Massacre in Yemen
By Staff News & Analysis - May 12, 2011

Yemen protests: Security forces fire on Sanaa marches … Yemeni security forces opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters in the capital, Sanaa … Mass rallies were held in several cities in the latest wave of protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Earlier on Wednesday, witnesses and medics said at least two activists were shot dead in the southern city of Taiz. Meanwhile, reports suggest the country is facing a growing fuel crisis. – BBC

Dominant Social Theme: Libya is in much worse shape than Yemen.

Free-Market Analysis: Yesterday, the Internet and alternative media generally lit up with reports of a Yemeni attack on protestors. Yemeni security forces were said to have fired on protestors for a number of hours, as can be seen from the BBC report above. The protestors want the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who derives his power from the Southwest of Yemen and has held his office for some 30 years.

Despite Saleh's entrenched regime, there is a good deal of determination being shown by the Yemen protesters. But most of the information was being reported on the Internet or being carried live by various news outlets other than Western ones. Russia Today (RT) covered the protests and so did Iran's Press TV, which carried video footage of the wounded and dead.

Press TV reported that young men were advancing toward Saleh's troops and sharp-shooters, while removing their shirts and thumping their chests, inviting the bullets.

Such killings have been decried in Egypt and Libya but there has been relative silence when it comes to Yemen. The problems in Yemen show clearly the double standard that the West is applying to various countries in the Middle East and Africa. Libya, the Ivory Coast, Egypt and Tunisia are all in the throes of regime change but in Bahrain and Yemen, regime change has not been supported by the West. Bahrain's democracy movement was suppressed by Saudi troops and Yemen's massive unrest and student demonstrations has certainly not received the kind of coverage applied to Egypt or Libya.

Yesterday, for instance, there were reports of the shootings by Yemen's government, which apparently killed at least 10 people and wounded dozens more, many of them young people, even students. But the reporting was clinical rather than expansive and factual rather than analytical. This relatively supine approach, according to at least some analysts, has to do with Saleh's designation by the West as the point-man in the upcoming war on terror planned for Yemen, Syria and Somalia, and perhaps elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. The idea was that Saleh, a brutal despot, would provide the West and America especially with the access and credibility the West would need to expand its questionable war on terror.

But if Yemen is to be evaluated within the context of the current Western concern for civilians as demanded by recent UN resolutions then there is no reason why NATO should be less concerned about Saleh than Muammar Gadaffi. In Libya, NATO is dropping bombs to "protect" citizens. In Bahrain and Yemen, their governments are assaulting citizens but the West seems far less concerned and Western media far less passionate. Here's some more from the BBC:

Dozens of people have been killed as forces crack down on protesters in recent weeks. Witnesses and medics in Sanaa said security forces fired on crowds as thousands of people marched toward the cabinet building, leaving at least one person dead and 40 others injured. "The snipers were shooting at the people. People rushed and some fell over each other. There was a stampede," protester Talal al-Hamadi told AP news agency.

Mr. al-Hamadi said people tried to find shelter in buildings in side streets as security forces chased after them. The man who died was shot in the chest "near his heart," a medic at a field hospital in Sanaa's University Square told AFP news agency. The wounded had mostly received shots to the neck or head, he added.

In Taiz, protesters set fire to tyres and sealed off buildings, including a branch of the oil ministry, residents said. "Stores are closed and the streets are completely empty of pedestrians, only protesters are around in the areas they are confronting (security forces)," resident Wajdi Abdullah said. Two activists died after forces opened fire on crowds, according to medics and residents in the city.

Of course not "one person" died in yesterday's protests but perhaps 10 or more. And it is true that a quick check of Google at deadline revealed that this latest Yemeni bloodshed received coverage in the New York Times among other publications. But compare some 600 articles on what is clearly a rolling massacre of civilians to the thousands of articles aimed at Gaddafi and a difference can be seen that is both qualitative and quantitative. The death toll in Yemen from these protests is approaching 150, with thousands wounded. It begins to look like a war where one side is using weapons and sharp-shooters and the other is using young men leading with their chests.

Yemen's major cities these days are full of flying lead and bullet-holes. In the regions of Libya that Gadaffi still controls, meanwhile, there are reportedly few if any demonstrations or checkpoints. While Gadaffi has surely been brutal to his enemies in the past, the civilians in Gadaffi's tribal areas seem more secure and safe than the Yemeni protestors. In fact, demonstrations and shootings have been reported across Yemen in such cities as Ibb, Damar, Hadramaut and Hudaida. President Saleh continues to refuse to step down and is evidently backing off from an agreement put together by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to end the crisis.

More and more it is obvious that youth-led regime change is suitable for some countries but not for others. It is more than likely that these regime changes are being aimed at leaders in the Middle East and Africa that are not seen as sufficiently pliable by the West. Where countries are Western allies, the promotions are not implemented and the UN-approved dominant social theme having to do with "protecting civilians" (thanks to the abrogation of the Peace of Westphalia) is not applied.

In the next few days and weeks, Western regimes will come under additional pressure to "do" something in Yemen as they have in Libya and the Ivory Coast. The continued reluctance and temporizing will be interesting to watch. Of course we don't advocate Western interference in the affairs of other nation-states, but Saleh has been evidently and obviously propped up by the West these past 30 years and larger issue (given that the West DOES interfere) is one of strategic hypocrisy.

Such hypocrisy may have proven to be a useful tool in the 20th century but it is more difficult to apply in the 21st century. Increasingly, the alternative media is poking holes in a regime change promotion that is being aimed at some countries but not others. And surprisingly, the most credible, up-to-the-minute reporting seems to be carried out by Russian and Iranian TV – an ironic state of affairs given the lip service paid in the West to press freedoms.

After Thoughts

Such reporting in our view is making it difficult for the Anglo-American power elites to consolidate the gains it hopes to make in the Middle East as a result of what are reportedly CIA-sponsored youth revolutions. Egypt and Tunisia both remain in turmoil and the Ivory Coast – subject to a recent French imposed regime change – is likely going to remain troubled as well. Neo-colonialism in the 21st century is a good deal messier than in the 20th.

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