Tighe Barry, an activist from CODEPINK, from the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a, has joined Press TV’s The Debate program to share his thoughts on the deadly assassination drone strikes carried out by the US in Yemeni airspace on a daily basis.
What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.
Mr. Barry, what do you think the presence of the US marines in Yemen is all about?
I think that once again the US policy to support a corrupt dictator, that has already been deposed by the people of Yemen, just says an awful lot and right now there is a PGCC-imposed national dialog that is going on where the people of Yemen are trying to get it together to, actually, form a government on their own, to have their own constitution.
The Yemen Constitution is not a bad constitution as it sits, but as long as there is meddling by the dollar-crooked American government, you are never going to have freedoms to have free elections here in Yemen and I think that the policy of the United States is seen every single day here in Yemen where people are tired and fed up with the US meddling in the Yemeni affairs.
The people on the streets like the Americans, but they do not like this drone policy, they do not like the policy of not freeing the Yemenis that have never been charged with anything, never seen a judge, that are sitting in Guantanamo, year after year, wanting to come home to their families, and now you have this new invasion of American military forces while we at home in the United States are losing our rights daily.
Tighe Barry, our guest there (Geoffrey Alderman) is saying that the United States government cannot trust the government in Yemen to fight the al-Qaeda operatives who, he says, are a threat to the United States. What is your response to that?
It is funny. If the United States cannot trust the government of Yemen, then why do they keep propping up the same dictatorships, the same military regime, the same internal security forces?
As a matter of fact, the national security force is a force that is being armed and trained by the United States of America. I was just speaking to a person, an activist, who is in the national dialog, that lives in a place called Ma’arib that is a hundred kilometers [away] from Sana’a. There are 35 checkpoints in between Sana’a and Ma’rib. Now today the Ma’rib is under constant surveillance by drones, they have been attacked five times, they keep getting closer and closer, they have killed people inside the city of Sana’a, I have heard stories of 17-year-old boys who ran away after being thrown in a dungeon for a year, they ran away from Sana’a to avoid being thrown back into a dungeon, they are suddenly labeled al-Qaeda, they have to come back into Sana’a every month to sign off like a probation, yet they return to a place and they are droned.
We know that the facts of the mater are, if the United States really wanted to protect itself against 17-year-old people with 60,000-dollar missiles, it would be better off trusting the Yemeni people to form their own government. Right now there is an opportunity in national dialog if the United States would keep its militaristic fingers out of the national dialog, let the people choose their leader and let this country thrive as the way Yemen wants to thrive.
Yemen is full of tribal entities that are fighting against each other, there is a north-south issue but these are not issues that can be decided in Washington D.C., these are local issues that need to be decided locally.
I have been in Yemen now for over a week, I have met the most incredibly beautiful people, there is no animosity towards America, but there is definitely animosity and there is hatred towards the American policies here in Yemen.
Mr. Barry, I would like you to respond to that, but also the question of the Houthis we know in Yemen is quite controversial, the southern separatists.
Our guest there in London was saying that that is a concern for the United States. Do you think the fact that these groups are gaining influence in Yemen is what is making the United States maintain a presence there? [That] it is afraid of the influence of the Houthis or the southerners who are very anti-US?
Let me just say that the United States propped up a dictator for 30 years, they brought this government, they think want to come in and fix it.
It is time for the Americans to step out of this place, Yemen, and we also see this is the only republic on Arabian Peninsula that is completely surrounded by monarchies. Of course, these monarchies would hate it if Yemen became a thriving, viable, republic on the Arabian Peninsula. It would challenge their monarchies.
It is time for the Americans to put their money where their mouth is. If they want democracy, they can get it right here in Yemen, they will never achieve it in Saudi Arabia or the other Emirates.
It is time for the United States to allow that the Yemeni people decide for their future and they have got the national dialog right now, but these drone strikes are creating more al-Qaeda or bad guys or whatever you want to call them, daily, by having these drone strikes and I will tell you another thing is that the United States...
