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Drone Victim: U.S. Strikes Boost al-Qaida Recruitment

A young Yemeni whose village was targeted by a U.S. drone strike tells Salon about the experience, and its effects.

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I remember when an American friend came to Yemen and I took her to Abyan, and I was really, really afraid for her due to al-Qaida. So, I hid her by dressing her like a total Yemeni. We covered her in a niqab, we even covered her hands, and she made a hole for her fingers so she could use her iPhone. She looked like a total Salafi, because I was afraid AQAP would recognize her as an American and might do something bad to her. But, in Abyan, we heard a drone above our heads. I thought, “ My goodness.” I told her, “I am not more afraid about your life from al-Qaida, I’m  more afraid for your life from your own government. This is something I can’t do anything about. Due to this policy of signature strike drones, you and I are now legitimate targets in Yemen by  your own taxes.” I feel afraid for everyone, not just Yemenis, who happen to be in Yemen.

I have an American “family,” because I lived with them here in the U.S. during high school and I consider them my second family. I was with them this past weekend, and — believe it or not — in the last eight months I’ve only seen my Yemeni family twice. It’s because I’m concerned about my safety on the road to go see my mom. It can’t get worse than that. It’s like being in America and realizing you can no longer go to church or Disneyland because of the threat of being bombed.

Suppose the U.S. does cease drone operations. Then suppose they learn of a high value target that they want eliminated, like Anwar al-Awlaki or Saeed al-Shihri. What should the U.S. do? Or are you suggesting that the U.S. stop all operations, period, not just drones?

I’m not a government to say what they should do or not do. However, I know what they are doing right is now like reading from a manual “10 Steps on How to Lose a War.” That’s what they’re doing now. My answer to this is they first need to stop all these targeted killings, because their claims that their targets cannot be captured is a lie. Totally. As simple as that. They’re lying to themselves, they’re lying to the people, they’re lying to the world, and they’re lying to all the media.

If you go to  any guy in the villages and say, “Hey, we think this is a bad guy, we want to speak to him, bring him over.” I swear to God it won’t take more than a day. These Yemeni farmers will capture him and bring him to you. The U.S. doesn’t even try to capture these targets; they instead spend hundreds of millions of dollars to drop bombs. The U.S. has trained a whole unit of counterterrorism in Yemen. The U.S. recruited it, supported it and funded it. Not a single bullet has been used to shoot at areas with al-Qaida. Instead, they are shooting at people who are working for democracy and the civic state. Usually, when someone is sick, they give you medicine, they give you pills; the very, very, very, very last thing they give you is surgery, because nothing worked out. Now, in Yemen, even if you’re not sick, they’re cutting you.

We know both governments of former President Saleh and current Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have admitted to authorizing every drone strike. Isn’t it unfair to entirely blame the U.S. and make it the boogeyman?

I mean, sure, but look, you’re assuming that both Saleh and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his armed government in the capital were voted and brought to power by the Yemenis. No. They were brought to power by the world including the U.S. It’s not a Yemeni government, it’s the world government in Yemen; it’s the U.S. government in Yemen. OK, they take responsibility for allowing the drone strikes, but at the end of the day this man, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is mainly American. His public support of the drones has made him look like the Puppet Musharraf of Yemen.

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