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Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen

Glenn Greenwald

Protesters shout slogans as they march on a street in the southern Yemeni town of Radfan December 19, 2009 to denounce Thursday's government military operation which the authorities said killed about 30 al Qaeda militants. Yemen's opposition accused the raids killed dozens of civilians, including whole families. (REUTERS/Stringer)

what a prominent role "Terrorism" plays in our political discourse,
it's striking how little attention is paid to American actions which
have the most significant impact on that problem.  In addition to our
occupation of Iraq, war escalation in Afghanistan, and secret bombings
in Pakistan, President Obama late last week ordered cruise missile attacks
on two locations in Yemen, which "U.S. officials" say were "suspected
Al Qaeda hideouts."  The main target of the attacks, Al Qaeda member
Qasim al Rim, was not among those killed, but: "a local Yemeni official said on Sunday that 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed in air strikes against Al-Qaeda, which he said were carried out 'indiscriminately'."  Media reports across the Muslim world -- though, not of course, within the U.S. -- are highlighting the dead civilians from the U.S. strike (one account from an official Iranian outlet
began:  "U.S. Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama has
signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores
of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says").

For many people, the mere assertion by anonymous U.S. Government officials
that these attacks targeted "suspected al-Qaeda sites" will be
sufficient to deem them justified.  All credible reports confirm that
there is indeed a not insignificant Al Qaeda presence in Southern
Yemen, so that claim, at least, seems at least grounded in reality. 
Yet arguments about justification to the side for the moment, here we
have yet another violent attack by the U.S. which -- even under the
best-case scenario -- has killed more Muslim civilians than it did "Al
Qaeda fighters," and failed to kill the main target of the attack. 
When it comes to undermining Al Qaeda -- both in Yemen and generally --
isn't it painfully obvious that the images of dead Muslim women and
children which we constantly create -- and which we again just created
in Yemen -- will fuel that movement better than anything else we can do?

what else is happening around the Muslim world that is quite consistent
with all of that yet receiving virtually no attention in the West
(though receiving plenty of attention there).  Pakistani lawyers --
many of the same ones who protested the tyrannical practices of General
Musharraf -- held a large protest in Islamabad this weekend objecting to the presence of "notorious" Blackwater agents in their country.  Palestinians are consumed with a recent incident
in which West Bank settlers torched one of their mosques, burning holy
books and leaving threatening messages; that was preceded by the Israeli Justice Minister proclaiming
that "step by step, Torah law will become the binding law in the State
of Israel."  And perhaps most significantly of all, while reports have
focused on alleged tension between the Obama administration and Israel
over the latter's uncooperative conduct, this is what is actually happening:

Behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing
Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for
his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken
by his administration to bolster Israel's qualitative military edge --
an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the
George W. Bush presidency.

Among the new initiatives taken
by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a
massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in
response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in
U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is
expected next year that will see one of the United States' most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America's most sensitive new technology.

the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public
attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been
scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli Ambassador
Michael Oren praised the Obama administration's response to complaints
about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as "warm and

"We came to the Obama administration and said,
‘Listen, we have a problem here,'" Oren, told a gathering of the
National Jewish Democratic Council. "The administration's reaction was
immediate: we are going to address this issue, we are going to make
sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge]."

All of this is being done pursuant to this:

commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge was
codified directly into U.S. law via 2008 legislation backed by AIPAC.
This legislation requires the president to report to Congress periodically on actions taken by the administration to ensure Israel's advantage.

have to confess that I didn't realize that a law was enacted last year
making it a legal requirement for America to maintain "Israel's
qualitative military edge," and -- even more amazingly -- that the
President of the U.S. is required to report regularly to the U.S.
Congress on the steps he's taking to ensure Israel's superiority. 
That's a rather extraordinary law, and the administration seems to be
fulfilling its requirements faithfully.

Whatever else
is true, and even if one believes it's justified to lob cruise missiles
into more countries where we claim "suspected Al Qaeda sites" are
located, one thing seems clear:  all of the causes widely recognized as
having led to 9/11 -- excessive American interference in the Muslim
world, our alliance with their most oppressive leaders, our
responsibility for Israel's military conflicts with its Muslim
neighbors, and our own military attacks on Muslims -- seem stronger
than ever.  As we take more actions of this sort, we will create more
Terrorists, which will in turn cause us to take more actions of this
sort in a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle.  The U.S. military,
and the intelligence community, and its partners in the private
contractor world will certainly remain busy, empowered, and well-funded
in the extreme.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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