by Daniel Martin Varisco
Yemen hardly ever makes the news unless a journalist wants to rail against the green-dribbling khat habit of grown men who wear skirts or trump with the terrorism card. In the Sunday Magazine of The New York Times, Robert F. Worth asks the provocative question: “Is Yemen the Next Afghanistan?” For an article that begins with a photograph of the valley “that is the ancestral home of Bin Laden” and mentions an American cruise missile in the first line, it hardly takes a Ph.D. to figure out what the answer is most likely to be in the mind of the reader. Worthy reporter that he is, The New York Times Middle East correspondent does not directly answer the question. He does not need to, since the Al Qaeda-laced narrative itself hinges on the comparison. The article ends with a visit to an “old man with a deeply lined face” and who walks with a cane. When asked if his son, an Al Qaeda figure described in the story, was really part of the plot in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, the father responds:
‘No,’ he said, ‘ I don’t believe this.’ He was silent for a long time, staring at the closed door of the house, which was illuminated at its edges by a bright rectangle of afternoon sunlight. then he spoke again.
‘He is a mujahid,’ he said, or holy warrior. ‘He is fighting those who occupy Arab lands. He is fighting unbelievers.’