April 8, 2011

Obama Defends Syrians, Ignores Yemenis

With the White House and State Department abstaining from briefing the press, President Barack Obama released a statement Friday night condemning government violence against protesters - in Syria. And he wonders why his administration is accused of a double-standard in the Middle East. Maybe he’s saving his Yemeni statement for tomorrow.
I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks. I also condemn any use of violence by protesters. The United States extends our condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims. I call upon the Syrian authorities to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protesters. Furthermore, the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of prisoners that has been reported must end now, and the free flow of information must be permitted so that there can be independent verification of events on the ground.

Throughout this time of upheaval, the American people have heard the voices of the Syrian people, who have demonstrated extraordinary courage and dignity, and who deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Syrians have called for the freedoms that individuals around the world should enjoy: freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; and a government that is transparent and free of corruption. These rights are universal, and they must be respected in Syria.

Until now, the Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. Violence and detention are not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. It is time for the Syrian government to stop repressing its citizens and to listen to the voices of the Syrian people calling for meaningful political and economic reforms.
Whether Obama is ignorant of fourth-generation warfare or hopes to ignore it, he cannot escape the fact that low-intensity violence (fists, sticks, rocks) is an inseparable tactic of the wider strategy. Every revolution sparked from the government's disproportionate response to civil disobedience and low-intensity violence. So to reject it is to reject the primary means of resistance in the 21st century.

Bonus propaganda from The New York Times: In Yemen, Hardly a Revolution.

While we understand the points made by Isa Blumi, we do not agree with the conclusion, which sounds like another terror threat. True change does require Washington to support the democratic movement unconditionally, an unlikely scenario as Blumi predicts. But Yemen’s opposition has remained largely non-violent despite the odds assigned against them; they're also surprisingly supportive of America, relatively speaking. Yemenis may stand more unified than some give them credit for, and they don't expect the aftermath to be easy either.

This grounded expectation is important - and absent in the West.

The real offense of Blumi’s op-ed stems from its blaring headline. As the only Yemeni-related op-ed the NYT ran since Monday, slapping it across the Opinion front page shadows its own position behind the Obama administration. Try telling Yemenis protesting against Saleh’s rule that they’re “hardly a revolution.”

In regards to the battle against Saleh’s old regime, Yemen will follow Egypt’s entrenched battle between the democratic movement and Hosni Mubarak’s allies. The military transition so hailed by Washington began with a low margin for error and quickly depleted it by not responding to the people. Saturday morning’s violent assault on a protest camp immediately triggered new demonstrations, nearly two months after Mubarak's fall. Egyptians understood from the beginning that he was the first fight, not the last.

Naturally Washington hopes to sneak a similar group of Saleh’s political and military officials into Yemen’s transition council. Such political battles aren’t a reason to stop the revolution, but all the more reason to continue it to the end.

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