So, this week, al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) took over Mosul by storm and is on its way to Baghdad. We are told that the group is the next generation of al-Qaeda, a new and improved version of it, and that it will not be taking any prisoners, beheading its way into Iraq’s capital throughout a Mother of All Battles that will make the sacking of Rome look like a picnic. Is that not a simplistic narrative that fuels conflict escalation?
Most media outlets and pundits are missing the most important story behind the recent take-over of Mosul, which is connection between the social movements that had been present in Sunni parts of Iraq, and the popular support that ISIS is presently benefiting from. Should ISIS not benefit from conscious popular support; there is no way that they would have captured so much territory in so little time. More importantly, most experts would rather not incriminate the international community, nor its enabler the United Nations, for their standing idly by as sectarianism crept into Iraqi life since the botched democratization process that was initiated by the 2005 electoral cycle. No one cares to remember for instance that despite being invited repeatedly to visit the Occupy Fallujah demonstration site since December 2012, UN chief in Iraq Nikolai Mladenov preferred to echo Maliki’s terrorism hate narrative against Iraqi Sunnis instead of doing his job and not siding with one party to the detriment of the other. Even as Maliki initiated his disastrous Anbar campaign to curb Occupy Fallujah’s political demands in late December 2013, Mladenov kept using the word “terrorism” when referring to the Fallujah leadership. He now keeps issuing statements of concern for local displaced populations, too little too late.
Once again, it all started in Fallujah, in December 2012. After the arbitrary arrest of several Sunni politicians and prominent figures on terrorism charges, within a context of relative deprivation and perceived government harassment, Occupy Fallujah was born with three simple political demands: an end of all talks of federalism, an enforcement of equal opportunities for Sunnis and Shi’ias, and a resignation of Prime Minister Maliki. In any healthy political system, those demands would have been labeled as political, but in Fallujah, they were called terrorism. As a response, Maliki sent troops to try and take Fallujah, and after many unsuccessful attempts; he sent barrel bombs instead, just like his neighbor Bashar al Assad on Aleppo, clearly committing crimes against humanity in the process. All throughout the process, the Fallujah tribes and military council made a deal with ISIS, upon realization that they needed help to keep the government at bay. Scores of ISIS militants came to the area and kept weakening the resolve and potency of the Iraqi army, whose special forces and regular troops lost a heavy amount of men while trying to enter Fallujah. Amongst desertions en masse came the decoy attack on Samarra last week, paving the way for an overtaking of Mosul.
Today, the Occupy Fallujah demand for an end of talks of federalism bares a heavy connotation. Peoples and tribes in Fallujah, Mosul, or Tikrit, prefer a de facto ISIS-engineered federalism to the sectarian Maliki government. This is an incredible compromise on their part. They feel so utterly abandoned by the international community and so victimized by the government, that they have resorted to the lesser evil, which to them is ISIS. This notion of the lesser evil is crucial, because given the proportion of former Baathists in cities like Mosul, it will be much more difficult for ISIS to administer the city like they do in Raqqa, Syria. They will have to mitigate their actions, or face the same fate as the Islamic State in Iraq in 2008, hence the importance of the Slow Insurgency features that they have been developing in the past few years. They are now very cautious about how they are being perceived among the population.
There was the Slow Food movement, meet ISIS: the Slow Insurgency. After the defeats of their ancestor the Islamic State of Iraq, which lost hearts and minds through centralized tactical errors lacking local legitimacy, slow insurgency features amount to recruiting leadership locally, keeping operations decentralized, and most importantly, focusing on local population support, providing state-like services such as schools, healthcare, etc. In terms of popular support, blunders such as killing a person for wearing the wrong pair of pants are no longer practiced, and whoever will be denounced to them will be given the chance of what is considered a fair trial. In addition to this, Iraqi security services are being bought and penetrated through locally based relationships. Self-sufficiency becomes the core of operations, and as a communications kept to a bare minimum; the potential chances for getting caught are significantly reduced.
So if one misses these points, it might be easy to talk about a Jihadist Spring, and resort to calling them an al-Qaeda/ISI offshoot, yet it is plain wrong at this point. Sure, dinosaurs were on this planet before us, but does this mean that they are our ancestors? Al-Qaeda's beef is with the West, while ISIS is mainly concerned with Shi'ites and what they see as the malevolent hand of Iran in Iraqi governmental affairs. There are currently foreigners (US, Germans and others) being kept inside a power plant somewhere in Iraq. Al Qaeda could have made a show of killing them on camera. Yet they are still alive, and independent political brokers have secured their release. In this particular case, ISIS is keen on showing good will towards foreigners. It might let them go just to differentiate itself from al-Qaeda. This is an illustration of the paradigm difference that does not make ISIS in any way related to al-Qaeda, whose mission and vision is being jealously guarded by their leader Ayman Zawahiri, behaving like an old childless uncle who does not want to let go of the family inheritance.
Syria is of course an important element in relation to the momentum that ISIS has gained over the past year, yet it is not the whole story. Even though the ISIS ‘hashtag’ on social media Twitter is #SykesPicotOver, referring to the French and British artificial carving of the Middle East in 1916, the situation is very different in Iraq: it is unlikely that ISIS will face strong Iraqi army attempts to regain control over Mosul. The blitz aura that has been asserted to ISIS in relation to its quick overtaking of Mosul is as much an ISIS victory as it represents the complete impotence of the Iraqi army since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011. Since then, the army has been an empty vessel, lacking technology, human intelligence, riddled by corruption at all levels, badly trained, marred by massive desertions since the beginning of the Anbar campaign, and lacking any sense of initiative in face of adversity. More importantly, there has never been any motivation for young Shi’a conscripts to defend any territory that they do not associate with religiously. From this perspective, it seems that Maliki’s sectarianism has come back to bite him, since it has made his army utterly unmotivated to serve Iraqi national interests.
The impending ‘sack’ of Baghdad will bear many surprises. There is no doubt that media pundits and Iraq self-appointed experts will surf on the ISIS/al-Qaeda 2.0 wave, yet the greatest achievement of ISIS may be behind it, the end of Sykes Picot borders as we know them. As George W. Bush put it in his trivial jumpsuit over the coast of California, this is definitely “Mission Accomplished” for a slow, meticulous and ghostly ISIS.
Traveling from Tikrit to Fallujah through the desert, July 2013
Resilience of Insurgencies in Iraq: Part 2 of Abdullah Janabi's sermon in Fallujah, Friday January 17th 2014
In this part of his sermon, Sheikh Abdullah Janabi clearly shows how many lessons learned have been taken from the 2004 sieges of Fallujah, and how important it is for the fighters/mujahedeen to "win hearts and minds", this is a paradigm shift in the way that "resistance" has been apprehended until now. Since this sermon, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Tribes of Fallujah have agreed to administer the city together, in a partnership.
Thanks to the Al Mighty, who knows what lies behind the visions of people's eyes as well as the internalized processes occurring in the chests of the people.
Thanks to the Al Mighty, who preached that the feelings and thoughts that we choose not to say or hide are actions like all actions that will be judged and accounted for.
Thanks to the Al Mighty, the all-knowing, even those who hide things as well as the secrets behind them. I bare witness that there is no god but God, recognizing his oneness where no command is above His, who preached through the Qudsi Hadith, "Oh son of Adam, don't fear any Sultan. Sultans come and go but my Sultanism remains. Oh son of Adam, don't fear them. My slave, my slave, my greatness and goodness flows to you from above whilst your sins ascend to me. You are entrusted with my goodness and greatness, yet you are distracted by those other than me?"
