(MintPress)— Yemeni dictator Ali Abdulla Saleh is reportedly on his way to the United States to receive medical treatment for blast wounds suffered in an assassination attempt last June. The refuge for the Yemeni leader comes as a Yemeni uprising has called for the end of his three-decade rule while demanding Saleh to go on trial for the massacre of demonstrators that rose against his regime.
After leaving power, Saleh received immunity from any prosecution he could have faced for human rights violations. Already, demonstrations against Saleh’s reprieve have hit the streets of Yemen, and the backlash of the immunity bill could translate to backlash against the U.S.
By accepting Saleh for treatment at a New York hospital and offering him a medical visa, Yemeni demonstrators are blaming the U.S. for their continued problems with Saleh, saying the U.S. has aided and protected Saleh throughout his regime.
One protester was quoted as saying, “It is all their doings [the Americans], they gave him money, then weapons to destroy us, now they want him to protect him from his crimes. If they love him so much, why don’t they just take him? We don’t want him! We don’t want his regime!”
The U.S. currently offers foreign aid and military equipment to Saleh’s regime, despite his human rights record. Yemen became a more important ally for the U.S. after Saleh plead to help the U.S. combat al-Qaeda in exchange for aid.
A similar story took form in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. U.S.-supported dictator Reza Shah Pahlevi was allowed by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to enter the U.S. to seek health care for an abdominal ailment. The decision resulted in Iranian demonstrators demanding the Shah be returned to face trial for human rights violations during his brutal reign. The U.S. embassy in Tehran was stormed and 66 American hostages were taken, prompting Carter to negotiate freedom for the hostages.
Much like Saleh’s situation in Yemen, the Shah was brought to the U.S. for a medical ailment during an uprising against his political power. The Shah, similar to to current allies put in power by the US, wiped out the progressive policies of his democratically-elected predecessor, Mohammed Mossadeq, who brought social reform by way of freedom and benefits to workers.
In 2010, the U.S. also allowed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia into the country to receive medical care for a back ailment. It was a show of alliance of two countries with strong historic ties, but raised questions of U.S. support for one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. The human rights record in Saudi Arabia is among the worst in the world, according to the U.S. Department of State. Oppression of women alone has resulted in only five percent of Saudi women being part of the workforce. Saudis also accounted for 15 of the 19 terrorists responsible for the attacks on 9/11.
A critique of Saleh’s refuge questions whether the U.S. is continuing its historical support of dictators acorss the globe despite the Arab Spring revolution.
“What kind of message does it send to the people of Yemen and the greater region when the United States allows an abusive autocrat to take refuge in a New York hospital while his people demonstrate in support of democracy in the face of bullets from his security forces? Just whose side is the United States on in the Arab Spring? If [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Asad gets pancreatic cancer, should we expect for him to be treated at Johns Hopkins?” said the critique.
While the U.S. has historically provided a safe haven for dictators facing scrutiny in their country, at least one U.S. leader has not felt that same security in areas abroad. Take, for example, a canceled trip to Switzerland by George W. Bush in 2011. Human rights attorneys threatened to take action against Bush for his administrations use of torture at Guantanamo Bay.
That type of initiative has yet to be exercised by the U.S. when it comes to oppressive dictators around the world. But it really comes as no surprise. The U.S. overthrew a democratically elected leader in Iran to fund and prop up the Shah all because of a dispute over oil.
The diplomatic immunity given to Saleh gives him a free pass from his past alleged crimes against protesters. His relation enters uncharted territory, however. The Shah never returned to power in Iran after his treatment in the U.S. Yemeni state media quote Saleh as saying he will not fade away from his presidency.
“I will go to the United States for treatment and will then return as the head of the General People’s Congress party,” Saleh said.
Saleh said he plans to return to Yemen before the February presidential election.
Source: Mint Press