It seems that already in the first days in office, U.S. President Donald Trump wants to see another escalation in Yemen — a country, which is the scene of regular drone attacks and various other shadowy operations conducted by the United States since 2002.
Apart from that, Yemen is facing a huge destruction since last March, mainly thanks to the horrendous bombings by U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia. Thousands of civilians have already been killed, while tens of thousands have been displaced and face a humanitarian crisis, largely ignored by the rest of the world.
According to the Pentagon, at least two drone strikes took place in Yemen under the hand of the Trump administration. Both of them have only killed "terrorists" says the official narrative. However, this procedure already became normal under the Bush and Obama administration. It was too obvious that this would not change under Trump.
At the moment, Yemen is the best example for that. On the night of January 29, Trump's first commando raid in Baydah province ended with a massacre. During the operation, both Navy SEALs and weaponed Reaper drones were involved. In the end, more than 30 Yemenites, including women and children, were killed. Additionally, one U.S. soldier died while at least two were injured.
Eight-year-old Nawaar al-Awlaki was also among the victims. Nawaar was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-Yemeni preacher who allegedly had strong ties with Al-Qaida. Nevertheless, the U.S. government was not ever able to charge al-Awlaki for any crime. Instead, he was murdered by a drone in a CIA assassination strike in September 2011. Two weeks later, in mid-October, al-Awlaki's son Abdulrahman, his 17-year-old cousin and several other civilians were killed by a drone strike in Yemen. Abdulrahman was an innocent child, he had not any extremist ties nor was he himself a militant — he just had the wrong father.
And so had Nawaar, whose murder has quickly been confirmed by her grandfather Dr. Nasser al-Awlaki, who still lives in Yemen's capital Sana'a. "Why kill children?" the grandfather asked. "This is the new (U.S.) administration. It's very sad, a big crime." According to al-Awlaki, his grandchild was shot in her neck by a U.S. soldier. Nawaar suffered two hours before she died.
Let's be clear on this: Shooting a child in the neck on purpose is not just murder, it's the way fascists kill.
Officially, the United States are not at war in Yemen. However, shadowy U.S. military operations have become part of daily life in the country and, like in other regions of the world, one of Barack Obama's main legacies. Even in the last days of his presidency, Obama put his full efforts into increasing the power of his elite soldiers of the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, who have operated in Yemen and elsewhere for years. It's symbolic that Nawaar's brother Abdulrahman was murdered by drone by Obama while she herself was shot by one of Trump's soldiers.
Few hours after the bloodbath, Vice President Mike Pence mourned on Twitter for the dead soldier and called him a "hero" who died while fighting "radical Islamic terror". He did not mention that another "hero" killed Nawaar.
According to the U.S. government, a source which should be scrutinized on a regular basis, all the other victims were Al-Qaida militants. Nawaar al-Awlaki and the other slaughtered civilians were not mentioned at all. Since Trump and his National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn already made clear months ago that they consider the killing of "terrorist's families" as legitimate, this should not be a surprise. However, it should not be forgotten that the Obama administration handled things in a similar way — just without using such a harsh rhetoric. Mostly, innocent people were killed and remained nameless and invisible.
When Trump took office, many observers criticized him, his background, his personality and his racist and Islamophobic slurs. But rarely, was there any criticism on Obama's foreign policy legacy visible. Leading media outlets did not focus on what kind of powers Obama was going to serve Trump on a silver platter. Instead they mourned after the former president's charisma and rhetoric — or in other words: His tools to show the U.S. empire in its best way.
But now we have Trump, the empire's ugly face, and people are already suffering under him. It's both deeply sadistic and ironic that people from Yemen are not allowed to enter the United States in these days while American soldiers are free to enter Yemen and murder its citizens. In fact, this is the peak that we have reached in a system of constant racism and injustice.
Emran Feroz is a freelance journalist, blogger, and activist. He was born and raised in Austria by Afghan parents. Currently, Emran is living in Germany and writes for several German magazines and newspapers. He is also the founder of “Drone Memorial,” a virtual memorial for drone victims.