Daniel Larison

The Costs of the War on the People of Yemen

The Guardian published three accounts from Yemeni aid workers working with the Norwegian Refugee Council about their experience of the war and the humanitarian crisis. This comes from Marwan Al-Sabri, a 32-year old water and sanitation officer from Taiz:

We already know that the shelling kills people, but I am seeing what a broken economy does too. People have been left so desperately poor that they kill themselves before the hunger does.

The economic war being waged against the civilian population is often overlooked in coverage of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, but it is one of the major reasons why almost 16 million people are food insecure even with humanitarian food aid and more than 20 million are food insecure without it. Of those, there are 1.7 million people in the Taiz region that are at crisis, emergency, or catastrophe levels of food insecurity, and that’s with humanitarian food aid. Approximately the same number of people in the Hodeidah governorate are enduring the same deprivation. More than two-thirds of the population of Hajjah governorate in the northwest are suffering the same hardship. More than half of the country’s entire population is in the same position, and conditions are going to keep deteriorating unless the war is brought to a halt and the economy is stabilized.

The experience of the relentless bombing campaign has put people into a state of near-constant anxiety. Ali Al-Makhaathi is 27 and a food security assistant in Amran:

Later that night we heard the jets, a sound that has become strangely routine. Adults barely react to their haunting humming sound now, but it terrifies our children, who run from their beds, petrified.

When they were smaller, we could tell our children that every explosion was the last; comfort them in the short term and hope they would forget by the time of the next bombardment. But they are older now – the bombs have been falling for three and a half years and our children can’t remember a life without fear.

Hadil Al-Senwi, 27, is an education officer in Sanaa. Here she describes how the stress and hardship created by the war have affected an entire generation of Yemeni children:

The idea of childhood that I knew has disappeared and children now carry the burden of stress and labour like adults. An Italian friend said to me that Yemeni children have facial features of people far older.

I feel desperately sorry that our children have tasted nothing but the bitterness of war.

Yemenis will be living with the costs and burdens of conflict for years and decades after the war that has been waged on them finally ends. It is an enduring mark of shame that our government has helped the Saudi coalition do this to them. It is imperative that our participation in perpetuating this disaster be brought to an end.

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The Story of a Saudi Coalition Massacre in Yemen

The New York Times Magazine has published an important report on a series of Saudi coalition airstrikes on a poor rural village in Yemen that took place in September 2016. The first strike hit a group of men involved in the discovery of a new well, and then more attacks followed as villagers gathered to help and to look for friends and relatives:

That morning, villagers all around Arhab were making their way to the bomb site. Some came to try to help; some came searching for missing loved ones. Many of them, especially the children, came out of curiosity, running out of the house before parents could grab them, trying to find out what that rumble was that woke them in the middle of the night. A little after daybreak, more than a hundred people had gathered.

There is some disagreement about what happened next. Some say they heard multiple planes. Some heard others scream. Some swear that there was no warning, that they didn’t hear or see anything beforehand. What’s not in dispute is that the second wave of bombing began about six hours after the first explosion, once a sizable crowd had formed.

There was a sudden, massive upwelling of air and debris, and everybody started to run. People went in all different directions as the planes roared overhead and things started to explode. Cars and motorcycles went hurtling through the air. Boys were cut down as they tried to escape; grown men dove into nearby cornfields. The attack lasted for hours. It felt as if another bomb fell every few minutes — each of them seeming to strike people trying to escape, as if following them. The people said it did not feel like an attack. The word they used translates to “extermination.”

Human Rights Watch reported that at least 31 civilians were killed, three of them children, and that 42 more were injured. It’s hard to know the numbers for sure, because all that was left of many victims were very small parts, very far from one another. People dragged sheets around the bomb site, trying to collect parts they thought might belong to loved ones.

