June 10, 2011

U.S. Propaganda Flooding Yemen’s Revolution

Typical surface-level propaganda

Anyone paying serious attention to Yemen’s revolution is aware of the double-standard in place. Many observers who glance over on their way to another uprising also realize the depth of Western hypocrisy. Even U.S. officials tacitly admit to their “selective democracy” between Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, evidenced by their scripted defense to counter these impressions. Yet this double-standard continues unaltered.

Propaganda can transform into an unstoppable force of nature.

Yemen’s current situation in the U.S. media, though tragic, is relatively easy to explain. A biased policy guilty of supporting Ali Abdullah Saleh and his murderous security forces needed to be hidden. A silent White House quieted an already subservient and unaware Western media (U.S. and European alike) during the revolution’s formation. The media then shifted into exaggerating Yemen’s “tribal civil war” and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) once this silence shattered.

Nevertheless, widespread apathy within the U.S. public continues to allow the Obama administration to freely subvert Yemen’s pro-democracy movement. A small cadre of Western “experts” willing to echo the U.S. script has monopolized the media, further eroding public awareness. Combined with Saudi misinformation, these conditions have generated a perfect storm of propaganda over Yemen’s revolution.

“I want to note one example, from today, that vividly illustrates many of the themes I discussed in that speech,” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote on Thursday, referring to a May speech at FAIR's 25th anniversary. “It is found in the following passage from this Reuters article on Obama's escalation of the covert war in Yemen and his targeting of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki for assassination:
A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that a U.S. strike last Friday killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel al Qaeda operative, which followed last month's attempted strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
As Greenwald points out, al-Awlaki is indisputably not the leader of AQAP. Whether Reuters innocently spaced or intentionally lied to justify U.S. militarism in Yemen isn’t verifiable, but Greenwald doesn’t harbor any doubt. Rather than “covering the weighty issued raised by this assassination program,” he denounces Reuters for explicitly, “doing exactly the opposite: they're ending the debate before it even begins by ‘reporting’ - falsely - that Awlaki "is the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

“So instead of raising vital questions about Obama's extraordinary conduct, Reuters suffocates those questions by disseminating false fear-mongering propaganda on behalf of the U.S. Government (he's the leader of Al Qaeda!!) to justify what the administration is going. Overwhelmingly, that's what the role and function of the establishment media is. This isn't the most significant or notable example ever: to the contrary, it's depressingly common, and I note it only because it happened to occur on the very day that I was preparing to post this speech about how the U.S. media subserviently disseminates and amplifies government propaganda, the very antithesis of what they claim to do and were intended to do.”

Greenwald’s conclusion can be extrapolated to all areas of U.S. policy in Yemen: the Obama administration has backed away from Saleh’s regime, U.S. policy supports the pro-democracy movement, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) power transfer is the “only way forward.” None of these policies are seriously questioned, instead taken at face value since no established Western officials or analysts are willing to challenge them.

More than the U.S. media is guilty of drowning out Yemen’s revolution. Obviously Reuters is a British outfit, and The Telegraph and Independent have produced similarly careless headlines and reports. The EU and NATO follow U.S. policy blindly rather than realize the numerous strategic errors being committed, taking their medias down with them. Even Al Jazeera repeatedly labeled Saleh’s artificial conflict as “civil war.” Somehow the U.S. media, long a target of the international media, has set an unquestioned tone.

Instead of covering Yemen’s unique pro-democracy movement, the majority of attention is driven towards manufactured violence and exaggerated threats of AQAP.

Now Western propaganda is flowing into the idea that the Obama administration is “exploiting Yemen’s power vacuum.” This statement can be found throughout the U.S. media, mainstream and alternative. The Long War Journal erroneously remarked, “The US is said to be taking advantage of the security vacuum in Yemen to step up attacks against AQAP's top leaders and its network.”

Far from this optimistic spin, the Obama administration enabled Yemen’s power vacuum through political inaction and is now manipulating drones to appear active. First supporting Saleh unconditionally, then backing the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) over the popular opposition, ensured a protracted stalemate. Facing reports that Saleh’s son Ahmad has taken over his palace, relegating al-Hadi to the pawn that he is, U.S. officials continue to withhold any information on Yemen’s situation. This vain effort to maintain influence in Saleh’s regime is holding the vacuum open for his return.

With the White House ignoring Yemen entirely on Friday - but still releasing a separate statement on Syria’s violence - State spokesman Mark Toner allocated a single paragraph: “The government in Yemen needs to – in Sana’a needs to move forward with – along the lines of the GCC agreement and start this reconciliation process.”

Although the Obama administration continues to force the GCC proposal on all of Yemen’s actors, as of this moment Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi insists that Saleh will return. Contrary to the U.S. version that he is “acting” president, Hadi possesses no power relative to Ahmad and high-ranking officials still loyal to Saleh. Deputy information minister Abdo Al Janadi repeated on Thursday, "It is impossible to talk about a transition of power before the return of the president.”

Fundamentally, the youth revolution opposes the GCC’s initiative in full, instead demanding a transitional council to supplant the entire regime. On Friday hundreds of thousands chanted for Saleh's trial, rejecting the GCC's family immunity package. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (among other officials) has falsely declared their support for what is widely considered a U.S.-Saudi plot.

Several street coalitions, including the Coordinating Council of the Youth Revolution of Change (CCYRC), tell us they have no contact with U.S. diplomats.

Even The New York Times, a key media player in suppressing Yemen's revolution, is now forced to admit, "They deeply oppose the political solution advocated by Saudi Arabia and the United States, which grants Mr. Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution and is likely to preserve more of the status quo. They say the proposal — which Mr. Saleh repeatedly refused to sign before he was wounded last week — misses a golden opportunity for meaningful change and leaves Yemen’s direst problems unaddressed."

Few Yemenis actually believe Saleh is stable enough to return. Some believe they can stop him if he tries. However they fear his regime is now consolidating power and will refuse any political overtures, either from the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) or the streets. The mystery surrounding Saleh’s health - and the fact that U.S. and Saudi officials won’t provide details - has increased the distrust surrounding the GCC’s proposal. With the power vacuum widening under U.S. policy, the Pentagon is being forced to strike almost solely for appearances.

Thus “active” engagement in Yemen first targets the American public as propaganda, then AQAP physically.

No real advantage is being gained on the ground through U.S. air-strikes; progress can only be secured through political engagement with the youth and civil opposition. Yet aside from their legality, the effects of unilateral military operations remain unchallenged in the U.S. media - just like the rest of Washington's narrative. Yemen’s revolutionaries could build their country into a paradise if they received a dollar for every piece of propaganda spit out by the West.

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