"If we take this trade of Malacca away from them, Cairo and Mecca will be entirely ruined..." --Afonso de Albuquerque
When President Barack Obama personally issued the order for U.S. air strikes against Yemeni rebels, which killed numerous civilians, including women and children, it was not the first time a foreign power has tried to politically and militarily subdue and dominate the Arabian Peninsula. During the early 16th century, and fueled with dreams of expanding its Christian kingdom and amassing great power and riches, Portuguese naval commander Afonso de Albuquerque was determined to defeat the Muslim rulers who controlled the profitable Indian Ocean spice trade.
But in order to build a Portuguese trading empire and to make the Indian Ocean a "Portuguese Lake," as Afonso de Albuquerque claimed, he had to first conquer the Arabian Peninsula and its surrounding waterways. From the Horn of Africa to the Red Sea and Arabian Peninsula, Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, and India and the Strait of Malacca, the Portuguese took cities, killing their inhabitants and seizing their goods. When the Portuguese built forts on or beside razed cities, including mosques, the people realized the invaders and looters were going to try and stay permanently.
Even though Afonso de Albuquerque was successful in crushing Arab fleets, the burned coastal towns along the Arabian Peninsula exacted a horrible price. When the Portuguese massacred the Muslim inhabitants of Aden, entrance to the Red Sea, and Ormuz, gateway to the Persian Gulf, it made the Europeans hated and feared. Portuguese missionaries who were intolerant, the Inquisition, and Portuguese warships that destroyed Muslim pilgrim ships on their way to Mecca caused even deeper resentment and loathing for Westerners.
Portugal soon found itself outmatched and overstretched. They did not have the military power, or human and material resources, to conquer such vast regions and to supply and maintain their forts and trading posts. New found (exploited) goods, riches, and power pouring into Portugal soon caused bitter infighting and conflicts. Portugal's empire also faced challenges from other European powers and from Persia, China, Russia, and India. The race to monopolize the Spice Trade, became the race to prevent the collapse of Portuguese society and its religious traditions.
In recent times, and after World War I, Britain made Yemen into a crown colony and took control of its valuable port. The Port of Aden became a major international trading and fueling station for naval and commerce ships passing through the Suez Canal. The rise of Arab nationalism, combined with severe urban and economic problems, caused British opponents to launch a campaign of bombings, sabotage, and armed resistance. When Britain withdrew from the Yemen Arab Republic in 1968, domestic and international competition over the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and Port of Aden increased. Although post-civil war Yemen held its first democratic election in 1993, it is still hampered by political, social, cultural, religious, and tribal divisions.
It was only a matter of time for the U.S. to once again become involved in Yemen's internal political and cultural affairs. Not only did the U.S. wrestle for control of Yemen during the Cold War, but it is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden's father, and it is where the USS Cole was severely damaged. Yemen is also home to several ultra-conservative Islamic movements, movements with ties to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt and that in President Obama's view, threatens U.S. national security and interests in the region. Behind the air strikes against al Qaeda targets and hideouts in Yemen, is the desire to monopolize and control the resources (especially oil), economies, peoples, and religions of the region.
In the end, the Global War on Terror is really a ruse for a centuries old dream by Western Powers to dominate the Arabian Peninsula. The thousands of Yemenis that demonstrated in southern Yemen denouncing the uncivilized and barbaric military campaign, ordered by President Obama, understand this. Is Yemen becoming a reserve base for al Qaeda, as a U.S. military official claimed, or is it becoming another military and trading outpost for the American Empire? Even though naval commander Afonso de Albuquerque claimed he and Portugal came in peace, when the city resisted, a witness described the bombardment: "The cannonballs came like rain, and the noise of the cannon was as the noise of thunder in the heavens and the flashes of fire of their guns were like flashes of lightning in the sky."
The 175,000 Yemeni refugees, and those who just lost family members, can attest to this.