Powerful Americans are beginning to listen to Farea al-Muslimi, a 23-year-old, California-educated Yemeni who wants to stop the drone strikes in his country. Including some in the White House.
Danger Room has confirmed that before he leaves Washington D.C. on Friday, al-Muslimi will meet with White House officials to tell them what he told a Senate subcommittee yesterday: CIA and military drone strikes are strengthening al-Qaida’s Yemeni affiliate and making average Yemenis hate America.
“He will meet with a working-level expert on Yemen policy,” a White House official confirms, declining to provide the name of the official or the time of the meeting. In other words, he shouldn’t count on an Oval Office sit-down with the President — or even a quick meet with Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. And the meeting isn’t a response to al-Muslimi’s testimony yesterday.
But there’s buzz now around al-Muslimi, a Sana’a-based freelance writer on public policy. And that didn’t exist the last time he came to Washington — when al-Muslimi also had a White House meeting. In September, he recalls to Danger Room, al-Muslimi trudged from one drab policymaker’s office to another — he declines to give specifics — while his interlocutors grew uncomfortable when he wanted to talk about the human costs of the drones. “It was a taboo,” al-Muslimi says, “like if you’re talking in a conservative society about sex.”
These days drones are sexy. Yesterday, al-Muslimi publicly told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that the drones cause “psychological fear and terror” amongst average Yemenis and strengthen the very terrorists they’re supposed to kill. Even James “Hoss” Cartwright, a retired Marine general once in the thick of administration drone-strike deliberations, allowed during the hearing that the drones were costing America “the moral high ground.” A trail of D.C. journalists are competing for al-Muslimi’s time — that’s how rare it is for Americans to even to hear second-hand accounts of drone attacks. And the White House is still willing to meet with a man whose message is, he says simply, “stop this program.” Read More