Yemen: America’s Next War Zone?

Old Sana'a, Yemen

Old Sana’a, Yemen by Jill in 1992

The U.S. shut down embassies around the Middle East based on (we now learn) communication from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula out of Yemen. Hundreds were freed in a prison break. Anti-American violent leadership is now Yemen-based. Militants are flooding in to Sana’a, from around the region, the BBC reports, as part of a (foiled?) plot to attack perhaps ports, oil installations, or U.S. diplomats. In return or in anticipation, U.S. drone strikes have been increasing, and drone surveillance to intercept more terror communication. Yemenis are said to be suffering post-traumatic stress from so many buzzing drones carrying death.

Is Yemen America’s next war zone?

spectacular row buildings kawkaban 1sanaa 1

This painful set of developments has me thinking of Yemeni friends I made there 20 years ago — a young couple. He was mid-20s, training to run his family’s mid-range hotel in Sana‘a, the capital, the old part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (…for now)….will it go the way of Aleppo? His wife was a teenage girl, living with her parents, not really wife yet, she’d get there later. They seemed happy hanging out.

my friends indoors 1my friends young couple 1

The people are what we miss in war stories, with notable exceptions like Anthony Shadid‘s incredibly rich and profound coverage from inside Iraq.  The people, their culture, the experience of exchange that comes from being places and immersing in conversations…

(…sometimes stoned out of your mind on the local stimulant of choice, qat, chewed with a mint or while sipping tea. Below, my friend is buying.)

Buying qat to chew in Sana'a, Yemen

Buying qat to chew in Sana’a, Yemen

The war against terror informs — distorts — inflects, effects, all we do overseas and how we experience the world as Americans. Who are these people of Yemen but harborers of terrorists? Al Qaeda’s new haunt?

So, I share my 20-year old photos of Yemen & some Yemeni people.

market stall sanaa 1Terror movements need 3 things: alienated constituents. People willing to be complicit. And a legitimizing ideology. This isn’t me; this is scholarship (Louise Richardson formerly of Harvard, now Vice Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews). It is motivated by 3 goals: revenge, renown, and reaction from the enemy.  By this logic, massive military campaigns, ours (and Israel’s, in many cases) simply give the enemy, here Al Qaeda – both the great renown and the horrific overreaction it seeks. There are “the stimulants it needs to prosper” (Richardson).

buildings kawkabam street 1man with jambiya 1

Yet, scholars like Richardson tell us, what  anti-terror campaigns prove (Turkey’s against the PKK, Peru’s against the Shining Path, Britain’s with the IRA) is that what is fundamentally a political challenge can only be addressed politically. By separating the terrorists from their base in the community, by addressing their grievances seriously.

Success requires maintaining the moral high ground. Which, to me, means remembering people. Faces, friends. We haven’t met them (yet). We don’t know eachother, most Yemenis and most Americans. But they will bear the consequences if we take the war to yemen. If we are to be fully human, let’s at least try to connect before we destroy.

grrain seller sanaa 1herb seller 1

Writing in English, Wishing for Reform

My students, writing.

My students, writing.

 

Last time I taught liberal arts types in Beijing at a famously liberal university. Here we are in a province (Shandong, central coastal China) in an engineering school and my students are in either public administration or one of many busines majors (accounting, finance, international trade, management). Lest we think only the urbane Beijingers are reform-minded, here is a bit of one student’s first paper for me:

“I want to be a government leader, wher I can take powers to reform our political system. As we all know, there are many problems in our country politic area, such as democracy deficit, freedom restricted, civil rights violtions. Our Chinese democracy is not complete.”

PS We have very sporadic internet and VPN. LIkely to blog less than we would wish.

 

 

An American Boy in China (watch video)

Adventures of a third grader in Beijing for a year. All about having fun in China, the land and its geography, history and politics, and visiting China’s different regions and peoples. Do shadow puppetry, ride a camel in the Gobi, make dumplings on a farm, and cheer for the Guoan (World Peace) soccer team.

Visit to the Traditional Chinese Medical Clinic

Sick of being sick, coaxed by Betty & Geri, I let my student take me to the campus clinic. First came payment: 50 cents U.S. That’s full price, as I hadn’t brought proper faculty ID. Seeing the doc NORMALLY COSTS A DIME.

The door sign read “Traditional Chinese Medicine.” The doctor was sweetly round, about 65. She felt my wrist pulse a long, long, long time. She looked at my throat with a conventional plastic flashlight, and checked out my tongue. We discussed my bowels (embarassingly with my student translating), even though my problem is a deep cough.

Rx: Forgoing life’s 3 staples: Coffee, chocolate, spicy food. My lungs are imbalanced–too hot. Counterintuitively, I must drink hot water. And 2 or 3 times a day, take my Chinese meds: A ping pong ball that pops open, Pokemon-like, to reveal a gooey bitter black ball of Yangyin Qingfei Wan. Then I drink 2 tiny tubes of coal-ish, herby lanqin. And 10 ml of a sweet syrup, Qiangli pipalu.

A bit curious (what would Dr. Rosenberg say?), I consulted the National Institutes of Medicine’s great PubMed archive, the National Library of Medicine. At least one widely-cited immunology study mentions lanquin–being tested in mouse pneumonia. More conventionally, it’s used for laryngitis, which I have. Yangyin Qingfei Wan, the nasty chews, are being studied in Asia for preventing lung infection after lung cancer radiation. Its made of figwort root, licorice root, white peony root, dwarf lilyturf root, raw rehmannia root, wild mint herb, moutan bark…etc. Roots & barks. In short, it’s for coughing. Which I’m doing. It’s used here for people with tuberculosis.

Finally Qiangli pipalu–papaverine–a respiratory antiviral, has been tested in the U.S. in infants with RSV (a bit too toxic), as well as against HIV. There are lots of publications. It’s a phlegm eliminator effective against bronchitis.

In a word: Excellent.