A quick question here Mr. Barry; because you are in Sana’a right now, how much of a threat is al-Qaeda in Yemen?
At the moment I can tell you I have got 20 different versions of what al-Qaeda is in Yemen. Al-Qaeda is..., someone, a man, came to me the other day, he had three small children, he said you killed my brother with the drone strike, he was a simple taxi driver, there were four other people in the car, they said there were six al-Qaeda militants. They did not know the names of anyone, they do not know who they are killing over here.
They decided to kill these guys that they got in his taxi and now the taxi driver is dead. I met with the man and his kids, he is taking care of the man’s children that died in the drone strike; he said in our tribe we would want to kill an American, but I am going to trust that you, as an American, will bring this message back to the United States, that we want to work through the rule of law, we want justice, we want a just system, we want compensation and I think that these are right but [what] he does not want is the United States that denies that they kill someone, they call anyone they want an al-Qaeda [member] or a terrorist, even though these people are just eking out a living daily, day by day, trying to survive in an atmosphere of corruption and a security system that has gone haywire and yet the United States wants to keep meddling in Sana’a, in Yemen, and it is time for Americans to step back and really support democracy in Yemen and stop this fooling around saying that there is al-Qaeda everywhere. I do not feel worried here.
Mr. Barry cold you give a response to that?
Sure I will respond by saying that terrorism will never be squelched anywhere in the world. There will always be people who always want to kill other people for unknown reasons like as example we have had mass murders in the United States over and over and over.
Every single year we have 35,000 murders by gun violence in the United States, I would call that terrorism, but I will tell you this, there are parts of Yemen that are being droned today that development has not reached that area. In other words, they do not have running water, they do not have water at all, they do not have sewer systems, they do not have schools, they do not have the things that we normally call civilization in our Western world, yet we are killing them with drones, we are killing people that do not have anything but they are trying to..., most of these people are reacting to a very corrupt, very evil government that was in power for 30 years. People have been repressed, people have been thrown in dungeons, people are still in dungeons, people [who] want their family members back from Guantanamo.
These are the people that are reacting to what the US foreign policy is and the US foreign policy has totally failed in Yemen and I think, there is no doubt in my mind, that if the United States were to take the same amount of money that they put into bringing military and military weapons here, that Yemen would thrive and also I would like to say that people tell us every day that they are not sure who is killing them; is it Saudi Arabian jets? Is it Yemeni jets? Is it drone strikes? They are not sure because some of them are missiles, some of them are missiles that are missiles that are coming in from sea, even from American ships.
These people are being bombarded from all sides by governments that do not want them to thrive, they do not want them to grow and I think that the best policy for the United States is to step back.
Mr. Tighe Barry one of the comments that was mentioned there, was referring to the fact that the government in Yemen is quite weak, one of our commentators saying that they are divided, they give all the access for foreigners to intervene in Yemen’s affairs. We know that the Yemeni people have been saying that what we want, the purpose of our revolution has not been achieved yet.
First of all, how do you think that this revolution or what it wants can be achieved and how do you think this issue of the weak government that allows for foreign intervention should be tackled?
Well, the PGCC..., they formed what is now called the national dialog and different countries took different parts in national dialog. For example, France is doing the constitution, but the United States chose, of course, military and security and so what they are doing is that they are trying to force the same policies, the same failed policies, on Yemen, the failed policies of Iraq, the failed policies in Pakistan, the failed policies in Afghanistan.
The United States has never won by this method. What they need to do is, go back to their original idea of rule of law. We need a just system here in Yemen, We need a just system in the United States, we need a just system in Guantanamo and you will see an amazing change worldwide.
I do not think that you will ever in entirety of the history of mankind wipe out terrorism. Terrorism is something where people are..., just lose it and they have very deep grievances. But I think what we can do is, stop these grievances by stepping back..., the United States’ government needs to step back, take its billions and millions of dollars that it invests in war machinery and put it in the human lives.