The Arhab attack was part of a pattern of unlawful coalition attacks on civilian targets that has continued until now. These strikes were some of the coalition’s approximately 18,000 airstrikes, a third of which have hit civilian sites. It happened over two years ago, but the Saudi coalition still shows the same blatant disregard for civilian life now as it did then. It was just one of the many massacres that the coalition has perpetrated against innocent Yemenis who were doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Like many other attacks on civilian targets, this was not a case of hitting the wrong target by mistake. These were deliberate, repeated attacks on a crowd of civilians in a remote village that had nothing to do with the war. Like thousands of other war crimes carried out by coalition forces, this was done with U.S.-made weapons and enabled by U.S. support for the bombing campaign.

Human Rights Watch sent someone to investigate the attack two months later. That investigation produced this report. The article tells us that the researcher for that investigation noted the large number of bombs used in the attack:

Motaparthy was immediately struck by just how many weapons had been used. There were craters everywhere; she counted at least 12, though villagers believe that as many as 20 bombs fell that day [bold mine-DL]. Motaparthy found an extraordinary number of bomb remnants.

The people murdered there by the Saudi coalition more than two years ago received very little attention at the time, and there was almost no media coverage of the attack. The coalition’s use of the despicable “double-tap” tactic to target people responding to the initial attack was not new, but news reports from that time show that there was no understanding outside Yemen that there had been at least a dozen and possibly as many as twenty bombs dropped on a crowd of civilians.

The effect of attacking well sites like the one at Arhab was to make Yemenis stop digging the wells they needed for clean drinking water:

It’s hard to say what the aggregate effect of living in constant terror of airstrikes has been. A local human rights worker pointed out one thing, though: She noticed that Yemenis had stopped digging wells. And maybe this is part of the reason the number of people in critical need of clean water rose. With sanitation facilities and wells like the one in Arhab coming under attack, cholera was, perhaps, inevitable. The first cases were reported three weeks after the strike in Arhab (and a few dozen miles away). Seven months later, the country had more than 100,000 suspected cases. Arhab had one of the highest attack rates in the country, and after a year, there were nearly one million suspected cases of cholera in the country, making it not only the worst outbreak in the world but also one of the worst in recorded history.

The attack on this well site is just one example of how the coalition has used airstrikes to put more people at risk of contracting cholera. The coalition has repeatedly targeting water and sewage treatment systems, and it has blown up a cholera treatment center in Abs and then lied about it. Attacks on sources of clean drinking water have continued up through this year. UNICEF warned about this in August. The coalition’s bombing campaign and the country’s terrible cholera epidemic are linked together, and the coalition has used the former to create conditions for the latter. When politicians and analysts defend U.S. support for the war, this is what they are defending.

The sham “investigation” into the Arhab attack by the coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) produced an absurd justification for the attack:

About a year after the strike, the Joint Incident Assessment Team, a body composed of coalition members that analyzes the legality of its own airstrikes, released a statement saying that the pilots had bombed the well site in Arhab because they thought it was a ballistic-missile launcher. It’s an excuse that strains credulity; ballistic-missile launchers do not look very much like drilling rigs.

The preposterous excuse for massacring almost three dozen unarmed people is entirely typical of the “investigations” that the coalition has conducted into its own war crimes. The purpose of JIAT has been from the start to create the impression that the Saudis and their allies take civilian casualties seriously while doing absolutely nothing to prevent them and making sure that the perpetrators of war crimes face no accountability.

Jeffrey Stern, the author of the article, describes meeting the survivors of the attack:

Fahd moved his head closer, and then my hand was against his face, and I could feel hard bits of metal rolling around beneath the cartilage of his jaw. He guided my hand up to his temple, where some misshapen thing slid around beneath the skin, as if trying to escape my fingers. He pulled his eyelid down to show where the steel still was. And it struck me that this was a surreal way to encounter American ordnance, at the end of journey that began in the American Southwest and brought it all the way here, in this remote part of a desperately poor country, to the face of a man who, for just a moment two years and one month ago, thought he had something to celebrate.

