Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Welcome, Americans, to Mysterious Yemen

By Eric Margolis

Yemen, the likely source of the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing at Detroit, has just rudely intruded into the West’s awareness. Militant sources there claim the attack by a young Nigerian was retaliation for extensive covert US military operations in Yemen.

Welcome to the Afghanistan of Arabia

Thanks to the ineffective pyrotechnic device in his underpants, the wannabe Nigerian jihadist has and will inflict billions of dollars in security costs on the United States, and disrupt its vital air travel – all for a $2,000 economy airplane ticket. American-hating jihadists everywhere are clapping their hands in glee. Osama bin Laden must be smiling as the US stumbles into yet another anti-American tar pit.

President Barack Obama has just declared Yemen a new hotbed of anti-American extremists.

Yemen is a magical, beautiful country, but it is not a place for the timid traveler or faint of heart. I first explored Yemen in the mid-1970’s when it was just creeping into the 11th century AD.

Located at the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, mountainous, verdant Yemen was the Biblical land of the Queen of Sheba, and the originator of perfume. It was an important bridge between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Sana’a, the walled capitol, was straight out of the Arabian Nights. At dusk, a ram’s horn would sound and its gates would close for the night. Beyond lay warlike tribesmen who would slit your throat for your watch.

Almost every man wore a curved tribal dagger in his belt. Mud-walled skyscrapers filled the city, along with open sewers and teeming markets with eldritch names like the "souk of daggers" and the "souk of salt."

There were no hotels to speak of, so I slept in the dining room of one of the palaces of the former ruler, Ahmed the Devil, who much enjoyed nailing annoying people to his palace gate. Old Ahmed spent the rest of his time smoking hashish and cavorting with his well-stocked harem.

The state of North Yemen came into being at the end of World War I as the dying Ottoman Empire gave up its Arabian possessions. During the 19th century, the British Empire had gobbled up the entire southern coast of Arabia, creating South Yemen, with its strategic seaport of Aden, and turning the kingdom of Oman into a protectorate. South Yemen became a hotbed of Arab leftists and anti-British militants. In the 1960’s, Saudi Arabia and Egypt battled for domination of Yemen. Both lost.

Read the full fascinating article here.

Eric Margolis is contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.

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