Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Fascinating Internal Politics and History of Yemen

The U.S. is waging two major wars at once (one is the longest war in U.S. history) and indirectly managing conflicts in several other countries in central asia and the middle-east. Need I not mention here how tragically dismissive of human life these extended campaigns have been, even to the point of jeopardizing the imperial mission its self. After the attempted bombing of a U.S. flight into Detroit, Yemen received a lot of press attention for allegedly providing the safe haven where a Nigerian attempted underwear bomber was armed. Since then, one can scarcely find a mention of the vitally important country of Yemen and the U.S. military's support for an immoral counter-insurgency campaign that is destroying the lives of countless people whose only crime is an unyielding desire for survival. Not only is Yemen's government committing violent atrocities against its own people and denying basic civil liberties, but it is doing so with military weapons and money from that eternal beacon of liberty and hope known as the U.S. government.

Beyond the external geopolitics of Yemen is a really interesting story of internal conflict and struggles for self-determination and social justice. These internal dramas are often sucked-up by global struggles for hegemony, but remain important to the fate of the middle-east region as a whole. Author and activist Tariq Ali recently wrote an amazing narrative of his recent trip to Yemen and a brief history of its politics. I'm sharing it here because his piece is a rare opportunity to put a human face on a country that has become another chess piece in America's wasted march for "victory".
Yemen is a proper country, unlike the imperial petrol stations dotted across other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where the ruling elites live in hurriedly constructed skyscrapers designed by celebrity architects, flanked by shopping malls displaying every Western brand, and serviced by wage-slaves from South Asia and the Philippines. Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, was founded when the Old Testament was still being written, edited and collated. It’s true that the new Mövenpick hotel in the heart of the city’s diplomatic enclave is reminiscent of Dubai at its worst – when I was there it was pushing its Valentine’s Day Dinner Menu – but in Yemen the elite is careful and doesn’t flaunt its wealth. Click here to read the rest of Ali's article in the London Review of Books.

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