And I bare witness to our leader, our backbone, our honorable Prophet Mohammad, Peace by upon him, the one the Al Mighty entrusted him with the message of truth and true faith. He has conveyed the message and succeeded in his entrustment and advised the Umma and struggled for this purpose and obeyed the Al Mighty until his last day on this earth; peace be upon him. The Al Mighty has increased his honour and dignity and respect for the Prophet as he has assigned him as the messenger of his Umma.
And his Greatness has also honored and dignified our leaders thereafter; Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali; peace be upon them as well as Hassan and Hussein and their mother; part of the prophet's sacredness Fatima Al Zahra peace be upon her along with the rest of our beloved leaders, caliphs, the genuine and truth worshippers and faithful, religious jurists and followers who genuinely and love them out of purity until the last day peace be upon them. The Al Mighty has reached to us; to be vigilant and cautious about corruption. And now what.
Dear beloved people, I am not taking the stand that I am taking to go back in time. No. Nor is it for love of boasting and chauvinism or bias of perspective. No. Instead, my dear people, it is the falsehoods about me that were driven by the people who were around me or close to my inner circle. Some of them believed the falsehoods, whether those who were close and those who were not. The same sources are starting once again to blame me and for this reason I want to clarify the picture for those who like to talk about me so that we stand hand in hand in front of the eyes of the Al Mighty and the Most Just.
Dear people, I have witnesses, who will witness while i am in the hands of the Al Mighty and the Most Just. These witnesses I am referring to can be no shape or form be false or fake witnesses. Do you know who my witnesses are? Who are they my dear people? Answer me. (People in background mumble). Yes. The Angels of the Al Mighty.
For those who don't accept them as witnesses, they are similarly denying the walls of this mosque and the pillars of this speaking stand along with the roof of this mosque. Tomorrow, they will be my witnesses that this speaking stand was never silent to any word of truth. These witnesses are enough for me to present in the hands of the Al Mighty.
Dear beloved people, as part of my sermon, I have some questions directed to you and I want you to answer me. This process is religiously permissible and has happened in the times and era of the Prophet peace be upon him. For the sake of the Al Mighty, I will ask and you answer.
Are we Creators or Creations? (People answer "Creations"). Are you sure? Are we not up to date to our status and we are Creators but we just dont know it?. Ok. Yes, we are creations. Ok. Do we have a Creator?-(People answer Yes).
Our Creator my dear people; has drafted and created a law for us to follow as a compass and direction?(People answer Yes.). He commanded us to follow this Law. The next question to you all:
The entrustment of this Deen is on whose neck?(People answer-the religious jurists)-Yes the religious jurists and then?(People answer- the rulers)- Yes the rulers and then?(People answer- Us.). Yes, you my beloved people after the primary responsibility on the religious clerics and the rulers. It is you.
Now, when the rulers are corrupt and the religious jurists are corrupt; I am not generalizing as there are some faithful and genuine religious jurists out there. When this law is not followed in our society as a result of the corruption we are currently seeing, are the religious jurists and rulers following the Al Mighty's orders in terms of protecting this law? I am asking you in the hands of the Al Mighty right now. Have they been fulfilling their obligations in their capacities as religious jurists and rulers? (People answer-No)
Dear beloved ones, I say this because of what is internalized and felt in my chest because whenever the occupation occurred, and with the support of the Al Mighty we faced them and we have been maimed and our image has been distorted and unfortunately most people follow this avenue of narrative. And now, the issue is reoccurring like the previous occupation.
As always I am going to be honest and straight to the point and I swear by the Al Mighty that behind every propaganda; there is a facilitator, someone responsible. On the top of our list is Al Hizb Al Islami (The Islamic Party) and the politicians. Their symbol is like the symbol of the Army of Bashar Al Assad (i,e, Either Al Assad, or we burn the country). They are using the same principle; Either we govern, or we make your lives hell; one strategy is through the falsification and propaganda against our great warriors and mujahedeen. This is the sour and bitter reality. Another question to you my beloved ones:
Dawood Al Hamashi and Mohammad Al Hamashi, may God bless them and give them the highest level of paradise as they were the ones who contributed in building this mosque. Now how spacious is this mosque. (People answer: mumbles). Yes, it is very small. Now what about the house beside the mosque; they are both equally built for the use of the sheikh who runs the mosque.
Now Ahmad Abdul Ghaffour would bring strippers/belly dancers to the House of the Al Mighty and would give every stripper/belly dancer a Karat of Gold but then beheads Abdulla Al Jalabi and people like him; they do not recognize our rightful demand for our rights. This is the bitter reality my beloved ones. Abdulla Al Jalabi has real estate and buildings everywhere, too busy worrying about his goatee and messing with women.
We went out and stood up for our rights in front of the Al Mighty. The sovereign and independent human being, who has their salary cut, has here and there the religious jurists among them. Those who choose a political party is a sell out for a salary, rent, and privileges. Is this Islam? Answer me people. (People answer: No). Let us stop buttering up and talking highly of people. Fallujah is the safest place in Iraq today because Maliki nor the dogs of Maliki are able to besiege Fallujah. The army and Maliki are history. (People in background say inshalla). And the ones who chase after them, the Islamic Party who have betrayed the people that have brought rise to them in the first place. They have sold you out for nothing.
My beloved ones, I have stands. My first stand is with the pride, honour, dignity of the Muslims that are whom? The Mujahedeen. They are the pride, honour and dignity of our Umma. I have stands that they need to listen to carefully.
First, they have to have the consent of the people, their families and their neighbors because if it wasnt for the people of Fallujah's resistance which rid Fallujah of Maliki's rodents, Abdullah Al Jalabi and the mujahideen would have never been able to enter Fallujah. This is the truth. So the families and the people of Fallujah need to be protected, respected and defended and thanked and greeted in the highest level of respect and honour.
Therefore my beloved ones, those who want to participate in jihad, need not to be directed by their self-opinions but rather be of full humility and be directed by families of Fallujah. Their art of war and capacity as fighters will be demonstrated through their social interactions with the people because that is the real art of war. This is how we need to be if we are to have peace in the afterlife. This is a strategy of non-forgetting and discipline. We have capable teachers to implement this strategy except with the circumstance that they have received a status in society and are filling their pockets and sitting on their shaky thrones. This is my message, the first part directed to our young men, the mujahedeen.
The second stand is be aware of mixed interactions. Be vigilant of who is mixing among you that is not from among you. There are those that will come among you and infiltrate to destroy our image and the overall picture of what is happening and then come around to boast, to condescend and so on and so forth. Be careful of those kinds and infiltrations in general as they are government agents and/or military personnel.
We do not do anything that doesn't satisfy or fit Gods want or wishes. Answer me my beloved ones. Is it permissible for the infidels to be ahead of the believers. (People answer no). Look at the American occupation, because of this lack of strategy I am talking about, the people of certain villages could not resist the occupation because they were providing them something that their own people didn't have among themselves. It is an illusion of the real thing, that is love, respect and honor and dignity. Mujahedeen, don't make this mistake and be hasty in your decisions as you will fail the people and therefore fail society.
If there was ever an Islamic State and the first thing that is worked on is determination of borders then that state is a stupid and ignorant state that will evaporate or it is a state created to infiltrate and destroy Islam. My beloved ones since a century ago, people have been suffocated, people are not allowed to speak the truth. Let the people speak, let the people criticize.
