The Cronies Create Enemies for the President [Archives:1999/04/Viewpoint]

January 25 1999

I have been thinking a lot before writing this viewpoint, which is based partly on personal experience and partly on observation. The conclusion I have reached, and which I would like to share with the Yemen Times’ readers, is that the cronies around President Ali Abdullah Saleh constantly push potential friends away from him. They make more enemies for him. Let me share my thoughts as to why and how this happens.

1. Many of the presidential entourage are people who do not actually help the president with his job. If anything, they make the job more difficult. Therefore, these people feel that there are a lot of other people out there who could replace them. As such, it is in their interest not to let any other individuals/groups get the man’s trust and confidence. They paint any potential friends as enemies. They constantly present the President with half-truths and mis-information that would make him wary of the new potential friends.
2. Most of the people around the president are parasites. They miss no opportunity for self-enrichment. As a result, they have already become very rich. To keep amassing more money, they are willing to suffer his wrath and his kicks on their butts from time to time. That is the price for occupying an undeserved place and for collecting unearned wealth. That is also why they push out others.

1. Often, the president’s men bad-mouth potential and actual friends. They do that in the name of the president, or so they present their offensive. Then, when the potential/actual friends fight back, they present the backlash to the president to prove that the said individuals are actually enemies. This strategy has worked very well with journalists, opposition politicians, and other public figures.
2. Many times, the entourage around the president blocks access to the president. They control what goes to the president, as they have in place an elaborate screening process. They do allow the negative stuff to get there, but not all the positive stories.

The potential/actual friends represent various categories. If these are people who need the good offices of the president to continue with their work – like businessmen, then they tend to put up with the hassles of the cronies around the big man. If, on the other hand, the potential/actual friends of the president are people who can manage their affairs without much difficulty irrespective of presidential attitude, then they either ignore the president and his cronies, or even fight back.

Presidential reaction towards this second group depends on the overall political atmosphere. In ordinary times, such individuals and groups who are not willing to appear as kissing up in order to build a correct and fruitful relationship with the president, are simply left alone. But during difficult times, when the president expects everybody to line up behind him, that margin is not available. If you are not enticed to toe the line by the carrot, then you will face the stick. Even that, however, may not make all people fall in line!