The uprising in Yemen took a significant turn yesterday following a series of high-level defections against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. After Yemeni forces opened fire on demonstrators Friday, killing 45 people and wounding some 350 others, top military leaders decided they could no longer stand by Saleh and chose to ally themselves with the protesters. The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill joined Democracy Now! this morning to discuss the motivations behind the sharp contrast in the Obama administration’s response to the rising crisis in Yemen, as opposed to the more forceful condemnations the administration has meted out to the leaders of Libya and other Middle Eastern nations.

Yemen has from the outset played a crucial role in the US war on terror, Scahill says. President Saleh has accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in military and security aid in exchange for US access to Yemeni territories. As part of the covert war inside of Yemen, the US has conducted drone attacks that have killed civilians, all of which were covered up when the Yemeni government claimed the strikes as their own.

“The fact is that the US has been almost entirely silent in the face of Saleh’s forces gunning down their own citizens, which stands in stark contrast to the position that the US has taken on some of the other regimes in the area,” he says. “You can’t help but wonder if the US is hoping that Saleh holds on in Yemen.”

In the same program, Scahill discusses the no-fly zone in Libya, calling it a “recipe for disaster.”

—Sara Jerving