In addition to these advises and stands I have discussed, I want to advise you to be modest and simple. If someone asks you who are you, you dont answer I am a mujahid, you answer by saying I am your small servant. Be simplistic and humble to the people. These are your families, your communities. Those who have lost their families, have lost everything. Shake the hands of the people and greet them and I will be the first to do so.
The mujahideen are important and sacred and it ought to be preserved. I believe their sacredness is equivalent to me washing myself with the urine of the mujahideen.
He is painting graffiti on a wall opposite a westernized shopping mall. All major media networks are there, Reuters, Al-Arabiya, Agence France Presse, they try to capture his attention as they are buzzing around him: “Murad, here please,” “Murad, Murad!,” “Hello Murad, can you explain what you doing;” a fixer approaches him as he tries to concentrate: “Murad, my client would like a bit of time to interview you later, can you make it?”… If twenty-seven year-old Murad Subay is a star, he does not behave like one. He does not see the circus going on around him as a disturbance, he embraces it and makes it part of his work. A self-made artist, he is painting to raise awareness on certain issues, and he channels the attention from his own person to the message he is trying to spread, both locally and globally. It is clear, vivid, uncompromising: two hands hold a hand-grenade circular safety pin, ready to undo it, a sentence is written both in Arabic and English “Our hands… Do not participate in their wars against us.”
It all started in 2011, after the civil war that opposed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and other tribes, an offset of the “Arab Spring” which could well have transformed Yemen into another Syria. As opposed to Syria, the Yemeni dictatorship was backed by the US, and only a cosmetic change occurred: Saleh’s Prime Minister was elected in office with 99.6% of the vote.(1) Murad explains: “the city bore the scars of the clashes, so I went out and started to paint over them. After one week, people started to come and paint with me. Parents sent me their children, even soldiers put their weapons down and took brushes instead.” The Color the Walls of Your Street campaign was born. After to months, all major cities in Yemen took the initiative, colors appeared in Aden, Ta-az, Ebb, and Hodeidah. The campaign received international coverage, and was very well received by the Yemeni population.
As Murad learned stencil art, his second campaign was planned. For some, it took a political turn, yet Murad stresses that it is not his aim: “we are not politicians and we don’t have power to stop what is happening to our country. The only thing we can do is making noise around important issues.” During seven months, every Thursday, faces of people “disappeared” by the government, some since the 1960s, were painted all over Sana’a and other towns. Next to the faces, the date of the disappearance, and the idea that no one can vanish from public view. Walls became a symbol of hope, of unity, not only for the disappeared but also their families, which were brought at the core of public spaces.
The Walls Remember Their Faces campaign had a decisive impact. Maybe the US embassy asked that its puppet "ally" throw a bone to its people… Four months after the campaign started, Mutar Aleriani was released. He had been disappeared since 1981. He was tortured so badly with a drill that he can no longer move his legs. Confined to a wheelchair, he is not being looked after by his daughters. Murad met him in Hodeidah, his words against US ally Abdullah Saleh were understandably very harsh. Murad explains how the campaign has brought humanity onto the whole issue; meeting Mutar had a huge impact on him.
Murad realizes that he cannot design a campaign for all the issues that Yemen is facing right now. He is not financed, and rejects all offers of help from international organizations, including the UN. He says that he needs to remain independent, so that the impact of his campaigns cannot be compromised: “the supplies could be coming from [not so benevolent neighbors] Saudi Arabia or Iran, we just cannot allow that.” Everyone who turns up brings their own supplies, and people who are part of the network also donate items randomly. Murad is his own complex adaptive system.(2)
Paintings speak louder than academic lectures. Murad’s Twelve Hour campaign is now famous around the world for its coverage of the drones issue. A little boy writes right below a drone: “why did you kill my family.” This question is timely: many children in Yemen are asking themselves the question, day in, day out. Chances are that Westerner meeting them will be asked, just like I was.(3) Another painting by Hadel Almowafak represents a Tao symbol, on top the drone, and at the bottom a dove: the vivid imagery of Liberal Peace, the peace that kills innocents, the peace that I teach as pat of the UN.
The drones representations figure in Murad’s Twelve Hours Campaign. Each hour of a clock brings in a new issue that Yemen is facing: weapons, sectarianism, kidnappings, poverty, and internal strife. Will one of the hours focus on Barack Obama’s war secret war against Yemen?(4) Murad’s stencils ought to reach the streets of Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, so that Yemenis would no longer be disappeared from the world’s view.(5) We often ask ourselves what we can in the face of injustice. Murad gives us a plain answer: noise.
(1) See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/world/middleeast/yemen-to-get-a-new-president-abed-rabu-mansour-hadi.html, accessed on January 20th 2014.
(2) See Decolonizing Peace, chapter 3.
(3) Please circulate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un0vxahkYFM
(4) See http://dirtywars.org
(5) For more information on Murad Subay and Hadel Almowafak, see: http://muradsubay.wordpress.com and http://hadeelalmowafak.wordpress.com
Resilience of Insurgencies in Iraq: transcript of Abdullah Janabi's sermon in Fallujah, Friday January 17th 2014
I am preparing a book on the resilience of insurgencies in Iraq and Burma. In this context, I have been following the demonstrations in Fallujah since July 2013. Here is the transcript yesterday's sermon by Sheikh Abdullah Janabi. Much has been written about Fallujah in the past weeks, much of it inaccurate and plain untrue. Janabi's speech brings complexity to the sectarian issue of post-Saddam Iraq.
"We demand unity in our stand and standing with the people during hard times.
We are also warning that taking stands along party lines is treason to God and his prophet. We all know too well how the occupying entities who were present on our terrain with their secularism, work to divide our people and make them doubt their own beliefs. This is why modern day occupation is more sinister and cruel as they have brought parties that do nothing for us all the name of Islam.
It has been 10 years and the people have been making their demands peacefully. Unite and strengthen your stand, this is the breaking point and they are asking for this. Choose those who are strongest, trusting and loyal to represent us on all our life issues related to our city. Dear people, choose those from among you to represent you and do not seek the advice or opinion of anyone. There are people among you who belong in the highest levels of greatness.
We must stand up for our tribal and familial roots. This is about dignity and those who enjoy humiliation are cruel. We cannot accept the humiliation of our tribal dynasties and weakening their strong chestedness. They are our brothers and we will warn them and advise them but if they refuse to listen, then I among us, will be the first to stand up and fight as our religion is clear.
Those who call themselves moderates and conservatives, what happened to you, we were brothers and friends. Why have you sold us out before and after the occupation. Why do you still remain to be called Abdulla al Janobi. I ask for Rafaa al Esawi and this so called conservative who referred to me as the cunning rodent- it's ok he calls me a cunning rodent (Person in background says that its him, his family and his whole tribal dynasty that are rodents). I am willing to be on the media with all these guys and stimulate the public conscience. I am asking all of you in the name of God that if I am ever to be a traitor and guilty of treason and disloyalty to all of you that you shame me in front of the world.
We have to know one another and always strengthen our relationships with one another.
Lastly, our message to the world, so let the world hear. When Fallujah revolted has anyone been killed by us? No. Have we engaged in a murder campaign. No. But I swear to the Al Mighty that in the Ministries and government offices, they are taking our men and raping them and saying that they would do the same to their sisters so they better admit to their crimes. I swear to the Al Mighty that these guys are not Al-Qaeda or affiliated with any political parties and admitted to things they did not do under torture, some have resulted to the point of death.
