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Friday, August 16, 2013

“Terror of fire from the skies” ─ Survivor writes to U.S. and Yemen presidents

Yemenis protest
U. S. hostilities
drone attacks
breach of sovereignty
killing innocents
Neither “bothers to distinguish friend from foe” … innocents killed, potential allies lost
Excerpt, minor edit, formatting by 
Carolyn Bennett

Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber in August of last year lost his nephew and brother-in-law when a U.S. drone attacked Hadhramout Governorate in Yemen. This year before a meeting between U.S. and Yemeni presidents, Jaber wrote a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama and Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The London-based legal charity Reprieve released Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s letter.
Yemen land
U.S. drone attack

U.S-backed entrenched regime

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is a Yemeni major general and politician who has been the President of Yemen since February 27, 2012, when he was formally inaugurated following the resignation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. In the 2012 presidential election process held on February 21, 2012, Hadi was the sole candidate, his candidacy having been backed by both the ruling party and the parliamentary opposition.

Before assuming this position, Hadi had been the country’s vice president (1994-2012); and while former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia (between June 4 and September 23, 2011) for an alleged injury sustained in an attack on the presidential palace during the Yemeni uprising, Hadi was acting president, a position he held a second time on November 23 after Saleh, ‘in return for immunity from prosecution,’ moved into a non-active role pending the presidential election.

Politician and soldier Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is a career military officer with a rank of major general. In 1994, he had become Yemen’s vice president after Ali Salim Al-Beidh resigned and lost the 1994 civil war. President Ali Abdullah Saleh on October 3, 1994, appointed Hadi vice president.  Before this appointment Hadi had been Yemen’s minister of defense.

U.S. global hostility
Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s letter

Dear President Obama and 
President Hadi:

My name is Faisal bin Ali Jaber. I am a Yemeni engineer from Hadramout, employed by Yemen’s equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency. I am writing today because I read in the news that you will be meeting in the White House on Thursday, August 1, to discuss the ‘counter-terrorism partnership’ between the U.S. and Yemen.

My family has personally experienced this partnership. A year ago this August, a drone strike in my ancestral village killed my brother-in-law, Salem bin Ali Jaber, and my twenty-one-year-old nephew, Waleed.

Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi
United States President Barack Hussein Obama
President Obama: you said in a recent speech that the United States is ‘at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first.’  This war against al-Qa’ida, you added, ‘is a just war - a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.’

President Hadi: on a trip to the United States last September, you claimed that ‘every operation [in Yemen], before taking place, (had) permission from the President.’ You also asserted that ‘the drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.

Why then did you both send drones last August to attack my innocent brother-in-law and nephew? 

Members of Our family are not your enemy.

In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qa’ida.

Salem [Jaber’s brother-in-law] was an Imam.  The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qa’ida’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but regrettably, it was his last.

In months of grieving, my family have received no acknowledgement or apology from the U.S. or Yemen.

We’ve struggled to square our tragedy with the words in your speeches.

A people under endless 
Attack by foreigners
How was this ‘self-defense’?

My family worried that militants would target Salem for his sermons. We never anticipated his death would come from above at the hands of the United States.

In his death you lost a potential ally ─ in fact, because word of the killing spread immediately through the region, I fear you have lost thousands [of potential allies].

How was this ‘in last resort’? 

Our town was no battlefield.  We had no warning ─ our local police were never asked to make any arrest. Before the strike cut short his life, my young cousin Waleed was a policeman.

How was this ‘proportionate’?

U.S. drones on Yemen
The strike devastated our community.  The day before the strike, Khashamir buzzed with celebrations for my eldest son’s wedding. Our wedding videos show Salem and young Waleed in a crowd of dancing revelers joining the celebration. Traditionally, this revelry would have gone on for days ─ but for the attack. Afterwards, it was days before I could persuade my eldest daughter to leave the house; such was her terror of fire from the skies.

The strike left a stark lesson in its wake ─ not just in my village; but across Hadramout and wider Yemen.

The lesson, I am afraid, is that neither the current U.S. nor Yemeni administration bothers to distinguish friend from foe.  In speech after speech after the attack, community leaders stood and said: if Salem was not safe, none of us are.

Unrepentant cavalier killing of innocents
Careless loss of potential allies

Your silence in the face of these injustices only makes matters worse. If the strike was a mistake, the family ─ like all wrongly bereaved families of this secret air war ─ deserve a formal apology.

To this day I wish no vengeance against the United States or Yemeni governments. But not everyone in Yemen feels the same.

Every dead innocent swells the ranks of those you are fighting.

Yemenis protest
U.S. drone attacks
All Yemen has begun to take notice of drones ─ and they object. Only this month, Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference, a quasi-Constitutional Convention which I understand
the U.S. underwrites, almost unanimously voted to prohibit the unregulated use of drones in our country.

With respect, you cannot continue to behave as if innocent deaths like those in my family are irrelevant.  If the Yemeni and American Presidents refuse to engage with overwhelming popular sentiment in Yemen, you will defeat your own counter-terrorism aims.

Thank you for your consideration.  I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply.
Yours Sincerely,
Faisal bin Ali Jaber
Sana’a, Yemen

Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s

Sources and notes

“LETTER FORM YEMEN: Must-Read: Letter From Yemen” (50855.jpeg) “This letter was written to President Obama and the President of Yemen by a man who lost innocent family members in a U.S. drone strike aimed at Al-Qaeda militants. The day the letter was released there was another strike on Hadhramout, with its wadis, crops of wheat, millet, coffee, date palm and coconut groves and herds of sheep and goats.

“The letter was released to coincide with the meeting between President Obama and President Hadi at the White House at which the U.S. president spoke of the visit reinforcing: ‘the strong partnership and cooperation that’s developed between the United States and the government of Yemen’ and thanking President Hadi and his government for the strong cooperation that they’ve offered when it comes to ‘counterterrorism.’

[Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda Ru translation note: ‘give license for the U.S. to execute, without Judge or jury, people like Mr. Jaber’s relatives, on Obama’s signature’.]


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
Copyright © 1999-2013, «PRAVDA.Ru». When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink to PRAVDA.Ru should be made. The opinions and views of the authors do not always coincide with the point of view of PRAVDA.Ru's editors.
August 16, 2013, http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/16-08-2013/125405-letter_yemen-0/

[Wadi (Arabic: وادي‎ wādī; also: Vadi) is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.

[wa·di (wah-dee): noun, plural wa·dis. (in Arabia, Syria, northern Africa, etc.): (a) the channel of a watercourse that is dry except during periods of rainfall; (b) such a stream or watercourse itself; (c) a valley.]

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi bio, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_Rabbuh_Mansur_al-Hadi 


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