"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paranoia Even Goya Couldn't Draw Ya

So, it probably isn't too surprising that the Huthis blame the US, by way of AQAP, for the murderous funereal bombing that threatens to open up a new front of violence inside Yemen.   There is a thick atmosphere of paranoia inside the country's politics.  President Salih lumps together the three threats of AQAP, Huthis and the Southern Movement- this is part cynical but part a logical extension of his belief that only he can hold the country together, an apres moi, le deluge mentality. (though one would have to ask: how much worse the flood?)  Everybody also blames Iran for the Huthis, despite lack of any evidence.  The Huthis and AQAP see the government as a pawn of the US and Israel, a notion that is being reinforced by the Wikileaks revelations.  Basically, you have the US and Iran fighting each other via al-Qaeda and the Huthis, respectively.  Israel fits in somewhere, probably supporting al-Qaeda (although, as I blogged about in April, AQAP was supposedly teaming up with anti-Hamas extremists in Gaza to attack Jews in both Israel and Yemen, so this isn't a perfect marriage).

This is the kind of thinking that comes from a poisoned and poisoning politics.  Despite the proliferation of NGOs, there is not an adequate public space inside of Yemen for politics to be hashed out.  Qat chews are a helpful outlet, and a wonderful part of life, but with the crackdown on press it is terribly surprising that the wildest conspiracy theories are ones that gain traction.  This is a mess of Salih's making.

I don't want to imply that paranoia is a strictly Yemeni or Arab phenomena.  There is plenty of paranoia in American politics as well- it is deeply a part of both the far left and mainstream, Tea Party right (who are not really "conservative", by any real definition).   I think it is part of human nature to see events as controlled and not left to chance and capriciousness and folly and short-sighted thinking.   While paranoids tend to be freaked out a lot, there is comfort there; paranoia is a safety blanket warmly shielding one from randomness.   In Yemen, where things are falling apart, and there is a history of outside interference, it is better to conjure a grand narrative than being buffeted by a series of ad hoc decisions.

In a strange way, I suppose it is almost reassuring that the Huthis blame the US for AQAP's attack.  Maybe there is a strong strain of thought preventing them from thinking fellow Yemenis could do such a thing.  Optimistic paranoia.   Maybe a happier Pynchon could do something with that.

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