People, we need to gather everyone from every area and every inch of our city and province and stand in solidarity and take matters in our own hands. We need to save our Fallujah from any poison from all parties that hurt our dignity and principles for the past 10 years. People if we do not stand for our city, for our dignity and our tribes, the police and military will kidnap our wives and sisters and bring them to Maliki personally for his enjoyment."
Saad Bin Abe Waqas Mosque
Abdul Rahman Ali Barman is a Yemeni lawyer dedicated to human rights. His organization, HOOD, is active since 1998, and has seen many cases over the years. In a dictatorship, the amount of threats that such an NGO receives from the government is always a testimony to its efficiency. In 2011, HOOD’s central office in central Sana’a received direct cannon rounds from a nearby army barrack: they must have been doing something right. They continued their work from a tent for over a year and a half, and are now back to their headquarters processing all sorts of human rights violations.
Abdul Rahman says that since the removal of President Saleh and the subsequent landslide victory of his former deputy Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, not too difficult to obtain since he was the only candidate, things are looking up in Yemen. There are improvements in some areas such as press and internet freedom, people are becoming more free to share their ideas, up to a certain point of course. There are still enforced disappearances and random arrests of journalists. Guilt by association prevails in Yemen, where the suspicion of any link with al-Qaeda can land someone in prison. There, the interrogation techniques have not changed. After all, democracy is a lengthy process, it requires time to hatch, or so we are told by Liberal Peace fairy tales. Detainees are still subjected to the same type torture as before the Arab Spring: electricity, suspension of arms twisted behind the back, punching, etc.
Why is the human rights situation in Yemen so important, and what is the connection to drone strikes and targeted killings carried out by the US government on Yemeni soil? From an International Law perspective, there are two different frameworks that could apply, depending on whether the US has declared war against another Nation State. If it has, there are rules on how to conduct a war with a minimum damages, under the precepts of International Humanitarian law. If it has not, the use of lethal force is much more difficult to justify, and falls under the precepts of International Human Rights Law. From the perspective of the latter framework, the practice of targeted killings could be regarded as an extrajudicial execution. That’s however not counting with the help of the United Nations Charter. Under its article 51, a country can kill if is has an “invitation from the state where force is used to join with it in armed conflict hostilities.” (1)
The US claims that the Yemeni government has asked its help against al-Qaeda, and that therefore Article 51 applies. Abdul Rahman strongly disagrees, and explains that there have been several debates in parliament about this: “how can a country which is not even a democracy ask for this help? The Parliament never requested anything, or passed any law regarding this supposed assistance. No one has access to any documents of the sort. Even the current Prime Minister declared on al-Jazeera never to have seen such documents.”(2) Article 51 cannot work for two reasons. First, the assertion that the current Yemeni leadership was “elected”, in a sad excuse for a democratic process, since there was only one candidate to vote for. Abdul Rahman argues that therefore is no legitimacy to be found in the current government. Second, there was no official request, validated by Parliament, for any military assistance from the US. From an International Human Rights Law perspective, the Obama administration is therefore carrying out extrajudicial executions.
Who benefits from this War Crime? Certainly not only the usual suspect, i.e. the Yemeni government. Abdul Rahman mentioned the recent execution of two moderate al-Qaeda officials killed in drone strikes, Fadel Qasr and Mohammed el-Hamda. According to him, Qasr and el-Hamda were members of the AQAP council, the Shura, which decides on operations across the country. They both had withdrawn during the vote on several operations, which they did not agree with. Their names and locations were conveniently given to the Yemeni government to facilitate a purge within AQAP. According to Abdul Rahman, AQAP’s military leader, Qasm al-Raimi, is actually very close to the previous and current governments. Indirectly, the US government is therefore aiding and abating AQAP, assisting in its purge from the inside. Moderates have never made convenient enemies.
Can NGO workers too become enemies of the US? Abdul Rahman does not discard the possibility. Last December, Abd al- Rahman Omair Al Naimi, a Qatari colleague from HOOD’s sister organization Alkarama, was designated as a supporter and financier of al-Qaeda by the US Treasury Department. It seems that working on drones and human rights in Yemen may land anyone, author included, in trouble. Abdul Rahman explains that when it comes to these issues, and the power that the US has on the government, these activists could even end up in prison. HOOD and AlKarama’s links with international NGOs such as US-based Code Pink have granted them protection both in Yemen and abroad to a certain extent. However, Abdul Rahman sees these organizations’ lavish spending on the back of their suffering with much caution. He explains: “if they invested even three percent of the funding they obtain thanks to our suffering to help us train Human Rights delegates on the ground, this would enhance our efficiency tremendously.” The Peace Industry as well as free-lance journalists revels on the drones “story,” any other international coming to Sana’a to work on the issue is likely be ignored by the “specialists.” The drones also created a certain gold rush.
Alkarama designates the US extrajudicial killings as a second-generation Guantanamo. Abdul Rahman confirms this as many of the targets of US strikes are former prisoners. The most infamous of the attacks, on the town of Majella, fits this profile. On December 17th 2009, the US carried out a “double tap” on a small village nine hours of Sana’a. It killed up to forty-two people, most women and children. This “double tap” technique is notoriously used by al-Qaeda in Iraq or in Afghanistan. It consists of a first strike followed by a second attack a few minutes later, under the understanding that the people rushing to the scene to help others are guilty by association and therefore deserve to die too. In Majella, the first strike consisted of four Hellfire missiles, followed a few moments later by a Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile (BGM-109D) “designed to carry 166 cluster bombs, each containing approximately 200 iron splinters that can reach a distance of 150 [meters] from the drop point.”(3) The target of the attack was Mohammed al-Qazimi, a former alleged al-Qaeda associate who had spent fie years in a Yemeni jail, and had been released shortly before the strike. Since he had returned to Majella, he passed an army checkpoint morning and afternoon to go and buy his daily bread and khat.(4) He could easily have been arrested and tried at any time.
What therefore justified the strike, and the lavish spending of US taxpayer funds to kill someone who was completely accessible to Yemeni law enforcement? Given the price of the ammunition used, the attack cost a minimum of two million US Dollars, a sum that could easily have been invested in the development of the village, hence fostering pro-US sentiment among the population. After the Majella attack, President Saleh rang the mayor to justify the killing, arguing that all involved, including the women and children, had ties to al-Qaeda. The mayor allegedly responded: “I hoped that when they had died, the children would have known how to read and write; I hoped that when they had died, their stomachs had been full; I hoped that when they had died, they would have had electricity, computers and access to internet.” The attack whose funds could have been put to good use boosted AQAP support in the region.
Abdul Rahman recalls the funeral of Majella victims with emotion, especially this old lady who pleaded, referring to the US: “they even have laws that protect animals, why can’t they just consider us like their animals?”
(1) See http://law.wustl.edu/harris/documents/OConnellFullRemarksNov23.pdf, p.1.
(2) Interview with Abdul Rahman Ali Barman, January 9th 2014, Sana’a, Yemen.
(3) See http://en.alkarama.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1157:yemen-license-to-kill&catid=66&Itemid=215, p. 66
(4) The khat is a local leaf that is chewed daily for its stimulant properties.
