People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. No one on board the government plane was hurt but initial reports said several people at the airport were killed. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
For over five years, Yemenis have endured a civil war which has already killed nearly a quarter-million people. Roughly half of those who perished died from war-induced malnutrition, disease and lack of basic services.
Intervening on one side, a Saudi-led and U.S.-supported coalition has used overwhelming military force — including laser-guided bombs and other high-tech weapons supported by our tax dollars — to systematically devastate huge areas of Yemen that their rivals control.
The U.S. has supplied combat ships that are vital to the naval and air blockade presently denying millions of people in Yemen essential food and medicine (90% of Yemen’s food supply is imported).
The U.S. has also directly carried out bombing raids against those it labels “terrorists.” Recently, Congress failed to stop the Trump administration from selling F-35s like those the Air Force wants to station at Truax to the United Arab Emirates, one of the countries bombing Yemen.
As was predicted, famine is now widespread. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and many tens of thousands, especially children, are truly bloated-belly-and-stick-limbs starving. Moderate to severe malnutrition afflicts a quarter of the population, including more than 2 million children.
And now COVID-19 has joined cholera and diphtheria in exponentially compounding their misery.
This morning, Democracy Now had a hard-hitting report on the U.S.-Saudi war in Yemen. They combined highlights of the PBS Newshour series with an interview with Jane Ferguson, the PBS Newshour journalist who “smuggled” herself into Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen to report on conditions there.
You can watch [and share] the Democracy Now segment here:
PBS Report from Yemen: As Millions Face Starvation, American-Made Bombs Are Killing Civilians
What’s crucial about the Democracy Now report, compared to most other [far too infrequent] reports in the U.S. media, is that it squarely places responsibility for the war on the government of the United States, and highlights the need for political action in the U.S. to end the war now. The report makes clear that the war is perceived correctly in Yemen as a U.S. war, that the war would not be possible without the participation of the United States, and that the U.S. government can end the war anytime it wants, by cutting off U.S. participation and by pressuring its “allies” Saudi Arabia and the UAE to end the war and agree to a political resolution. The report also makes clear that if the war is not ended this year, millions more human beings will be pushed to the brink of starvation.
This last fact, what will happen to civilians in Yemen if the war doesn’t end this year, is crucial. There’s a lack of urgency in Washington right now about pressing for action to end the war, even though the fate of millions of human beings hangs in the balance. There are many causes for this lack of urgency, but one key cause is the political season in Washington. With mid-term elections approaching in four months, the foremost concern for many people in Washington about any issue now is: how will this issue affect mobilization for our team in the mid-term elections? If it’s not obvious how raising an issue would help the Democratic team or the Republican team mobilize for the mid-term elections, it’s hard to generate interest for it in Washington right now.
But millions of human beings in Yemen can’t wait until after the mid-term elections for action to end the war. They need action to end the war now.
Maybe the report by Democracy Now, which is watched by peace activists across the country, can help shake Washington from its complacency.
The Young/Shaheen measure would allow continued US participation in Saudi war crimes. Support the Sanders/Lee/Murphy bill instead.
People carry water tanks at the site of a Saudi-led air strike, north of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, March 8, 2018. (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)
Sometimes the most important stories about what our government is doing don’t get a lot of media attention. That’s the case now, when the Senate is about to hold a historic vote that could decide whether millions of people live or die in the near future. The US military is directly participating in a war that has pushed those millions to the brink of starvation and caused the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.
The war is in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is leading the bombing and blockade that is denying people medicine and food as well as the fuel and infrastructure they need to pump clean water. The deprivation and destruction led to the cholera epidemic, which has sickened a million people and killed thousands. American military planes are not only providing midair refueling to the Saudi bombers but helping them with intelligence and targeting.
This constitutes military involvement under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as well as Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, neither of which allows the executive branch to engage in such hostilities without the authorization of Congress. Any doubts about the constitutionality of US participation in the Saudi attempt to “starve Yemen into submission,” as a November New York Times editorial-board headline described it, were put to rest by a vote in the House of Representatives in November. The House voted 366 to 30 for a resolution that declared US military involvement to be unauthorized.
It is therefore illegal under US law. On February 28, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill to put an end to this illegal war. Under the War Powers Resolution, the Senate majority leaders cannot block a debate and vote on this legislation. And a number of experts believe it could pass; for one thing, the last vote in the Senate on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in June, passed by a margin of only 53-47.
But the Saudis have a powerful lobby: They spent $16 million last year on lobbying and public relations that was recorded under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This does not include other spending, such as contributions to think tanks (and that of their allies such as the United Arab Emirates). And along with the Saudis are the big military contractors that profit from these weapons sales.
While there is so much going on in this country and so much upheaval continues to swirl around our planet, many millions of Americans find themselves in a rush to get away from all things political long enough to find even a few moments of distraction. We all deserve and need that from time to time.
Still, I find it very difficult to distract myself from the reality of 7 million people in Yemen at risk of famine and another 900,000 facing life-threatening diseases such as cholera. Yes, that’s right. Cholera. In 2017. But the Trumpublican standard bearer in the White House and his self-proclaimed “family-values defenders” in Congress could do something, but have done almost nothing to address this human-made catastrophe.
The White House should intervene
A Yemeni woman takes the clothes off her malnourished child. (Yahya Arhab/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)
Editorial Board, Washington Post, November 20, 2017
IT HAS been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by two and a half years of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.
Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.
U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Ms. Muhrez told us.
Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.
The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.