The Arhab massacre described in this article is the U.S.-backed war on Yemen in miniature: repeated bombings of civilians in brazen violation of international law that went almost completely unnoticed in the rest of the world, the use of U.S.-made weapons to kill the civilians, a pathetic attempt by the Saudi coalition to excuse their crimes, an attack on vital civilian infrastructure that contributed to the country’s cholera epidemic, and survivors traumatized and scarred for life.

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Trump Throws More Money at the Pentagon

President Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

In a decision that should surprise absolutely no one, the president agreed to an increase to the already exorbitant military budget:

President Donald Trump has told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to submit a $750 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2020, in a reversal from his pledge to trim defense spending, two people familiar with the budget negotiations have told POLITICO.

Trump’s “pledge to trim defense spending” was nothing of the sort, and anyone that thought that he would actually cut back on military spending has not been paying attention for the past several years. Even before he was elected, Trump has been fixated on the idea that the military was supposedly “depleted” under Obama, and he has been determined to undo the non-existent harm that he thinks his predecessor did. Of course, the military was not really depleted, but hawks always like to claim that they need to spend vast sums to “rebuild” what their predecessors allowed to fall into desuetude.

Persuading Trump to throw more money at the Pentagon must have been the easiest assignment in Mattis’ life, because the president has been inclined to give the military as much money as he can whether it is necessary or not. The military budget is already far too large by at least several hundreds of billions of dollars, and a further increase is an absurd waste of money. Since Trump knows nothing, and his instinct is to favor a larger military over a smaller one, it could not have been difficult to convince him that more money was the answer. Now that there will be a Democratic majority in the House, it is possible that Congress won’t simply act as a rubber stamp for unnecessary increases in military spending, but they will need help from those Republican members that understand that the U.S. doesn’t need to be spending three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year in order to be secure.

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Save the INF Treaty

Jon Wolfsthal calls on the Trump administration not to kill the INF Treaty:

Losing patience with Russia’s refusal to address legitimate concerns over its violation of the treaty is understandable, but the way Pompeo framed the problem says a great deal about how poorly the Trump administration is managing this sensitive issue. Pompeo told NATO, “the burden falls on Russia to make the necessary changes. Only they can save this treaty.” Having built a rare instance of NATO unity, which for the first time has unanimously stated that it believes Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty, U.S. President Donald Trump’s team seems more intent on using it as an opportunity to berate Russia than to save a valuable treaty that benefits European and global security. While Russia is to blame for its own violations, the United States will suffer just as much as Russia does if the treaty fails, and even more so if the collapse produces more discord than unity within the NATO alliance. By going the extra mile to save the treaty, instead of issuing ultimatums, the Trump administration might even pull out a win for once. Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.

The INF Treaty is very much worth saving, and quitting it over a Russian violation is as short-sighted and self-defeating as can be. If the U.S. withdraws, there will be no chance of negotiating a replacement. Not only will the U.S. be held as the one most responsible for killing the treaty, but by ending it the Trump administration will be opening the door to an arms race that no one should want. The treaty is one of the most advantageous agreements to the U.S. that our government has ever negotiated, so it is extremely difficult to see how leaving the treaty benefits the U.S. Quitting the INF Treaty unfortunately fits the administration’s pattern of reneging on and abandoning agreements without giving any thought to the consequences of withdrawal. It makes no sense to give up on a treaty that has proven its worth to the U.S. and our European allies for more than thirty years.

The Trump administration has made the absolute minimum effort to resolve the dispute with Russia before quitting the treaty, and that makes it clear that they are just looking for an excuse to abandon it. If the U.S. gave up so easily on every agreement whenever there was a violation, it would not keep any of its agreements for very long. The bigger problem is that the administration’s determination to leave the treaty is driven more by Bolton’s ideological hostility to all arms control agreements than it is by any concern about any violations. The administration is seizing on Russian violations to withdraw from this treaty, but it also has no desire to keep New START alive, either. Letting New START die would be even more dangerous, but the administration isn’t interested in extending a treaty that Russia has complied with for almost eight years.

