We Must Not Need to Know

“If you don’t read the newspapers, you are uninformed. And if you do read them, you are misinformed.” –Mark Twain

“A man’s judgment cannot be better than the information on which he has based it. Give him no news or present him only with distorted and incomplete data, with ignorant, sloppy or biased reporting, with propaganda and deliberate falsehoods, and you destroy his whole reasoning process and make him something less than a man.” –Arthur H. Sulzberger

I’ve heard that happiness mostly requires good health and a bad memory. It’s a reasonably good line, I guess. But what a miserable, brain-dead, heartless way to get through life. How in hell can we learn anything if we forget what has already happened, and pay no attention to the world around us?

Some days, I feel as if I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew. Well, not quite. I almost wish I COULD forget all my country’s shameful actions in the Vietnam War … among so damn much else in our entire glorious history, for that matter. But no … I need to remember, no matter how much it hurts. We all need to remember more. That’s part of what’s wrong with us now — we’ve allowed ourselves to develop so much selective amnesia. And remember, never mistake a bad memory for a clear conscience. It seems that our kindly corporate imperial elites encourage us to forget the past — and disregard or misinterpret the present — just so we won’t feel so bad about ourselves, no doubt. Or does it just help them control and exploit us more easily?

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” –Aldous Huxley


The Bloody War that Doesn’t Exist: What the Media Are Not Telling Us about Yemen
Published on Friday, May 16, 2014 by Common Dreams
by Ramzy Baroud
“In Yemen today, the US embassy is closed to the public. Officials telling CNN there is credible information of a threat against Western interests there,” a CNN news anchor read the news bulletin on May 08.
This is CNN’s Yemen. It is a Yemen that seems to exist for one single purpose, and nothing else: maintain Western, and by extension, US interests in that part of the world. When these interests are threatened, only then does Yemen matter.
Yemen of ‘Western Interests’
Every reference in that specifically-tailored discourse serves a purpose. It is as if al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) exists to justify US military intervention and unending drone war. Last April, 63 Yemenis were reportedly killed in US drone strikes allegedly targeting al-Qaeda. No credible verification of that claim is available, and none of the victims have been identified. “Signature” drone strikes don’t require identification, we are told. It could take months, if not years, before rights groups shed light on the April killings, which are a continuation of a protracted drone war.
The Western narrative of Yemen is unmistakable. It is driven by interests and little else. It is ultimately about control of strategic areas. Yemen’s massive border with Saudi Arabia, and access to major waterways – the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea – and its close proximity to Africa and Somalia in particular, all point to the unrivalled significance of Yemen to the US and other Western powers. In this narrative, Yemen is about oil and security. It is about the kind of ‘stability’ that guarantees that the status quo concerned with Western interests remain intact.
Even the very geography of Yemen is somehow defined based on interests. On May 07, when militants reportedly bombed an oil export pipeline halting the crude flow that travels between the central Maarib Province to the Red Sea, Yemen’s geography precipitously shrunk in media consciousness to be a map that merely borders and follows the oil pipelines. Those who live, fight, starve and die beyond the confines of these ill-defined Western interests often go unreported. Their share of the Yemen map is rarely highlighted.
In fact, little was known about Yemen in the West before October 2000, when US naval vessel USS Cole was damaged in a suicide attack, killing 17 US military men. The attack was later blamed on al-Qaeda, paving the way for the opportune narrative which continues to define US involvement in Yemen until this day.
The US ‘war on terror’ had in fact reached Yemen even before the war in Iraq was unleashed a few years later. Thousands of people were killed, tens of thousands were displaced. The people of that poor, divided, corruption-laden country were punished so severely for crimes they didn’t commit.
The reason that the ‘war in Yemen’ has never morphed into a ‘war on Yemen’ is because the ruling class of that country found a way to co-exist with the ever-prevalent US interests, including their violent dimensions. Just as the US began its military push against Yemen, then President Ali Abdullah Saleh introduced a referendum to modify the constitution in order to boost his (and his family’s) political power and extend his mandate.
Many Yemenis lost their lives protesting Saleh’s move. Washington, however, didn’t seem to mind. Saleh knew the price expected of him to ensure the barter. In November 2001, he made a highly choreographed visit to then US President Bush in Washington, declaring that Yemen had officially joined the US ‘war on terror.’ The war in Yemen carried on for years, without mass protests in London and New York demanding an end to that war, as was the case in Iraq.
Despite the military hardware, the military strikes, the drone attacks and the piled bodies of rarely identified victims, the war simply didn’t exist, although the facts prove otherwise.
