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Mohammed bin Salman’s Many Victims Deserve Justice

Tawakkol Karman calls for justice for the victims of Saudi crimes in Yemen and for Jamal Khashoggi:

Jamal’s tragic, horrifying murder has contributed to a global awakening against Saudi abuses in the region and expanded the scope of the antiwar movement in Yemen and beyond. Thus, while the war in Yemen and murder of Jamal seem to be separate issues, the recklessness and cruelty of the leader behind both atrocities have made them inextricably linked.

There is no question that the brutal murder of Khashoggi on the crown prince’s orders caused a severe backlash against Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government in the U.S., and that has contributed to a significant increase in opposition to the war on Yemen. Both houses of Congress finally passed antiwar resolutions this year requiring an end to U.S. involvement in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder, but unfortunately the president vetoed them and abused his power to hasten more arms deliveries to the war criminals in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. The president and Secretary of State went out of their way to cover for the crown prince after Khashoggi’s murder became public knowledge, and to date they haven’t had to answer for their despicable indulgence of the Saudi government.

It has now been a year since Khashoggi was assassinated and the perpetrators of that crime have not faced any real penalties. The war on Yemen continues to rage after more than four and a half years after the Saudi-led intervention began, and the war criminals responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands have not been held accountable for their many atrocities. As Karman says, all of these terrible acts can be traced back to the crown prince who ordered the murder and launched the war. He is not the only one responsible for these crimes, but he is their architect, and he should be treated accordingly. Not only should the U.S. be cutting off military support and weapons to his government, but he should be treated as the war criminal and abusive despot that he is.

The crown prince’s recent interview with 60 Minutes was not quite as indulgent and celebratory as their embarrassing2018 interview, but it still lets Mohammed bin Salman off the hook. In light of what happened over the year and a half that separated the two interviews, the crown prince should have been questioned much more aggressively and pointedly about his government’s crimes in Yemen. The Dahyan school bus massacre that took place in August 2018 is just one of several atrocities committed by Saudi government forces that he should have to address. The slaughter of more than 130 prisoners in another senseless bombing by Saudi jets happened less than a month ago. None of this was brought up in the interview, and so the crown prince was never forced to acknowledge his government’s role in these crimes and never had to answer any questions about them.

The discussion of Yemen, such as it was, was extremely superficial and completely failed to challenge the crown prince for his role in escalating and continuing the conflict. Norah O’Donnell’s summary of the loss of life caused by the war woefully understates the costs of the war. She says, “The United Nations estimates the conflict has left more than 19,000 civilians dead or injured.” 19,000! Try 100,000 killed in combat and more than another hundred thousand estimated to have been killed by disease and starvation. That doesn’t include the many tens of thousands more injured. The problem here isn’t just that O’Donnell gets the number wrong and minimizes the effects of the war, but she relies on extremely outdated information that hasn’t been reliable for years. ACLED estimates combat fatalities in Yemen approaching 100,000 since March 2015, and a U.N. report released earlier this year projected that at least 233,000 will have died by the end of this year from combat, disease, and starvation. If one must cite from U.N. sources, why not cite the more recent and accurate assessment? Regrettably, the crown prince’s latest high-profile interview is an example of how some Western media outlets still fail to report on the war on Yemen accurately after all these years.

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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