists are not the problem, they are part of the solution." Brennan also defended the $159 million in military aid to Yemen this year, saying that the U.S. also gave $178 million "for political transition, humanitarian assistance and development."
Acknowledging that the U.S. is at war with Yemen was not on Brennan's agenda.
As Spencer Ackerman notes in Wired's Danger Room, "Brennan didn’t come close to conceding that the U.S. is at war in Yemen during a Wednesday talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Rather, Brennan took pains to describe President Obama’s approach to Yemen as a giant development effort — although it’s the type of economic improvement initiative that involves robots of death circling overhead."
Brennan also rejected criticism that says the drone strikes are in fact counter-productive. "Contrary to conventional wisdom, we see little evidence that these actions are triggering widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for AQAP," he said.
In a June 14 op-ed titled "How Drones Help Al Qaeda" in the New York Times, Yemeni activist and writer Ibrahim Mothana wrote:
Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”
Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.
Last month the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the killings of three Americans in drone strikes in Yemen. The groups state that the CIA and military officials violated the Constitution and international law in their use of "targeted killing" via drone that resulted in the death of the three U.S. citizens including 16-year-old Anwar Al-Aulaqi.
“When a 16 year-old boy who has never been charged with a crime nor ever alleged to have committed a violent act is blown to pieces by U.S. missiles, alarm bells should go off,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. “The U.S. program of sending drones into countries in and against which it is not at war and eliminating so-called enemies on the basis of executive memos and conference calls is illegal, out of control, and must end.”
* * *