September 9, 2011

Clinton’s Justification for War in Yemen: 9/11

9/11 is composed of four distinct “tragedies.” The original tragedy of U.S. interference in the Middle East eventually gave way to the collapse of the World Trade Center, only for “justice” to be delivered in the poorly strategized wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The fourth tragedy, although hardly a new development, is being “perfected” by the Obama administration on 9/11’s 10th anniversary.

Speaking to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confidently declared, “As President Obama has said over the last decade, our government also sometimes went off course, failed to live up to our own values, but we never lost sight of our mission, and we set aside those detours to stay focused, and we made progress. As we move forward, we are determined not to let the specter of terrorism darken the national character that has always been America’s greatest asset.”

As the White House “chases” an “unconfirmed” al-Qaeda threat, Clinton proceeded to use 9/11’s specter to disseminate counter-terrorism, or “CT,” around the world.

The lingering tragedy of 9/11 can be found in the children of its victims, but also in how freely the U.S. government manipulates the grim occasion. Beyond preying on America’s patriotism, 9/11 has become a political fundraiser to continue U.S. military operations in the American people’s name. Many see nothing wrong with this, however many others cringe at the exploitation - which Clinton happens to outline in detail. Although her remarks will be broken down in future analysis, all of the following statements run contrary to the administration’s present strategy in Yemen, which Clinton only mentions in passing.

“We’ve also learned that to truly defeat a terror network, we need to attack its finances, recruitment, and safe havens,” Clinton explains. “We need to take on its ideology, counter its propaganda, and diminish its appeal, so that every community recognizes the threat that extremists pose to them and they then deny them protection and support. And we need effective international partners in government and civil society who can extend this effort to all the places where terrorists operate.”

That the U.S. is adapting to certain areas of counter-terrorism, such as the financial and technological spheres, isn’t in doubt, and the Pentagon and CIA’s machine is now running on steroids. Yet the overrelience on technology continues to be a main U.S. weakness, as the basic premise of sustainable policy remains unchanged. So long as America continues to antagonize other states and peoples through unwanted hegemony, threats will be produced in a self-fulfilling cycle.

“To achieve these ends requires smart power,” Clinton continues, “a strategy that integrates all our foreign policy tools – diplomacy and development hand-in-hand with defense – and that advances our values and the rule of law. We are waging a broad, sustained, and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power against terrorism. And even as we remain tightly focused on the terrorist network that attacked us 10 years ago, we’re also thinking about the next 10 years and beyond, about the next threats, about that long-term ideological challenge that requires us to dig deeply into and rely upon our most cherished values."

We’ve written extensively on how defense has overridden diplomacy in Yemen, undermining the entirety of Clinton’s speech and the administration’s Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).

“So just as counterterrorism cannot be the sole focus of our foreign policy, it does not make sense to view counterterrorism in a vacuum. It must be integrated into our broader diplomatic and development agendas.”

As if the administration integrated Yemen into a broader diplomatic construct. The State Department ignored the country on Friday and hasn’t commented in weeks. Clinton herself hasn’t responded to Yemen’s revolution in months.

“This is a job that calls for a scalpel, not a sledgehammer,” she advises, when all Washington has going in Yemen is one giant hammer of Special Forces, CIA, Harriers and Reapers.

The Secretary does eventually get to the meat of Yemen’s conflict, a three-way battle between Washington, Ali Abdullah Saleh and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Each has used the other to grow; Saleh manipulates the U.S. through AQAP, the U.S. manipulates Yemen through Saleh and AQAP capitalizes on both to recruit. Saleh needs AQAP to survive and Washington needs him to maintain influence. Perhaps inferring to Pakistan, Clinton’s remarks nevertheless hit the mark in Yemen’s grand scheme.

“So as we deepen our bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism relationships, the United States has clear expectations for our partners. In some cases, by necessity, we are working with nations with whom we have very little in common except for our desire to defeat al-Qaida and terrorism. We make it a point to underscore our concerns about upholding universal rights. We demonstrate through our own example the effectiveness of doing so. Unfortunately, some countries, even some friends, allow their territory to remain relatively permissive operating environments for terrorist financiers and facilitators.”

First, the administration has remained deathly silent as Saleh’s regime commits widespread human rights abuses, both before and after Yemen’s revolution. Second, Clinton explicitly spells out Saleh’s mutual duplicity without having to mention his name. Local residents in the contested south, testimony from Yemeni commanders and now from John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism czar, confirm that Saleh pulled back his U.S.-trained forces in May, ceding territory and weapons to AQAP. Saleh then began to feed new information on AQAP, at which point U.S. airstrikes dramatically escalated.

Meanwhile the administration has invested all of its power to stopping Yemen’s revolution, wielding the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to devolve the situation into a “political crisis.”

Despite a proposal that would leave Saleh’s regime in power, Clinton supposedly believes that, “democracies are better equipped than autocracies to stand up against terrorism for the long term. They offer constructive outlets for political grievances, they create opportunities for upward mobility and prosperity that are clear alternatives to violent extremism, and they tend to have, over time, more effective governing institutions.”

“And it is equally important that the United States continues to live up to our own best values and traditions,” she adds. “The people of these nations are looking at us with fresh eyes, and we need to make sure they see us as a source of opportunity and hope, as a partner, not an adversary.”

Sadly, the administration’s response to Yemen has forced a peaceful people to view the U.S. government as an adversary. Now 9/11, an act they had nothing to do with, is being exploited to wage a long war in their country.


  1. America's status in the world has been in decline ever since O gave his speech in Cairo.
    The attack on the Israeli embassy is just the beginning.
    A non Mubarak Egypt will not tolerate the status quo.
    It will hit rock bottom when the U.S. sends its veto in the U.N. for a Palestinian state.
    I expect the whole M/E to be on high alert after the vote is cast.
    Both Clinton's are part of the problem NOT the solution.

  2. Kudos!



    Sadly, the administration’s response to Yemen has forced a peaceful people to view the U.S. government as an adversary. Now 9/11, an act they had nothing to do with, is being exploited to wage a long war in their country.