Revolutionary Yemen
But intersecting with that Yemen, there is a Yemen that is poor, a Yemen that is rebellious and proud, and a Yemen that is mired in a civil war and seemingly endless division.
The odd thing is that there is only one Yemen and one Yemeni story: that of war, western intervention, corruption, division, unemployment, terror, poverty and revolution. They are all aspects of the same story, and will continue to form one singular rationale of why Yemen is in this awful crisis.
A fair historian would tell you that Yemen’s revolution started long before Tunisia and Egypt, and all the rest. That is a whole different Yemen, where unemployed youth, men and women have exhibited a remarkable level of tenacity and determination, mass protesting for equality, reforms, freedom and democracy.
The popular consciousness of Yemen is simply astounding. How could a people of a country, so poor and so divided, command a level of mass mobilization that is hardly paralleled anywhere else?
This is the dissident and spirited Yemen. Its youth have turned political organization into a form of art. When they amassed their popular, non-violent forces in major Yemeni cities in January 2011, there seemed to be no force, however lethal, capable of removing them from the squares. Indeed, Saleh wholeheartedly tried, but the more he killed, the more committed to their non-violent resistance the Yemenis became, and the quicker their numbers multiplied.
Poor Yemen
This politically conscious Yemen overlaps with another one, a Yemen of shocking statistics. It is a country of 25 million, where 54 percent live below the poverty line, and where unemployment among youth exceeds 60 percent (general unemployment stands at 40 percent according to recent government reports cited by Al Monitor). Millions of Yemenis are malnourished. Malnutrition levels are the second highest in the world. 4.5 million are food insecure. Nearly half of the country’s children suffer from stunted growth.
Revolutionary Yemen feeds on and is inspired by poor, oppressed Yemen, which is exploited for political reasons by those who, in January 2010, designated themselves Friends of Yemen.
It is another club that serves as a political platform meant to balance out the US ‘war on terror’ campaign, but pretends to operate independently from it. Yemen’s ‘friends’ pledged billions, little of which has been delivered, and only a portion of what is delivered is spent in ways that are transparent or helpful. There is little evidence that Yemen’s donors are making much difference in reversing the vicious cycle of entrenched poverty, rising unemployment and continued deterioration of the economy.
Friends of Yemen behave as if the US war is not a major component of Yemen’s crisis. Yemen’s problems and failures are discussed based on other variables – corruption, poor governance and such. Millions of people have been displaced by this war. They are hungry, desperate and frightened by the complete lack of security. Isn’t it strange that somehow the US war is not an item on their agenda?
Yemen of Division
The official Yemeni discourse is even more curious. Formed in November 2011, after Saleh handed powers to his deputy, now President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, the Yemeni government continues to speak of dialogue and reforms. The National Dialogue Conference concluded in Jan 2014 after ten months of intense discussions. In February, a governmental committee approved the recommendation of turning Yemen into a federation of six regions. This is meant to be the first practical step towards a lasting political transition, but it is more likely to inspire further divides where some southern parties are vying for complete secession from the north, and are now organizing to defeat the government initiative.
Yemen is a country of deep political divisions with a bloody history of separation and unity, and most perplexing political alliances, which are in constant breakup and formation.
One and Only Yemen
But why are we too hesitant to tell the Yemeni story as it is, with all of its complexities and details? Are we intimidated by the sheer intricacy of the story? Or is it because we remember Yemen whenever it is convenient to do so?
Western media knows Yemen whenever al-Qaeda threatens western interests, or when angry tribesmen – frustrated by the joint US-central government violence and years of neglect – blow up an oil pipeline.
Throughout much of 2011, Arab media covered Yemen around the clock promoting an indiscriminate ‘Arab Spring’ narrative, with little regard to the distinctiveness of the Yemeni story. When the spring didn’t deliver what it promised, Yemen was disowned and forgotten, as it has always been.
The United Nations occasionally remembers Yemen in one of its intermittent reports, highlighting the poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment with atrocious graphs and grim numbers.
The odd thing is that there is only one Yemen and one Yemeni story: that of war, western intervention, corruption, division, unemployment, terror, poverty and revolution. They are all aspects of the same story, and will continue to form one singular rationale of why Yemen is in this awful crisis.
Until we realize this, Yemen shall continue to be divided into mini-stories, and numerous narratives that hardly overlap in our news broadcasts, despite the fact that they always really do.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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13 Responses to We Must Not Need to Know

