Thursday, February 09, 2006

With Friends Like These…

Here’s the latest news from Yemen:

U.S. Navy ships are helping patrol the international waters off Yemen to try to recapture al Qaeda prison escapees if they try to flee by sea, the Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday.

You’ll recall that this massive military effort is necessary because of a jailbreak in Sanaa last Friday. That was when the mastermind of the Cole bombing and 22 other terrorists tunnelled their way to freedom. According to this UPI story,

Yemeni security officials said Saturday the authorities were searching for twenty-three al-Qaida prisoners who escaped from a detention center in Sanaa.

An official security source said the ministry of defense ordered an immediate investigation into the incident to discover who helped the prisoners escape from the high-security jail supervised by the Yemeni intelligence service.

And the effect this debacle? CNN reports that:

If the fugitives are not caught in the next month, the United States may have to reconsider its presence in Yemen, which includes an embassy and small military contingent in Sanaa, according to the senior sources.

The longer they remain at large, the greater the security risk to Americans inside Yemen, the sources said.

In my post on Tuesday I recommended that we reconsider our strategic alliances with “moderate” Islamic regimes.

I haven’t changed my mind yet.

Consider these facts:

  • 23 dangerous high profile al-Qaeda prisoners escaped.
  • They dug a tunnel out of a high-security prison.
  • Yemen acknowledges that prison officials may have been involved.
  • Yemen’s intelligence service was in charge of the prison.
  • Americans may no longer be safe in Yemen.

As a result of all this, an expensive and resource-consuming operation has to be mounted by the US Navy, when there are other important strategic tasks it could be performing.

And these people are our allies.

Oh, I’m sure they’re “reliable partners in the war against terror.” I’m certain they throw us an intelligence bone from time to time, and corral some terrorist flunkies to take the fall for Al Qaeda when required.

But it’s hard for me to believe that we’re really getting an adequate bang for our buck.


CP said...

Yemen's status as a real "ally" is about as trustworthy as Pakistan's, which is to say, not very. Wouldn't you agree?

AndyS said...

politcalcp ... don't you know that noone is more reliable than President (never won an election) Musharaff.

With all the fuss about Iran, people seem to forget that the 'Islamic bomb' already exists and it's creator has tried to sell it to such bastions of freedom like N Korea, Libya and Iran.

And how did our 'ally' punish Dr Khan. The guy still lives in his luxurious palace out-of-bounds to any U.S or Western investigators.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Not our friends, and only allies so-called, but until we get serious about building a big military for this war, and drumming up the financial support to maintain it, such "allies" will have to be tolerat

Baron Bodissey said...

CP -- maybe even less, since Oman doesn't have nukes to focus Yemeni attention, the way India does with Pakistan.

Wally Ballou said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...


I'm not talking about corruption and incompetence, I'm talking about the possible deliberate complicity of the regime in the escape of these thugs.

Do you know for a fact that the regime is not involved?

I seem to remember a lot of foot-dragging in the intitial Cole investigation.

CP is right to compare it with Pakistan, where there are definitely large chunks of the military working with our enemies.

At some point we will reach the point of diminishing returns with these regimes. We may not be there yet, but we will get there eventually. I hope we have plans to get along without them.

chuck said...

I believe the tunnel was dug *into* the prison from a women's mosque nearby.

In any case, I think Yemen is mostly a tribal society. Expecting the government to be particularly useful or Western is asking far too much. We aren't going to change that, so we should just acknowlege the fact and live with it as best we can.

Dymphna said...


You have the "right" to ask someone what they believe and they have the concomitant "right" to refuse to answer the question, especially in a public forum where a modicum of courtesy is a necessary part of any dialogue.

Your doctrinal beliefs are your affair and you're welcome to them. But behavior which entails harm to others becomes my affair because what happens to any of us either augments or diminishes the commonweal.