Farea al-Muslimi sees himself as a friend of the United Sates. Born and raised in Wessab, a village nine hours of Sana’a, and one of twelve living siblings, he was destined to be a farmer. When he was in 9th grade, he obtained his first State Department scholarship to study English, and soon ended up in California as part of the Youth and Exchange Study program, geared towards strengthening friendship between the US and Muslim countries.
All went according to plan, Farea soon rose to the top of his class, he visited lots of churches, attended countless barbecues and, cherry on the cake, found a second father in a US Air Force service member. Farea’s State Department-engineered American Dream could not have become more complete. He returned to the Middle East to be awarded yet another scholarship at the American University of Beirut. He was programmed to be one of those countless “local” ambassadors that roam around peace, development or human rights conferences, making excuse upon excuse for the war crimes of Western powers, the North-South divide, or the unequal power dynamics between their neo-colonial masters and the subaltern rest. Malcolm X could have seen Farea as a picture-perfect house-Muslim, catching a cold whenever his master would sneeze. Not quite…
Farea’s own village was targeted by a strike on April 17th 2013. On that day, four people were killed. The target was Al-Hadidi al-Radami, a social worker suspected of having ties with Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP). As the village mediator, he was actually very close to local authorities. He had returned to the village in 2011 after being imprisoned for fighting against the US in Iraq. Since his return, some political opponents of the Saleh regime both in Wessab and Sana’a to enquired to the police about him, only to be told that he was a reformed character, a pillar of the community. According to them, he had paid his debt to society and deserved to live a peaceful life. This did not prevent him from being put on a target list. According to villagers, Wessab had been observed by drones for well over a year.
Farea tried to make sense of the attack. Why wouldn’t the suspect be arrested, interrogated, and tried? Why did local people have to die with him? Why would his village be subjected to the terror of a drone attack? What would warrant such a targeted killing? According to the National Defense Authorization Act of 31 December 2011, one does not need to be part of any group to be the victim of targeted killings: guilt by association, under the clinical term ‘associated forces’ is enough.
Farea explains that there are four types of targeted killings, the first two including drones only. Under Type One, President Obama provided four clear conditions for a killing to take place: the person has to be designated as a person of interest under US law; he or she must represent a direct threat to the US; the target cannot be captured; and, finally, the operation must not target civilians. The attack on Wessab clearly does not meet any of those criteria. It was carried out nonetheless. Type Two, which could well have applied, is the “signature strike”, whereby any high ranking military officer as well as President Obama can order the death of a anyone displaying suspicious behavior. Now there is a problem right there: “what is suspicious behavior in the US is completely normal behavior here,” explains Farea, “[it] can represent every single Yemeni in Yemen: if I am with you, going to a wedding outside Sana’a, we will obviously be between the age of 15 and 65, we will be carrying guns [they are part of the Yemeni dress code], and we will be a group, [that’s] enough! It is not even intelligent criteria anymore.”
Farea calls this state terrorism, and he is afraid that it is going to get worse. He testified before the US Congress Judiciary Committee six days after the attack on Wessab, and so far, nothing has changed. He says that the logic behind the strikes is devoid of common sense, and that it actually encourages more support for AQAP on the ground. Since the US is becoming its enemy, and terrorizing the population while its puppet government does not react, it cannot end well for any party involved. At present, AQAP is actually much more politically savvy than the US, it has paid compensation to the owner of a house destroyed by a drone strike. Since the US nor the Yemeni government compensate civilians after strikes, this can win many hearts and minds.
Farea was educated in the US. He can put himself in anyone’s shoes, and right now, he is a bridge between increasingly estranged nations. He says that the strikes have changed fabric of his own society: ‘if a mother wants to scare her child into going to bed, she used to say that she would call a dad, now she says that she will call the drones.” If at all possible, it will undoubtedly take more than a couple of scholarships to reclaim the hearts and minds of those children’ generation.
Mohammed al-Qawli, a former Headmaster in his late forties, has been restless for nearly a year. On January 23rd 2013, his brother, schoolteacher Ali Ali al-Qawli, was killed in a drone strike, alongside seven other men. They were traveling to the north of the village of Qawlan, half an hour from the Yemeni capital Sana’a, when four hellfire missiles hit their Toyota Hilux.
Mohammed remembers hearing an explosion: he went out to see if the Hilux was still in the village, and that’s when he realized that something bad might have happened. He knew about drone strikes but discarded the possibility. The Americans had never targeted his area, notoriously close to the previous government elite. He and other village members travelled to the scene of the explosion: nothing could have prepared them for what they were about to see. The scene was on fire, filled with charred human remains and debris. The car had been moved 10 meters away from the impact of one of the missiles, close to a house on the other side of the road. Water was gushing from an irrigation tube, and men from a nearby village were walking aghast among the debris.
Mohammed was on autopilot. Villagers pointed to a charred body at the back of the car, whose teeth were unmistakably those of his brother. Soon, security services turned up. All the officials cared about was to find the car’s number plates. They soon departed the scene. Afterwards, onlookers gathered all the remains they could find: more than one hundred. They were immediately taken to Sana’a for a forensic examination.
Immediately after the strike, the Yemeni government declared that al-Qaeda operatives had been killed in the attack. This generated a massive protest from the local tribes, the government was forced to issue a retraction: Ali al-Qawli and all other occupants of the car were declared innocent of any crimes.
Since Ali was a quiet schoolteacher with no links to any political organization, Mohammed started asking himself who else in the car could have been targeted. That’s when it dawned on him: a known opponent of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was in the car, Rabieh Hamud Labieh. Labieh, a democratically elected local councilor, had turned against Saleh during the 2011 Arab Spring-related demonstrations. He was notorious for having denounced the smuggling of government weapons between Sana’a and Saleh’s fief, right after his demise. He had been an opponent to the new regime, arguing that th country was still a dictatorship.
According to the Yemeni National Organization or Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD), the Yemeni government has been instrumental in assisting the US government with its strikes, from the collection of incriminating “evidence” to the collection human intelligence. In sum, the Yemeni government says who to strike, where and when. For Mohammed, it makes no doubt that the government used the US to get rid of its political opponent, a view shared by HOOD and Swiss-based NGO Alkarama. Not only is the “war on terror” not nearly over, but also one can conclude that the Arab Spring never really took off in Yemen, where Saleh’s successor, former vice-president Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, continues to purge his political opponents.
How much does it cost, in Yemen, to dispose of a democratically elected politician? One only needs powerful allies. Alkarama asserts that it would have been very easy to arrest Labieh and try him for treason. After all, there was a military police checkpoint only five hundred meters from the scene of the explosion. Four Hellfire missiles were launched at Labieh’s vehicle, preceded by more than a day of drone reconnaissance. Provided that the basic cost of a Hellfire is $65,000, counting the drone flying hours and personnel costs, the attack could have reached a $400,000 price tag for the US taxpayer. Since the Yemeni government cleared all occupants of any relationship with al-Qaeda after their death, this particular incident is proving to be a costly mistake.
No compensation was offered to the families of the victims. Salim, the car’s driver, left behind an impoverished extended family. Ali left three ophans who are now being raised by Mohammed. Ali’s eldest, Mohammed Ali, asked me to film him as soon as I arrived in his house. He asks a very simple question to President Obama: “Sir, why did you kill my dad?” (1)
As we parted, Mohammed says that he will never let go until he obtains an apology from the US government, and compensation for all its Yemeni victims. Whenever there is an attack elsewhere in the country, he races to the scene in own SUV, bought specifically for this reason. He then collects the remaining parts of the missiles and brings them to Sana’a. He has been documenting every strike since his brother’s death, and wows to do so until a missile strikes him eventually. Showing me part of a Hellfire that killed his brother, he defiantly claims: “this is the humanitarian aid we in Yemen get from the US, it is all one big lie, and I will never give up for all the victims’ sake.”
