The International Rescue Committee released a statement on Yemen’s famine yesterday:
A new integrated food security and classification (IPC) report shows that 240,000 Yemeni civilians are living in famine condition and 9.8 million are on the brink of famine, a shocking increase of 42% increase since 2017. About 2 million children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished in Houthi-controlled areas, and as many as 400,000 children could starve if assistance cannot be distributed to them.
The numbers used to quantify the size and severity of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis can be difficult to fathom. It is still shocking that a group of governments, including the U.S., have prosecuted a war that has created such horrific conditions over the course of three and a half years, and even more shocking is that they have been able to do so without provoking much of an outcry.
Look at the IRC statement again: nearly a quarter of a million people are already in famine conditions, and almost another ten million are one step removed from that. That means there are more Yemenis starving to death right now than there are people living in the Chicago metro area. If the necessary steps aren’t taken to stabilize Yemen’s economy, end the blockade, and halt the fighting, many if not all of those people are going to perish from hunger in the near future. It should be unthinkable that our government would be party to this horror, but it is and has been for years. Aid agencies have been sounding the alarm about Yemen’s humanitarian crisis right from the start of the Saudi coalition’s intervention, and their warnings have gone mostly unheeded by the governments that are in a position to prevent it from getting worse.
A ceasefire is essential, and the best available way that the Saudis and Emiratis can be made to halt their campaign is if they lose U.S. support for the war. To that end, the Senate needs to pass S.J.Res. 54. Defenders of the indefensible will do their best to try to scare senators with warnings about the “dangerous consequences” of ending U.S. support, but we have already seen the horrific consequences of enabling the Saudi coalition war. It is simply not credible to claim that withdrawing our participation will have worse consequences than aiding and abetting coalition crimes have had. The U.S. has helped keep this war going all this time, and the very least our government can do at this point is to stop supporting it. Saving Yemen from the worst-case scenario requires much more than that, but that is a necessary first step.
Every danger that apologists for the war cite as a possible effect of cutting off support to the Saudi coalition has already materialized as a result of that support. The war has devastated Yemen’s economy, driven roughly half the population towards famine, strengthened jihadist groups, increased Iranian influence, and it has failed in its stated goals of restoring the “legitimate” government and pushing the Houthis out of the capital. The only sane thing to do under the circumstances is to pull the plug on all U.S. assistance to the Saudis and Emiratis in an effort to force them to face the reality that the war is unwinnable and has already inflicted far too much damage on the civilian population. To persist in this despicable policy when we can clearly see the destructive effects it is having on millions of innocent people would very simply be evil.