So far, the bomb throwers, flyers of airplanes into buildings, self-detonaters who deliberately kill women and children non-combatants, throat slashers and beheaders and acid-throwers mainly seem to arise from within the confines of your belief system.

People who burn buildings and threaten death, and descrate other countries' flags are reactive hysterics who are not mature enough for self-government. That is not how adults behave.

A belief system that sees no necessity for a firewall between politics/gvernment and religion will not survive this century. It is moving too fast and change is occuring too rapidly for the rest of us is going to disappear.

Do not be sanguine about your great numbers of people. As people become more affluent, they have fewer children. It's just how the system works...and all the hudnas, fatwahs, edicts, and tantrums won't change that...

...human beings were not biologically constructed to submit. They can't do it -- what happens is that they use their normal curiosity and drive, which is not permitted in your belief system, to wreak havoc on those around them. Palestine is only the worst, most anarchical example of the end result of those methods applied so cynically.

Go home, eb9ara7a. I mean, retreat back into your group of like-minded fellows. When you come stomping over here shaking your fist and making demands, people will just ignore you.

If you want to see how a Muslim makes himself heard here, read eteraz...he's in the comments somewhere. He's intelligent,thoughtful, and flexible while maintaining himself in a disagreement. He is also NOT arrogant.

And if you don't respond, that's okay, too. We do get the occasional outraged Muslim here sometimes, trying to explain why he or she is superior to everyone else on here.

Eventually they leave: this is not a Muslim community. It is an ongoing intellectual engagement with others who are trying to figure out if Islam is gonna make it into the 19th century. So far, not so good...though there are hopeful signs.

Que sera, sera.

Wally Ballou said...

Baron: "Do you know for a fact that the regime is not involved?"

Is that a serious question? of course not. I deleted my original comment becuase I didn't want to get into it with you, but you were too fast for me.

Do YOU know exactly what the CIA has gained from working with elements in Yemen? Neither do I, but there are plenty of rumors. Yemen has also allowed the CIA to make predator strikes withing their country, which many places would not allow. Why do you assume you can assess the value of a strategic asset from what you read in the papers?

Stop thinking about "allies" - they don't have to love us or be 100% loyal - they just need to be strategically useful - and obviously just for the present. The relationship will be constantly re-evaluated.

Do you think Stalin was really our "ally" in WWII? On the other hand, do you think we could have won without him? The USA would have survived, but we would have lost Europe, and maybe the Pacific too.

Wally Ballou said...

Dymphna -

Why would you even respond to an imbecile like eb9ara7a? (nice name, by the way) His statement that "Our religion teaches us that we must respect and believe in ALL prophets and there scriptures: (we do not differentiate between any of the messengers)" is utter nonsense.

I assume by "all religions", he doesn't mean to include Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Ba'hai, etc - toward all of which the actions and attitudes of the Islamic world has been horrific.

By "all religions" he is referring to the "people of the book" - Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They may acknowledge "our" scriptures, but since we do not acknowledge you-know-who (pbuh - not) as the supreme prophet, we are somewhat less than fully human.

The Jews must really regret that their book got so popular.

goesh said...

It is amazing how muslim societies can publish hideous caricatures of Jews and believe they have done no wrong and should not be questioned on their right to offend people. This same mentality has contributed nothing to the world except energy. What has islam given to civilization in the past 400 years? What contributions to art, literature, law, political science, architecture, medicine? 0, nada, nothing, zilch,diddley-squat. What the arm waving, flag burning, chanting, beheading arab street does not realize is that there energy reserves, their only source of income, is going to be negligible in 30-40 years. Bio-fuels are coming on strong, really strong. Ebara7a if you are reading this, that means corn, soybeans and other things that grow and are totally renewable will be used for bio-fuel. You can't grow corn and soybeans in your sand, you fool. Your energy markets are going to dry up. So wave your stupid arms in the air, burn flags and embassies, chant, march, threaten, cut off heads and set of your homicide bombs killing civilians all you want - the clock is ticking away, rather rapidly, and you will be left in the dark ages from whence you briefly emerged for 70-80 years thanks to oil and oil alone. You don't get it, do you? It was oil that brought you part ways out of the stone age, not your quran and your prophet. Despite the great wealth oil has given you, you still behead people, your women are still property much like a donkey is, your children in many places die of diseases that the West eradicated a long time ago. You do honor killings and clitorectomy while the West is exploring outer space. You don't get it, you really don't. All you have is an ancient document that cannot be adjusted to the natural evolution of the human species. You folks expend considerable mental energy justifying the entrenchment and rigidity of the quran. So fade away back to the stone age,inshallah.

