Drowning out the drones in Yemen?

Abdullah Hamidaddin
Abdullah Hamidaddin
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The past few days, drones had been hovering over Yemen and killing innocent people and militant suspects. And then this Thursday President Obama sent a greeting to the Muslim world on the occasion of the Eid. He sent ‘warmest’ greetings. The message contained other things which I won’t mention because it does not matter. Why would a ‘warm’ greeting of an American president matter to me to someone living in an Arab country? Why should I care about the positive gestures he offers. Moreover why would he even bother to send his greetings? What does he feel when he signs the greetings with the same pen which signs the command to use drones?

I cannot answer that, but when I read his greetings, I was also reading news of drones flying over Yemeni cities and villages. And the greeting tasted bitter. I felt that his greeting was charged with double standards, hypocrisy, and disregard for our lives. For a moment I felt that as far as Obama was concerned, the lives of foreign citizens do not matter. It crossed my mind that we are bugs. I asked myself if or not he sincerely believe that we are entitled to live safely. Do we matter?

I am a realist and a pragmatist. So I tried to justify it. I sincerely did. I said there are terrorists. They threaten us. They kill us. They also threaten the United States and they kill American citizens. So why should I be angry at killing them? I went online. I read the justifications presented by those who support it. But no matter how much I thought or read, I could not overcome the fact that such an act is illegal, immoral, unjust, counterproductive and racist.

Yemenis are constantly looking up the sky. Faces become white from fear with the sound of the hum of the drone far away.

Abdullah Hamidaddin

What we have here is a pure act of murder cloaked in words like: self-defense, last resort, proportional, and just. But the naked truth is that those being killed are suspects. Any sensible law would not allow the execution of a human being without a process of proving that they are guilty of the crimes attributed to them. Terrorist or not, they have rights as humans. Or maybe Obama and his administration think not. They are after all Arabs and Muslims. So maybe they are fair game. What makes it worse it that absolutely innocent individuals are also killed in the process. And the drones still continue. It is as if it does not matter for Obama that a few children are killed as long as he is ‘protecting’ the American people. So what? They are Arab children. And we have many of them. So what if one or two fall down while the killing of American enemies goes on. Collateral damage is the technical word they use.

But the damage does not stop. Not only is Obama illegally executing suspects and murdering innocent people. In the process he terrorizes a whole nation. Yemenis are constantly looking up the sky. Faces become white from fear with the sound of the hum of the drone far away. Obama wants to kill 6 people and in the process terrorizes more than 20 million and to put a cherry on top, kills a ‘few’ more who were not on the list. Sometimes he does not even get the ones he was after. So he takes another shot. But so what. It is only Yemen. And I can say the same for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those nations do not need to feel safe. Only Americans should feel safe. Everyone else can lie down and die. What adds insult to injury is that Obama actually considers it a just war. He actually considers that terrorizing a whole nation is proportional. The only way that this war is just or proportional is to consider that the lives, security and wellbeing of Twenty million+ Yemenis are worthless.

Drone terrorism

I do not live in Yemen. So I really don’t know how it actually feels to be in a city where drones are hovering over and carrying with them the possibility of death. But I have friends in who live in Yemen. And they speak to me of their own horrible experiences.

I have also lived in a war zone. I grew up as a child in Lebanon during the civil war and the Israeli invasion. I know how it feels like to walk in a street where the possibility of being shot at exists every moment. I have experienced the fear of lying low on the floor of our Beirut apartment while a battle raged in the street. I know how it feels to look up into the sky in fear of an Israeli air strike, or to fearfully wait in a shelter till the danger was over. These are terrible feelings that no human being should experience. And those who willfully and actively incite such fear for senseless reasons should be indicted in the court of public opinion as terrorists. Yes drone attacks should be considered as an act of terrorism partaken by a government against a whole nation. But Yemen is weak. It needs the support of the United States to pull through the Gulf Initiative. The United States knows that, so it takes advantage.

Drone Yemen out

What Obama is doing now reminds me of Bismarck when he said that the Poles should be smashed, wiped out, and they may well “lie down and die” for the sake of Germany’s security. But Obama is not Bismarck. From a purely realist point of view I can understand what Bismarck was saying. I also understand that States are a-moral creatures that behave according to their interests. Morality simply does not apply to them.

So Bismarck may have been acting in the best of the interest of Germany. But what Obama is doing is against American interest. He wants to end terrorism but ends up perpetuating it. He wants to extinguish anti-Americanism which breeds militancy but he ends up feeding its fire. He wants to protect Americans but he only increases the dangers against it. But the worst part of it all. Is that drones create a downward spiral. The more drones American uses, the more danger it creates, the more drones it needs… and it never stops. Drones create militant terrorists not only out of religious people; drones can even turn an atheist into a terrorist.

Drone doubt

I am a pacifist. I am against all forms of war and violence as a principle. But I still believe that violence can be used, but only be used as a last resort. As a last resort in the real sense not in the Obama sense. I am also against all the ‘isms’ of the region. I am against Islamism and nationalism. I am constantly accused of being a pro-Western liberal secular, because of my views on democracy, human right, inter-religious understanding, peace with Israel and many other sensitive issues in the region.

Despite all that the drone attacks are making me wonder if the militants are right. I look at myself and find that my views do not deter the United States; that my approach is not protecting the lives of innocent people; that my anti ism attitude is not preserving the dignity of our nations. I look at drones and ask myself maybe what the region needs is more Irans, more Hezbollahs, more Hamases, more Huthis, even more AQAP. I hate myself to even wonder in that direction and I never seriously go beyond wondering. Two wrongs do not make a right. The drone terrorism perpetrated by the United States does not justify a counter terrorism by local actors. But when I see a child crying from the sound of a hum, or wetting his pants from the sight of an approaching drone, or being pulled out dead from the aftermath of a drone killing; when I hear that I find it hard to resist wondering.


Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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