(1) See the link to Mohammed Ali al-Qawli's question to President Obama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un0vxahkYFM
Here is a cautionary tale for anyone out there working in intelligence, whether as a mere asset or a field operative. When your government is trying to get rid of you, what better cover but to accuse you of having links with al-Qaeda?
One certainly can assert that Abdul Al Salam al Hilal had "ties" with al-Qaeda. It was in 2002, and he had been working for Yemen’s internal intelligence services for a while. In his early thirties, he was a “field” contact person for former Yemeni detainees who had returned from Afghanistan. His job was to monitor them and make sure that they would remain politically quiet after their return. The dictatorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh was very close to the US government at the time, and an active ally in the “war on terror”.
As he was in Egypt for a business trip, his day job was with a construction company; Abdul Al Salam was arrested and transferred to a prison where he remained for one and a half year. He did not know why he had been arrested and kept being asked about his involvement with al-Qaeda. He claims to have been tortured by Oman Suleiman in person, then head of the Egyptian Intelligence Services. In 2004, he was transferred to Bagram airbase and soon after shipped to Guantanamo. He has been there ever since, claiming his innocence among another ninety detainees from Yemen.
While his family managed to make sporadic contact with him through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), they have no idea what his current situation is. They say he has been punished for a while, they don’t know why. Before the loss of contact, Abdul Al Salam wrote that there had been two assassination attempts made against him in Guantanamo. He also communicated to his family that they should never believe news of his possible suicide. In a Skype conversation organized by the ICRC, he said: “I will not commit suicide, don’t believe any of it. I know I am innocent. This is all game that is much bigger than me.”
Was Abdul Al Salam sold to the US government, as his family seems to think? Was the information that he had so valuable that he deserved to be removed from the land of the living? In 2008, his two boys Omar, 11, and Yussef, 8, opened the safe where he was storing all the documentation related to his intelligence work. Due to the sensitive nature of his files, it was was booby-trapped. Both children died instantly. It was then up to his older brother Abdu Rahman to break the news to him, via the ICRC. Since the call was on humanitarian grounds, it lasted for two hours, and was overseen by a religious Imam. Abdul Al Salam was devastated. After costing him years of his life, his intelligence work had now killed his only children.
Abdul Al Salam’s younger brother, Nabil, asks if detainees are human beings in the eyes of the US Government? He says that he had hope when President Obama was elected: he lost it very fast when he saw that Guantanamo’s announced closing was quickly forgotten about. Scores of journalists have interviewed him and his family for the past few years. Nabil still believes that those interviews can make a difference. Conversely, many Guantanamo families now refuse to meet journalists, since they believe that none of their testimonies amount to anything but boosting the profiles of the Westerners who “make it” to Yemen.
High profile US lawyer David Remes took Abdul Al Salam’s case in 2005. He visited Sana’a on six occasions, and so far, there has been no progress. Abdul Al Salam is frustrated by what he calls Remes’ poor performance. He is even wondering if Remes is not a US spy. He wants to be represented by a new lawyer.
As our meeting comes to an end, I ask both brothers if they believe that the new Yemeni government will stand up to the US regarding Guantanamo and other issues. I explain that many in the West believe that Yemen is now on the democratic path as a result of the so-called Arab Spring. Nabil replies: “it is like we are in a bigger prison than that of my brother, only ours is a little nicer.” According to him, only one entity can save his brother: God.
Occupy Fallujah was an olive branch. Today, it is in mourning. Not every one has the right to peace. When you are a Sunni Muslim man from the al-Anbar province of Iraq, wearing a long white dish-dasha, a beard, and a turban, your only right is to die, preferably in violent and painful circumstances, with one of your children by your side: the more children, the better, so that the next generation may be wiped out as well. Whether is it in a US-led drone strike, or an Israeli targeted killing in the West Bank, the script is always the same. The democracy and freedom of a few trump the right to peace for all.
Occupy Fallujah was a nice idea at the time. It started in December 2012, in the Mosque of Sheikh al-Hamoudi. The movement had three simple demands: the inclusion of Sunni Muslims in an Iraqi political scene perceived as dominated by Shi’a Muslims, the end of talk of federalism, and the removal of Nuri al-Maliki alongside the organization of free and fair elections. When I met him last July, Sheikh al-Hamoudi told me how Prime Minister al-Maliki had tried to crush the Occupy movement by offering him a house in Jordan and a space in the government. This would, after all, comply with the movement’s first demand. The Sheikh told me how his counterpart in Ramadi had accepted a similar offer, while others were considering being turned. He said that he owed it to his people not to bow to what he referred to as bribery. I asked him he if considered this also as a potential threat: accept the deal or pay the consequences. He replied that he was not interested in money.
He owned an old Daewoo Prince vehicle, and lived in a modest house, as the rest of his money was used for the Occupy Fallujah effort and his mosque. As he made his way to the Occupy site today, in the industrial area of Fallujah, a vehicle blocked the road; two armed men got out with fully loaded Kalashnikovs, and riddled his car with bullets. His son was driving with him, they both died instantly. A few hours later, the Iraqi Hamas, the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, claimed responsibility for the killing.
As I returned home from my first meeting with Sheikh Hamoudi, I remember finding a chain of e-mails from colleagues on the recent “democratic coup” in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood had been arbitrarily removed after the first free and fair elections for years, and my enlightened colleagues were congratulating themselves on the victory of collective action over the tyranny of backward Muslims. The fact that “those” people had been democratically elected made no difference to Peace and Conflict Studies scholars: Morsi had to be removed and that was a good thing. Who cared if this went against all the democratic values they teach year in, year out? A few minutes before, I had spoken to Sheikh Hamoudi about the Brotherhood. There was also a branch in Fallujah. He said that the Brothers were not devout Muslims, and that he was not going to cry over the imprisonment of Morsi. He also reminded me that democracy was not a luxury to be afforded by the perceived “enemies” of Western enlightened thought. After all, no one from the international community had come to document and acknowledge the initiatives of Occupy Fallujah. I was the first Westerner to make it there since December 2012. As we parted, he asked me to think about the following point: if no one listens to Occupy Fallujah when they are employing Western non-violent collective action strategies, how else could they make their voices heard? Sheikh al-Hamoudi knew that in the Liberal Peace world, he and his people are second-class citizens who are not eligible to play the democracy game, yet he had also seen the limits of armed violence. Was there not another path?
The Hamas al-Iraq became prominent after the departure of US troops in December 2011. They are perceived to be so close to the Nuri al-Maliki government that they are nicknamed by the population after the AAH, the controversial Shi’a Special Forces Asaib Ahlalhaq, responsible for targeted killings, disappearances and summary executions. As the AAH, the Hamas al-Iraqi benefits from unlimited funds the security passes from the Maliki government. So why was Skeih al-Hamoudi killed? Prime Minister Maliki is preparing the next parliamentary elections, for April 2014. Occupy Fallujah and the rest of demonstrations in other Sunni Muslim provinces have been a stone in his shoe for long enough. It was time to bring order to the house, so that free and fair elections can at last be organized. To this, I am certain that none of my Liberal Peace colleagues will object.
