The US is ready to defend Syria from a brutish assault launched by Syria’s own government and its allies – or so Washington wants you to believe. In the backdrop, Yemen continues to burn in silence.
On September 3, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley – eloquent diplomat that she is – retweeted a tweet from the warmonger in chief that is the US president, with the caption “All eyes on the actions of Assad, Russia and Iran in Idlib.” This is the same US administration who just facilitated the bombing of a school bus in Yemen, slaughtering at least 40 children in the process.
Maybe, just maybe, Nikki Haley should keep her eyes on herself.
If the world did direct its eyes to what is taking place in Yemen, they would know that the United Nations has just warned of an “incalculable human cost” in the works, as the US and its allies press forward with an offensive to retake the Yemeni port city of Hodeida from the Houthi rebels.
That’s right. The US, currently waving its arms in despair about human rights abuses and chemical weapons attacks that have not even taken place in Syria yet, is supporting a major offensive of its own that will lead to a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions.
Yemen, a country already deeply in crisis, relies on the port of Hodeida for at least 70 percent of its humanitarian aid. It therefore makes sense from a humanitarian perspective to turn its location into a major war zone, am I right?
The small minority of people who are inclined to care about innocent Yemenis need not fret though. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just this week certified that the Saudi-led coalition is taking sufficient steps to protect civilians. According to Pompeo, the Gulf nations involved are “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”
“They are taking steps, in the view of the US government and this administration, in the right direction,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing, according to Reuters. “We see them taking steps. Is it perfect? No absolutely not. Do we see them doing what they can to mitigate civilian casualties? Absolutely we do.”
Thank God – I was getting worried there for a second. The US-backed Saudi-led coalition may be killing children as if they were ants, but they are taking steps to mitigate the number of children they are killing at the same time.
A seven-page memo sent to Congress and obtained by the Intercept further confirmed Pompeo’s delusional thinking, as the memo called Saudi Arabia and the UAE “strong counterterrorism partners.” Never mind that just last month, the Associated Press reported the US and its allies were actually recruiting Al-Qaeda fighters to join the coalition.
While the Trump administration is taking a horrifying and bloody war and taking it to new depths, the truth of the matter is that this war did not begin under Donald Trump. The war in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, fast becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, was started by none other than peace-prize laureate Barack Obama himself.
But why did this war start, and why has the US continued to support it?
In an overlooked interview with the Real News’ Aaron Maté, Rob Malley, President of the International Crisis Group and former Special Assistant to President Obama, gave a disturbing glimpse into who actually pulls the strings on US foreign policy.
According to Malley:
“To try to understand what the Obama administration was about, and I’ve tried to- just to try to, to explain it to myself, to try to understand how we got to where we are, let’s not forget at the time we were in the middle of these negotiations with Iran, trying to reach a nuclear deal which was extremely unpopular with our traditional allies in the region, from Israel to Saudi Arabia to the UAE and others. And the Saudis came to us and said that they were about to intervene in Yemen, to attack the Houthis that had toppled the legitimate government of the internationally recognized government at the time. And they asked for our assistance…”
“So there was on the one hand a number of voices expressing concern about that. But on the other hand were many people saying the relationship with Saudi Arabia is almost at breaking point. They believe we’d betrayed their trust for a number of reasons. But Iran, Iran negotiating the Iran deal, or the negotiations over the Iran deal was one of them. We needed to protect that deal and make sure that we could get it done, because if we didn’t have a deal there was a risk of a war with Iran. And so I think the decision was made in the end by President Obama to say we’re going to be, to support parts of this war…”
Only a peace prize laureate could pull off a feat like that. But all joking aside, the human cost of the war in Yemen is nothing short of shameless.
On October 8, 2016, an aerial bombardment targeted a crowded funeral in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, the aftermath of which was aptly described as a “lake of blood.” According to the UN, more than 140 Yemenis were killed and at least 525 others were injured.
To date, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition has struck well over 100 hospitals, as well as wedding parties, refugee camps, food trucks, factories, transport routes, agricultural land, residential areas, and schools, to name a few. Yes, you read that right. Yemen, with only 2.8 percent of its land being cultivated, is actively targeted by the US-backed coalition. According to Martha Mundy, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, “to hit that small amount of agricultural land, you have to target it.”
Prior to spiralling into chaos, Yemen was already dependent on imports for 90 percent of its staple foods and almost all of its fuel and medical supplies. Putting aside the mass amount of violence that the US-backed coalition has enacted, the rest of Yemen’s population is suffering due to the Saudi-imposed blockade, which has put half the population at risk of starvation. According to the UN, over 462,000 children under the age of five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
This is done completely on purpose. At the end of August this year, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, threatened that he would continue targeting women and children in Yemen and allegedly said that he wants to “leave a big impact on the consciousness of Yemeni generations.”
“We want their children, women and even their men to shiver whenever the name of Saudi Arabia is mentioned,” the Crown Prince reportedly said.
The idea, advanced by Pompeo and his cohorts at the State Department, that the coalition has taken steps to avoid civilian casualties is by all accounts, complete nonsense. As the New York Times openly acknowledged:
“The first problem was the ability of Saudi pilots, who were inexperienced in flying missions over Yemen and fearful of enemy ground fire. As a result, they flew at high altitudes to avoid the threat below. But flying high also reduced the accuracy of their bombing and increased civilian casualties,” American officials said.
“American advisers suggested how the pilots could safely fly lower, among other tactics. But the airstrikes still landed on markets, homes, hospitals, factories and ports, and are responsible for the majority of the 3,000 civilian deaths during the yearlong war, according to the United Nations.”
In addition to supplying billions of dollars’ worth of arms to the Saudi kingdom, US personnel provide overwhelming assistance to the Saudi-led coalition to help bring Yemen to its knees by sitting in the Saudi’s command and control center, providing lists of targets, refuelling planes, running intelligence missions, and so forth.
If Donald Trump is so concerned with migrants and refugees, perhaps he should stop creating them. If he really cares about ‘America first’ and making America great again, perhaps racking up notches to America’s war crime belt is not the way to go. Legal experts have already warned the US government that its complicity in these attacks can make them a co-belligerent in Saudi Arabia’s vast, extensive list of war crimes. This warning has fallen completely on deaf ears and has not helped at all in deterring the Trump administration from continuing some of Barack Obama’s worst policies; and even now the US continues to shelter the Saudi-led coalition so that it can continue its bloodthirsty policies unabated.
Make no mistake, if the US pulled its support for Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s suffering could stop tomorrow.
Watch out for Assad though; I heard he was about to retake a Syrian city from an Al-Qaeda affiliate. Remember Al-Qaeda, the notorious terror group the US claimed was the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks? Apparently, the entire US government doesn’t, as it allies itself with Al-Qaeda in just about every battlefield that counts.
In the meantime, ordinary Yemenis continue to suffer by the millions. If you can absorb all of this and still believe the US is genuinely concerned about human rights abuses in places like Syria, then you probably deserve what’s to come next.