Home/Daniel Larison/Ignoring the U.S. Role in the Shameful War on Yemen

Ignoring the U.S. Role in the Shameful War on Yemen

This New York Timesarticle on the U.S. “bind” in dealing with the Saudis completely overlooks U.S. backing for the war on Yemen. The one passage that does refer to Yemen specifically offers this extremely misleading description:

So ever since that accord was reached in July, the Obama administration has been offering reassurance. Mr. Obama invited the Saudis to join a meeting at Camp David to reassure Arab allies that the United States was not abandoning them — and would sell them larger weapons packages than ever before. But the administration has also been sharply critical of the Saudi intervention in Yemen [bold mine-DL], seeing it as a huge distraction from the bigger battle against the Islamic State.

It just isn’t true that the Obama administration has been “sharply critical” of the intervention. In fact, there has been almost no public criticism of the Saudi-led campaign or blockade by U.S, officials, and the U.S. has helped the Saudis to cover up for their likely war crimes committed during their air war. When U.S. officials do bestir themselves to complain about the intervention in Yemen, it is almost always done through anonymous expressions of “dismay” and “alarm” in the press that never lead to any change in policy. The administration wants credit with the Saudis for helping them, but it doesn’t want to be perceived here as enabling their cruel and indefensible war. It is more common for U.S. officials to echo Saudi propaganda lines and praise the coalition for its efforts. This article helps the administration to maintain the illusion that it isn’t partly responsible for the wrecking of Yemen.

The administration is annoyed that the Saudi-led coalition has diverted its attention away from the war on ISIS, but that hasn’t stopped it from continuing to support the “huge distraction” in Yemen that has caused this. Reading this article, one would not know that the U.S. is arming and refueling the coalition’s planes so that they can bomb Yemen, and one would have no idea that the administration has been providing intelligence to help the coalition choose its targets. Also missing from the report is the recent decision to sell the Saudis another $1 billion in weapons. In an article that is supposed to cover the tensions in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, these are grievous omissions that would lead the average reader to believe that the U.S. is much less supportive of the Saudis than it really is. It’s bad enough that the war on Yemen receives such paltry coverage in the U.S., but it’s even worse when the U.S. role in the war is completely ignored in a report where it ought to have a prominent place.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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