The last time I saw Sheikh al-Hamoudi, he was handing food parcels to widows who had been internally displaced after the cleansing of their Sunni-Shi’a mixed areas. The Occupy site was full of people, and I felt like I was crashing a family reunion. He welcomed me with open arms and asked me to sit right next to him, as their guest of honor. As I remember him today, alongside all the ghosts that are part of my Iraqi research, I have an answer to his question. There should be a right to peace for all, as there was a right to equity resulting from the Civil Rights Movement, or a right to self-determination after the Salt March. Occupy Fallujah as it stood under Sheikh al-Hamoudi deserves to be acknowledged, supported, and most of all, heard.
Par Victoria Fontan et Adolphe Kilomba
Traduit de l'anglais par Mait Foulkes
On dit que l’on n’a rien sans rien… Un Etat peut-il vraiment se poser en sauveur désintéressé de l’une de ses anciennes colonies ? La France a lancé l’Opération Serval au Mali le 11 janvier 2013, officiellement pour repousser « un assaut par des éléments terroristes venant du nord, dont la brutalité et le fanatisme sont connus dans le monde entier».(1) Il est vrai que le nord du Mali était la dernière victime en date d’un régime similaire à celui des Talibans, qui terrorisait les populations qui y étaient soumises. L’amputation publique de voleurs présumés ainsi que des lapidations ont eu lieu dans la ville de Gao pour faire respecter la charia.(2) L’héritage culturel et architectural de Tombouctou a été détruit.(3) Les femmes ont été contraintes de porter le hijab musulman, les populations locales se sont vues soumises à un couvre-feu, et une police islamique veillait au respect de ces mesures. Bref, l’idée que n’importe quel Occidental se ferait de l’enfer sur terre.
Pour des chercheurs en Paix et Conflits, c’est un rappel alarmant de la situation en Afghanistan avant 2001. Souvenons-nous : combien d’intellectuels français pensaient alors que la « Guerre Contre la Terreur » de Bush était une erreur grave, que sa rhétorique était ridicule, voire grotesque. Son discours, « Enfumons-les pour les faire sortir de leurs terriers », nous paraissait être celui d’un abruti texan, parvenu on ne sait comment à la Maison Blanche. Avance rapide : quelques années plus tard, ce cher président François Hollande répète exactement le même message à son auditoire captivé. Il dit qu’il veut « éradiquer le terrorisme » (4): tant mieux pour lui !
Les mentions de terrorisme, d’extrémisme et d’islamisme se sont multipliées dans les médias français ces derniers mois, culminant en une intervention qui est supposée « sauver les Africains d’eux-mêmes »… Comment rendre cela plus acceptable pour l‘opinion publique française, quelques semaines à peine après le rapatriement des troupes françaises du bourbier afghan ? Essayons de « sauver » un otage français, Denis Allex, des griffes diaboliques d’ « islamistes » somaliens, quelques jours avant le lancement de l’Opération Serval. Cela montrera aux Français de façon indiscutable à quel point ces « islamistes » sont nuisibles. Peu importe que l’agent de la DGSE soit sacrifié sur l’autel de la propagande d’Etat au cours d’une intervention en dernier recours ; lui et sa famille devaient bien s’y attendre quand ils signèrent au bas du contrat des années auparavant !
La situation au Mali depuis le début de 2012 est l’un des sujets brûlants qui ont retenu l’attention de la communauté internationale. Après deux décennies de stabilité politique et la tenue de plusieurs élections démocratiques, le Mali, à l’instar de plusieurs autres Etats africains, demeure faible, avec un appareil d’Etat impuissant. Plus de 50 ans après leur indépendance, les Etats africains font toujours face aux mêmes problèmes que dans les années 1960. Ils ne sont pas encore parvenus à s’affranchir de leur ancien pouvoir colonial.(5) Chaque Etat demeure sous le diktat de sa métropole occidentale. Ce système honteux continue à guider la politique du Conseil de Sécurité de L’ONU quand il examine les questions relatives à la paix et la sécurité dans la région. Le feu vert de l’ancienne métropole fait toujours partie intégrante du mécanisme de prise de décision. Par conséquent, le Conseil de Sécurité de L’ONU n’adopte jamais de résolution concernant un Etat africain sans prêter l’oreille au préalable à l’avis de son protecteur colonial. On peu en citer plusieurs exemples depuis les années 1990 : en Afrique francophone, l’implication de la France dans le génocide rwandais de 1994 ; la réforme agraire qui plaça le Zimbabwe sous le coup de sanctions économiques internationales initiées par le Royaume-Uni ; le bras de fer en Côte d’Ivoire avec la France tirant les ficelles au Conseil de Sécurité de L’ONU ; l’intervention française au Mali, etc. Ces quelques exemples prouvent à quel point la route vers la décolonisation reste longue et tortueuse.
Concentrons-nous sur l’intervention française au Mali. Le conflit qui oppose le nord du Mali, peuplé de nomades, au reste du pays depuis les années 1990 s’est exacerbé en mars 2012, juste après la chute du régime de Kadhafi en Libye. Depuis lors, l’armée malienne a été incapable de faire face à l’insurrection et toujours mise en déroute par les « jihadistes ».(6) Après dix mois de conflit et de médiations stériles menées conjointement par l’ONU et la CEDEAO, sous la présidence du Burkina Faso, la situation s’est aggravée depuis le début de janvier 2013.
Le cessez-le-feu de facto entre le gouvernement malien et les différents mouvements islamiques représentés par le Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) s’est effrité suite à la dernière attaque d’un groupe dissident, Ansar Dine, qui a tenté de saisir Konna et Mopti dans le sud, sur la route de Bamako. En reprenant le contrôle de ces villes du sud, le président malien a officiellement invité la France à intervenir pour protéger la république malienne en danger. Le gouvernement français a aussitôt déployé des troupes pour confronter Ansar Dine. La France s’est plus investie qu’aucun autre pays de la communauté internationale, montant en première ligne et dirigeant l’intervention, comme cela avait été le cas en Libye.
Quel que soit le commentateur à qui l’on se fie, l’intervention française au Mali a ravivé une myriade de questions. Cette intervention a également été interprétée de plusieurs façons sur la scène internationale. Certains intellectuels et écrivains considèrent qu’elle marque un retour à ce qu’il est d’usage d’appeler Françafrique.(7) En revanche, un autre courant de pensée estime qu’il s’agit de la seule façon de s’attaquer efficacement au bourbier local en vue de préserver l’intégrité de l’Etat malien.
