Another week, another war. And yet another American alliance with the forces of Islamic extremism. Washington is clearly the guiding force between the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen — a move that will almost certainly lead to a protracted and ruinous conflict, spilling over many borders and, as usual, creating fertile ground for more extremism. In other words, America’s war profiteers and military imperialists have given themselves another rich seam of loot and power. And in Yemen, as in Syria, the Yanks are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with their old allies, al Qaeda, once again.
As usual, some of the best analysis of the latest berserk spasm of Potomac fever comes from the redoubtable As’ad AbuKhalil, the “Angry Arab.” Here’s an excerpt from one of his trenchant observations of the situation:
This war is also an American war: it is a gift from the US to the GCC countries who didn’t like US policies in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen. The Saudi regime is now pursuing the Israeli option: that it will now be more clearly aligned with the Israeli interests in the region and that it will also be aggressive and violent in pursuing regime interests. … On every issue in Arab politics, the Saudi regime is aligned with Israel. Make no mistake about it: Israel is the secret member of the GCC coalition bombing Yemen.
In the 1960s, the Saudi regime ignited a war in Yemen to thwart a progressive and republican alternative to the reactionary immamate regime (and Israel supplied weapons to the Saudi side in that war). In this war, the GCC countries are supporting a corrupt and reactionary puppet regime created by Saudi Arabia and the US. Saudi Arabia never allowed Yemen to enjoy independence. It saw in itself the legitimate heir to the British imperial power in peninsula. The Houthis (with whom I share absolutely nothing) are a bunch of reactionaries but were created due to the very policies and war pursued by the Saudi regime in Yemen and their then puppet, Ali Abdullah Salih. South Yemen had the only Marxist state in the Arab wold and the experiment was sabotaged by the reactionary House of Saud.
In all the Yemeni wars, the Saudi regime always sponsored the option that guaranteed more longevity for war and destruction. This is no exception.
Simon Tisdall in the Guardian notes how the Houthis were transformed from a peaceful movement preaching tolerance and cooperation to a militant sect of warriors. See if you can guess how that happened:
The group was radicalised by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Anti-American demonstrations brought the group into conflict with the government of the then president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 2004, it launched a fully-fledged insurgency. The group has sporadically battled both government forces, which have been backed in recent years by US special forces and drones, and Sunni Muslim extremists belonging to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which set up bases in Yemen after being expelled from Afghanistan.
For committing the heinous crime of protesting an act of aggressive war against an Arab nation, the Houthis were repressed by the Washington-backed Saleh. When they took up arms in response — just like the Washington-backed rebels in Libya and the Washington-backed rebels in Syria — the Americans joined in the crackdown with, as Tisdall notes, the usual round of death squads (aka “Special Forces”) and village-shredding, child-killing drones.
And now Peace Prize Laureate is back for more, “coordinating” operations for the Saudis, who have 150,000 troops massed on the border, and expecting more from several other nations — including Sudan, led by Omar al-Bashir, who, as Tisdall notes, just happens to be “wanted for genocide and war crimes.” Meanwhile the Saudi-led attack will give great succour to one of the Houthis’ main enemies — al Qaeda.
Just to recap: the President has lined up the United States shoulder to shoulder with a wanted war criminal, al Qaeda and, of course, the world’s primary supporter of violent Islamic extremism, Saudi Arabia.
This is taking place at the same time that Barack Obama is massively escalating U.S. military operations in Iraq, launching a bombing campaign in Tikrit, ostensibly in aid of the Iraqi government’s attempt to recapture the city from ISIS but more likely just to keep Iranian-led Iraqi Shiite militias from retaking the town. (Alternatively, some have suggested, not entirely implausibly, that the bombing is actually a bid to save ISIS from defeat by the Iranians, and keep both sides embroiled in conflict; the same strategy followed by the U.S. in the Iran-Iraq War.) In any case, the American bombing campaign has had the entirely predictable — and no doubt desired — result of making the fiercely anti-American Shiite militias withdraw, at least temporarily, from the battle for Tikrit.
Obama’s intervention in Tikrit is so murderously stupid that even the New York Times — that ever-eager cheerleader for imperial violence — calls it “a dangerous escalation“: “President Obama has escalated America’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State without providing a shred of evidence showing how it could advance American interests, or what happens once the bombs stop falling. The strikes are part of a campaign that from the outset has been waged without the authorization from Congress required by the Constitution.”
But in some ways, attempting any kind of rational analysis of the situation and its strategic ramifications is pointless. The burning hell that the United States has made of the region with its war of aggression against Iraq and its repeated violent interventions is beyond any sensible comprehension. Washington supported Islamic extremists in Libya — now its trying to combat those same extremists. Washington fights with al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, and against al Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq. Washington wages war against Iranian-backed militias in Yemen while fighting alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Washington backed and participated in Ethiopia’s aggressive war that destroyed Somalia’s first stable government in a generation — and now has spent years fighting the extremists who arose in the vacuum … while putting the leader it originally ousted back in power. Washington’s aggressive, repressive military-security apparatus has grown to gargantuan proportions for the ostensible reason of fighting Islamic extremism — while Washington is the strongest ally and chief weapon-supplier to the chief source of Islamic extremism in the world today, Saudi Arabia. Washington (belatedly) backed the overthrow of the military dictator Mubarak in Egypt and now supports the restoration of the Mubarak regime under another military dictator. Washington sanctions and condemns as a war criminal the leader of Sudan — and is now fighting alongside the war criminal leader of Sudan in Yemen.
The one certain thing you can say about this bizarre goulash of iron and blood is that it doesn’t make any rational sense. At least, not in the terms usually used to discuss policy goals, geopolitical concerns and the national interest. Nor in the terms used by the policymakers themselves for their aims: fighting terrorism, national security, advancing democracy, establishing peace and stability, etc. Look at the situation in the region before the “War on Terror” and look at it today: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen torn by war and chaos, extremist militias controlling cites and whole regions, the armed forces of many nations on the attack, millions of people displaced, atrocities on every side. The present horror far surpasses the worst case scenarios of those who warned of the wide-ranging disasters sure to come from the invasion of Iraq.
There is no rational way to reconcile the stated goals with the policy outcomes of the War on Terror (or whatever one wants to call the incessant, ever-expanding military campaigns of the United States and its extremist, repressive allies). The War on Terror began as a monstrous hybrid of imperialist adventurism, blood-money boondoggle and psychosexual power trip for the stunted, blunted second-rate souls who hold sway in our corrupt system. Its only real purpose is to perpetuate itself in any way it can, both wittingly and unwittingly. It has become the system, it is now the organizing principle of the American state and its relations to other countries.
Seen in this light — not the light of reason or coherence or consistency, but the shooting flames of a drone-bombed house — American policy makes perfect sense.