Home/Daniel Larison/Our Responsibility for the Destruction of Yemen

Our Responsibility for the Destruction of Yemen

Lara Seligman interviews Sen. Chris Murphy on the need to end U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen:

FP: How much responsibility does the United States bear for the humanitarian disaster in Yemen?

CM: I think there is an American imprint on every single civilian death inside Yemen. We sell them the bombs, we help them with the targeting, we fuel their planes in mid-air, and we give them moral cover. So I don’t think there is any way around complete American culpability for the humanitarian nightmare that is happening there.

We also have made no meaningful effort at all to try to find a path to peace. The Trump administration has been totally AWOL on the political process. They have outsourced it to the U.N., and there is no sign that the U.N. is making any progress. It stands to reason the Saudis will never move until the United States commands them to move.

So, yes, I think we are very much responsible for every terrible thing that’s happened inside Yemen today. I’m not saying if we pulled our military support, peace would blossom, but the first step to getting the parties to the table is for the Saudis to feel like they don’t have a blank check from the United States.

Sen. Murphy has been one of the leading opponents of our government’s disgraceful involvement in the war on Yemen, and he was also one of the very first critics of the war in Congress when the Obama administration was backing the Saudi coalition. There is a significant and growing bloc of opposition to the war in Congress today, and much of that is because Sen. Murphy has been relentlessly demanding a change in policy. He has insisted on calling attention to the catastrophe that the war has created in Yemen. There is now a real chance that both houses could pass resolutions later this month requiring the administration to halt its support for the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen. As the senator says, that is the necessary first step to ending the war, and Congress has both the authority and the responsibility to help stop it.

It has been a year since the Saudi coalition tightened the blockade on Yemen. Even though the blockade was relaxed somewhat following international criticism, food, medicine, and fuel supplies brought into the country have been insufficient for the needs of the population. The Norwegian Refugee Council issued a statement yesterday on the deteriorating conditions this has created:

The one-year-long partial blockade has prevented import of vital food, fuel and medical supplies, creating shortages on key commodities for a population in dire need. This had led to mass inflation and propelled a crisis already widely regarded as the worst in the world.

Fuel imports through Hodeidah, Yemen’s most important sea port, remain drastically low and insufficient for meeting needs. The past days have also seen fierce fighting and air strikes pick up in the vicinity of Hodeidah city threatening to further deteriorate civilians’ access to safety and aid.

This underscores the point Sen. Murphy was making about U.S. responsibility. Our government has been backing the side in the war that bears the largest responsibility for causing civilian casualties through their bombing campaign that is made possible with U.S. support, and our government has supported the coalition while it blockades one of the poorest countries in the world. There are now up to 14 million people who are at risk of starvation by year’s end, and our government’s policy of unconditional support for the Saudis has helped bring that about. The U.S. has enabled the Saudi coalition in its destruction and starvation of Yemen for more than three and a half years, and Congress has an opportunity to put a stop to that role. Ending U.S. involvement won’t save the people of Yemen by itself, but the very least that our government can do at this point is to stop helping making things worse. Once that is done, Congress will also need to vote funds for a major relief effort to prevent the famine caused by this war from claiming millions of lives. Our government shares responsibility for destroying Yemen, so we are obliged to help repair the extensive damage that the coalition has done with our assistance.

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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