5 Countries the U.S. Is Royally Screwing Over
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American history is littered with examples of military intervention and political meddling in the affairs of foreign countries. There was the US-backed overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953; the 1954 coup in Guatemala engineered by the Central Intelligence Agency; US funding of brutal “dirty wars” against leftists throughout Latin America in the 1970s; and much more.
The post-9/11 era is no different, though the methods of warfare have changed. US military intervention in countries like Yemen have destabilized nations and killed innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror.” The current crop of undeclared wars the US is waging is having a deleterious impact around the world. And there’s also the so-called war on drugs, which the US continues to wage despite devastating consequences on the ground.
Here is a look at some of the specific countries where US intervention is doing immense damage.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., the Bush administration intensfied partnerships with a host of countries ruled by unsavory regimes. Yemen is one such country.
After 9/11, the US government ramped up its support for the Yemeni government, which was ruled by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a strongman who had been in power for over three decades. Under the Bush administration, this support mostly took the form of security assistance, as the US gave Yemen “advanced tactical training, weapons and surveillance equipment as well as armored vehicles, airplanes, helicopters and sea vessels,” according to a Middle East Policy Council journal article.
But the destabilization of Yemen has intensified amidst the Obama administration’s stepped-up campaign of drone strikes. The Bush administration launched one drone strike on Yemen in 2002. By contrast, the Obama administration has expanded the drone war immensely, and has launched scores of drone strikes on Yemen. The Saleh government has claimed at times that its own air force carries out the strikes. But WikiLeaks cables show that Saleh welcomed the US drone strikes while assuring the US that his regime would take credit for the strikes in a bid to quell any dissent against US meddling.
The intensification of a militarized approach to Yemen carried out by the US military and CIA came as drone strikes reportedly decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. Concurrently, US officials turned their attention to Yemen, warning of the threat emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Al Qaeda spin-off group based in Yemen.
But if the Obama administration hoped drone strikes would pacify Yemen’s most radical anti-American forces, they were dead wrong.
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute, has done the best on-the-ground investigation of how Washington’s war on Yemen has backfired. Scahill’s February 2012 dispatch from Yemen reported on the takeover of a Yemeni town, Zinjibar, by radical militants who declared themselves part of Ansar al-Sharia, a group that espouses an extreme Islamist ideology. The Yemeni government claims that Ansar al-Sharia is linked to AQAP. It’s unclear whether the Yemeni government’s claims are true, but what is certain is that “the group’s significance...extend[s] well beyond Al Qaeda’s historically limited spheres of influence in Yemen while simultaneously popularizing some of AQAP’s core tenets,” as Scahill writes.
The takeover of Zinjibar was no fluke. What gave radical Islamists the fuel to beat back the Yemeni government for a time was “its message of a Sharia-based system of law and order.” This message, Scahill writes, was “welcomed by many in Abyan [a region in Yemen where Zinjibar is located] who viewed the Saleh regime as a US puppet. The US missile strikes, the civilian casualties, an almost total lack of government services and a deepening poverty all contributed.” In the years preceding the 2012 takeover of Zinjibar, “cruise missile and drone attacks” have killed civilians throughout Abyan--including a 2009 drone strike that killed 40 people, many of them women and children.