  1. tubularsock says:

    How can one keep up with just the wars let alone the red carpet at Cannes?

    • Tubularsock, Are you kidding? I don’t even keep up with laundry! If YOU can’t stay au courant, don’t look at me. Actually, I count on you (and Jeff) to clue me in so I won’t feel absolutely lame. Thanks for commenting! – Linda

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Uninformed or misinformed, that’s a good summation of the state of things when it comes to the national discourse. Rolling Stone did a good write up on the drone strikes in Yemen. The comments are especially interesting.


    Hope all is well with you, Linda.

  3. skulzstudios says:

    There’s nothing to see folks so move it along.
    Yemen being the ‘heel’ of a Saudi peninsula, it hits the ground first. Ground pounding drone infested heel of a boot.
    Once upon a time there was a Yemen and a South Yemen. So before once upon a time, there was the Kingdom of Sheba. Say, didn’t some Solomon guy have a “thing” for the Queen of Sheba? I’m just saying…

    • So maybe we’re grinding this ‘heel’ of Arabia under our insatiable boot heel. But are you suggesting there’s some sort of, ahem … naked lust … involved in all this business? It does kind of look that way, actually. Just our rotten luck there’s nothing so innocent as sex involved. Of course, the Solomon thing may have been a resource-grab too. Thanks for your comment! – Linda

  4. carolahand says:

    Great discussion and article, Linda. It is tempting to avoid the news, but I am grateful for friends who keep me posted on what’s happening. I only wish I knew what I could possible do to change this deliberate destruction of lives.

    • Carol, Thank you so much for your kind words. Wish I had solid answers for any of this. All I do know is, inattention and apathy never help. Been there, done that, too often, to my shame. And we know those in power have so much to hide, so much to gain by keeping us from knowing or caring what is going on in the world. I do wonder if my ranting and fist-shaking here will ever make any difference … or just provide easy evidence of my subversive tendencies at some point, if the authorities even bother with evidence these days.

      And yet … I do it anyway. Maybe only the NSA will ever know. But there’s no way to tell what may spark a tiny but crucial change in someone’s thinking somewhere. I think of blogging as perhaps being a drop of the next Archimedes’ bathwater, or adding my faint voice to a chorus of millions of concerned people, helping to spread ideas just that millimeter farther along, if I’m lucky. It will take much more to change the world, obviously. I’ve always been a natural hermit, but even I do see that concerted action is our only chance — money and power can and will so easily ignore or obliterate any individual. But they still can’t kill us all, so far. Thanks again, and forgive the extra rant. – Linda

      • carolahand says:

        I love the extra commentary, Linda, and I’m glad you do what you can to make a difference by sharing crucial information. At times like this in my life, when I have to focus for days to develop a new course, it’s the only way I can access real news. 🙂

        • Carol, You’re most generous. Now I’ll have to pretend to write responsibly! Which may be a stretch, but good for my character. We are lucky to have conscientious, principled people like you in education; thanks for all your hard work and dedication. – Linda

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