Anonymous said...


As Chuck noted above, the reports I read indicated the tunnel was dug from outside the prison. The tunnel entrance was in a nearby mosque in a section reserved for women. Since women don't normally attend (according to the article), this section was lightly used. The tunnel length was something in the order of 140 metres. I find it hard to believe an effort like this wouldn't catch the attention of the someone in authority. At the very least it's highly suspicious.

Wally Ballou said...

Last point (like anyone cares) I'm not saying the regime wasn't involved - I am saying NO evidence exists that they were (and it's hard to see how this could benefit them - read up on the post-9/11 relationship and you'll see that the Yemenis have put all their eggs in our basket and have taken a lot of heat for it). Arguing "they must have known - ergo they were behind it" is fallacious. People say the regime "must" have been aware of a tunneling operation of this magnitude. Nonsense - all that was needed was the corruption of a few prison officals - all of the prison officials involved in that particular chain of command have been removed and are under investigation, according to the anti-government "Yemen Times". Cooruptible prison officials are not unheard of, even in the US.

Anybody ever hear of the Berlin wall? Dozens of successful quite long tunnels were dug from the eastern side - does that mean the East German government and particularly the Stasi "must" have been behind them?

We really don't have a lot of "friendly" local bases to choose from - we need to take intelligence value where we can get it - and some of the best reportedly has come from Pakistan and Yemen. If you want to kill the bad guys, you have to get close to the bad guys.

Take that, you dead horse - Whack! Whack!

Baron Bodissey said...

Cato --

All your points are well-taken; I can't argue with them.

I guess my frustration with some of the current administration's policies boiled over into my polemic on this issue.

I don't know Yemen well enough to venture opininions on it; I should have kept quiet.

But I do know Pakistan very well now, and in it we have definitely set up an alliance with a dangerous Islamic state, large parts of whose military and political elite are actively working against us. Once again, they are allowing the CIA and the defense intelligence people to work within their borders, and they are passing us intelligence data. But they are playing a very sophisticated double game, of which AQ Khan was just the tip of the iceberg.

I think we are making a serious strategic mistake if we continue a whole lot longer relying on countries like this. We need other ways of approaching the problem, because there are significant terrorist groups acting here domestically that are directed by people close to the ISI and the regime in Pakistan.

Yemen may be different. I don't know.

The comparison with Stalin is not real apt -- Stalin had the Wehrmacht on the outskirts of Moscow to worry about, and that concentrated his attention. The Saudis and Yemenis have nothing comparable. All they have to worry about is us, and if they can game us shrewdly enough, they're home free.

But what really galls me is the way the President and his officials make nicey-nice with the burnoose-wearing thugs. If we have to do business with them, why can't it just be quiet business, ugly but necessary? Why hold hands with the despot? Why call them "our good friends", "staunch partners in the war on terror", etc., etc.?

Condoleezza Rice positively gushes over the bastards, calling Islam a "religion of peace and love". That's not necessary. She could just cut the required deals, and leave the hearts and flowers behind.

That kind of behavior will make it that much more difficult to make the required 180° turn when the time comes.

The Department of State is already resistant to doing the right thing, and trying to get them to change their ways after all these years of gooey rhetoric will be that much more difficult.

The policy doesn't make sense, and I wish we weren't doing it.