Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee held an unusual–and at times quite critical–public hearing about the U.S. drone program. The most noteworthy testimony came from Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni writer and activist who spoke movingly about a drone attack on his village last week.
Al-Muslimi had spent a year in the United States, and had returned to his country to share his positive experiences in the U.S.–that is, until the United States attacked his village:
In the past, what Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.
This is not an isolated incident. The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis. I have spoken to many victims of U.S. drone strikes, like a mother in Jaar who had to identify her innocent 18-year-old son's body through a video in a stranger's cellphone, or the father in Shaqra who held his four- and six-year-old children as they died in his arms.
It was dramatic, gripping testimony from a voice we don't often hear in our media.
It was also, apparently, not considered newsworthy to many major outlets.
The New York Times and Washington Post both ran stories on the hearing, but a search of the Nexis news database turns up nothing on the broadcast networks, cable channels or National Public Radio (*update: NPR mentioned al-Muslimi's testimony on April 24's Morning Edition.) While it's possible that some coverage hasn't been posted yet, the lack of interest is noteworthy. MSNBC host Chris Hayes posted a message on Twitter saying that al-Muslimi would be on his show tonight (You can watch video of that interview is here).
Non-coverage is one thing; it's important to note the outlet that did cover the hearing. Democracy Now! ran a long excerpt of al-Muslimi's remarks this morning (4/24/13). In a moment when media are fixated on terrorism and the possibility that some people might be motivated to carry out acts of violence against the United States in part because of the effects of U.S. wars, it would seem like this would be a story worth covering.
As al-Muslimi put it:
I deeply believe that when Americans truly know about how much pain and suffering the U.S. air strikes have caused and how much they are harming efforts to win…hearts and minds of the Yemeni people, they will reject this devastating targeted-killing program.
That would require U.S. media outlets take a more active interest in covering that pain and suffering.
Watch the Democracy Now! segment here: