Drones strikes have ignited fear and hatred of the U.S. within Yemen, according to witness testimony at the Senate’s first public hearing on drone warfare.
American educated Farea al-Muslimi, from the mountain village of Wessab, said that a recent drone strike in the village left “psychological fear and terror” in its wake.
“The drone strikes are the face of America to many,” al-Muslimi told the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights in its hearing titled “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing.”
The target of the drone attack, Hameed Meftah, was well known in the village, and al-Muslimi said he could have been captured.
“The attack terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers,” al-Muslimi said.
He noted that al-Qaeda uses the drone strikes on the Arabian Peninsula to “promote its agenda and try to recruit more terrorists.”
“The drones have made more mistakes than AQAP has ever done,” he added, using the acronym for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the chairman of the subcommittee, asked al-Muslimi if Yemeni’s people are aware the U.S. military and CIA drone strikes are done with the complicity of the Yemeni government.
Al-Muslimi said that for them the question barely registers. “On the ground,” he said, “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is problematic.”
Director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation Peter Bergen testified in 2012 that, while President Obama authorized at least 46 drone strikes in Yemen, George W. Bush launched only one during his presidency.
Drone strikes have been controversial and lawmakers have demanded more transparency from the Obama administration on the secretive drone warfare. A United Nations investigation into drone casualties in Pakistan found the U.S. in violation of the country’s sovereignty. According to the Pakistani government, 400 civilians were killed by U.S. drones.
"The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine," al-Muslimi said. “What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village… one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”
Al-Muslimi suggested reparation be made to counter the effort of al-Qaeda in Yemen. “There has to be some sort of compensation — build a hospital or school,” he said.