Si seulement la France revenait à cette bonne vieille Françafrique. Si seulement les forces affrontées étaient les mêmes qu’autrefois, faciles à corrompre, à vaincre et à récompenser politiquement. Mais la France ne réalise pas qu’elle joue dans la cour des grands, ceux de la « Guerre Contre la Terreur »… Revenons quelques années en arrière, et transposons le conflit en Afghanistan ; que voyons-nous ? Nous voyons des forces religieuses, autrefois soutenues et armées par un pouvoir occidental, qui prennent le contrôle d’un pays et imposent une interprétation de la charia à une population terrorisée. Nous voyons une intervention étrangère pour « libérer » cette population, qui dans le cas du Mali, n’est même pas générée par un attentat similaire à celui du 11 Septembre 2001, mais qui entraîne cependant la précipitation d’un acte de terrorisme --certes préparé de longue date-- quelques jours plus tard, dans l’Algérie voisine, contre l’usine de gaz d’In Amenas. Nous pouvons ensuite prédire un enlisement impliquant des combats de type guérilla, avec les alliés locaux du pouvoir occidental commettant des crimes de guerre, etc. Nous visualisons aussi un possible débordement dans les pays voisins, une radicalisation accrue des islamistes à travers le monde, l’usage de drones, et la terreur d’Etat. Tiré par les cheveux ? Ce scénario a été joué et rejoué ces dernières dizaines d’années, au point que les champions du monde du terrorisme d’Etat, les Etats-Unis d’Amérique, ne sont même pas tentés, cette fois, d’y participer… Pour n’importe quel stratège sain d’esprit, cela devrait tirer une sonnette d’alarme – mais pas pour le gouvernement français, qui a encore plus de culot que ceux qui s’intitulent eux-mêmes « le superpouvoir du monde». Il est vrai que l’AFRICOM, la nouvelle force néocoloniale des Etats Unis en Afrique, avait entrainé de nombreux chefs Islamistes contre lesquels la France se bat en ce moment…
Souvenons-nous qu’il y a un an à peine, la brillante stratégie française au Mali consistait à procurer à certains nomades les moyens de combattre des groupes proches d’al-Qaida. Souvenons-nous aussi qu’une fraction de ces nomades faisaient partie de l’armée de Kadhafi, alors que d’autres étaient sympathisants de l’insurrection libyenne dont plusieurs membres, tels que le gouverneur de Benghazi Abdelhakim Belhaj, était eux-mêmes proches d’Al-Qaida.(8) Jetons dans la balance une grande quantité d’armes soudain disponibles (suite à la chute du régime de Kadhafi, qui exerçait autrefois un contrôle très strict), les liens du sang et ceux du clan : rares sont ceux qui vont choisir de se battre contre leurs cousins pour défendre les intérêts de leur ancien maître colonial – cela paraît évident. Remémorons-nous aussi quelques notions très basiques d’étude des insurrections, dont n’importe quel officier a connaissance. Quand l’insurrection commence à s’organiser et lance ses premières actions militaires, elle va commettre des actes de terrorisme pour susciter une réaction du gouvernement, le plus souvent aux dépens de la population locale, prise entre deux feux.(9) Les actes de terrorisme commis par les « ennemis » de la France au Mali visaient les institutions de l’Etat malien, ainsi que les intérêts étrangers dans la région – dans ce cas précis, en Algérie. Le régime algérien est l’un de ceux qui ont réprimé l’islamisme de la façon la plus sanglante, au prix de milliers de morts parmi la population civile. Obtenir que les Français s’associent à ce régime sanguinaire en réponse à la crise des otages d’In Amenas a été un trait de génie de la part d’Al-Qaida au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI). Cela ne va faire que renforcer leur emprise sur la région, de même qu’au Mali.(10) En outre, les troupes de l’armée malienne, également alliées des Français, ont commencé à perpétrer des crimes de guerre…(11) Est-il jamais venu à l’esprit du président Hollande qu’en plus de « guerres justes », nous devrions aussi avoir des guerres propres?
Il n’est guère surprenant que dans le cas d’une « guerre juste », les experts en droit se contentent d’analyser le cadre légal d’une telle intervention. Le courant juridique dominant considère, à juste titre, l’intervention française au Mali comme légale au regard du droit international, en raison de la résolution du Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU autorisant le déploiement d’une force internationale pour porter assistance à l’Etat malien. L’intervention française au Mali base aussi sa légalité sur le fait que le président malien a invité officiellement le gouvernement français à intervenir militairement sur son territoire. D’autres experts en droit international la fonderaient sur la responsabilité de protéger. Nous savons tous comment cela s’est terminé en Libye, maintenant qu’avec un recul de quelques mois, nous en sommes à peser les conséquences de la campagne pour « libérer » ce pays.
Pourquoi la France est-elle aujourd’hui au Mali ? Ne cherchons pas plus loin que les intérêts économiques dans la région, particulièrement l’exploitation de l’uranium au Niger, ainsi que la lutte d’influence entre la France et les Etats-Unis depuis le lancement d’AFRICOM. Plus de deux semaines après le début de l’opération, la situation paraît s'éclaircir: les Forces spéciales françaises protègent désormais les mines d’Areva au Niger, tout comme les troupes américaines avaient « protégé » le ministère irakien du Pétrole pendant le pillage de Bagdad en avril 2003… Le pays est différent mais la bêtise est la même : l’histoire se répète à presque dix ans d’intervalle, bien que les pacifistes libéraux au grand cœur s’y intéressent beaucoup moins, puisqu’après tout, il ne s’agit que de l’ « Afrique »...
Pendant ce temps, et en préparation a un réveil brutal dès que la France aura a se frotter aux Islamistes dans les montagnes du nord Mali, les médias continuent à rallier l’opinion publique française a grand coups de manuscrits anciens brûlés a Tombouctou, dont tout de même 90% avaient été rapatriés a Bamako avant le début de la guerre, et une partie du reste officiellement « brûle » doit déjà se trouver en route vers des collectionneurs prives de New York, Paris ou Tel Aviv…, et de femmes ôtant leurs voiles Islamiques en signe de liberté retrouvée… De qui se moque-t-on à part des Maliens infantilisés ? Des Français aussi bien entendu, car en temps de crise, la facture de l’Opération Serval ne sera pas des moindres pour les finances publiques.
Pour reprendre les sages propos du professeur Michel Galy, la Guerre Contre la Terreur de Hollande se déroulant au Mali est, en fait, partie intégrante d’une « Guerre à l’Afrique » entreprise de très longue date.(12) Elle va traîner en longueur, et elle aura des conséquences dévastatrices pour la région et sa population. Nous aurions pourtant bien tort nous faire du souci ; cela va nous donner, à nous les travailleurs de l’industrie de la paix, des gens à sauver pour de nombreuses années – comme cela a été le cas dans ce bon vieil Afghanistan.
1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20991719, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19155616, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/opinion/the-end-times-for-timbuktu.html, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
4 http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20121009.FAP0010/hollande-une-intervention-au-mali-pour-eradiquer-le-terrorisme-dans-l-interet-du-monde.html, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
5 Gerald Caplan, L’Afrique Trahie, Actes Sud Junior, Arles, 2009.
6 Jihadistes: C’est le nom que se donnent les membres du MUJAO, d’AQMI et d’Ansar Dine. Ils disent que la guerre qu’ils mènent est une guerre sainte.
7 Françafrique: Ce nom explique la relation trouble et difficile à comprendre entre la France et ses anciennes colonies. Ce concept a été popularisé par Jacques Foccart, autrefois le principal conseiller de Charles De Gaulle. Il a également été conseiller de François Mitterrand. Pour plus de détails au sujet de ce mot « magique » inventé par l’ancien président ivoirien Félix Houphouet-Boigny, voir Patrick Pesnot, Les Dessous de la Françafrique (Nouveau Monde Poche, Paris, 2011).
8 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14786753, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
9 Roger Trinquier, La guerre moderne (Economica, Paris, 2008).
10 http://www.france24.com/en/20130120-algeria-hostage-crisis-death-toll-expected-rise, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
11http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2013/01/25/nouveau-temoignage-sur-des-executions-sommaires-au-mali_1822443_3212.html, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.
12 http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2012/06/20/l-intervention-militaire-au-mali-n-est-pas-une-solution_1721307_3232.html, consulté le 25 janvier 2013.