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Pompeo’s Terrible Diplomacy

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

Jackson Diehl assesses Mike Pompeo’s tenure at State after seven months, and he delivers a damning verdict:

Now, after a month that has seen the secretary offer smiles and excuses to Saudi Arabia’s murderous Mohammed bin Salman, trash Congress for “caterwauling” and inspire a rare revolt by Senate Republicans, it’s time to offer a verdict: Pompeo has managed to worsen the State Department’s already abysmal standing with every significant constituency. Legislators, major allies, the media, career staff, even North Korea are alienated. The only satisfied customer may be President Trump — and even he has grounds for grievance.

When Tillerson was unceremoniously fired by tweet, some of the former Secretary of State’s detractors might have thought that there was no way that his successor could be worse. As it turns out, they were wrong. Pompeo is a more active and publicly visible Secretary of State than his predecessor, but this has not really been an improvement over Tillerson’s curious taciturnity. Pompeo talks to the press a lot more than Tillerson, but when he does so it is often to mislead them or berate them for asking questions he doesn’t want to answer. Where Tillerson was obsessed with a destructive and pointless “redesign” of the department, Pompeo has embraced the Trump administration’s Iran obsession as his own, and the latter has been far worse for the U.S. and the Middle East than Tillerson’s ineptitude. He is not noticeably more successful than Tillerson in his efforts, but he can’t blame his failures on having a poor relationship with the president. Indeed, Pompeo’s primary concern seems to be keeping the president happy with him no matter how many enormous whoppers he has to tell to the public and Congress.

Pompeo has done a particularly poor job of managing his relationship with members of Congress, especially the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is one of the more overtly partisan and ideological Secretaries of State in recent memory, and in addition to that he misleads and lies to the Senate quite often. When he issued his bogus Yemen certification on behalf of the Saudi coalition, he was lying to cover for the coalition’s obvious indifference to causing large numbers of civilian casualties. His mendacious op-ed in defense of the Saudi relationship was outdone only by the “briefing” last month ahead of the first vote on S.J.Res. 54 as an exercise in spouting propaganda for the benefit of a foreign government. Pompeo has torched whatever credibility he had, and these aren’t the only issues where he has made obviously false claims. The Secretary of State has taken the old adage about an ambassador being an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country and turned it on its head: he is a dishonest man who has returned from abroad to lie to his country in defense of foreign despots.

On top of all that, there are still many vacancies in the top posts at the State Department. Diehl continues:

Seven months after Pompeo’s arrival, nearly half of key posts at State remain empty, according to the Partnership for Public Service. Pompeo has yet to fill the jobs of a chief financial officer and four of six undersecretaries, as well as ambassadors to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey, among others.

It turns out that replacing Tillerson doesn’t fix anything, and Pompeo has proven to be every bit as bad a Secretary of State as I and other critics feared he would be. Back in October, I described Pompeo’s record as one of bad diplomacy. After seeing his performance over the last two months, I have to revise that from bad to terrible. That is an entirely predictable outcome, and it is what happens when someone with nothing but disdain for diplomacy is appointed to be our government’s chief diplomat.

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Send Trump and the Saudis a Message: End Support for the War on Yemen

A State Department official restated that the administration very much wants to continue backing the Saudi coalition war on Yemen:

“There are pressures in our system … to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” said Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support,” he told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates.

While Pentagon officials tell members of the Senate one thing, other administration officials tell members of the Saudi coalition something else. According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ testimony last week, the U.S. isn’t a participant in the war and doesn’t support any side, but the administration is quick to reassure an audience in the UAE that the U.S. won’t “withdraw from the conflict” (acknowledging that we are a party to the conflict) and won’t “discontinue our support” (admitting that we are very much on one side). Administration officials tell a dishonest story to Congress to discourage opposition to the war, but when they need to reassure regional clients that U.S. support isn’t going anywhere they drop the pretense of being uninvolved. It is no wonder that members of Congress have grown tired of the administration’s two-faced Yemen policy.

Mr. Lenderking calls support for the Saudi coalition “necessary.” That raises some obvious questions: necessary for whom and for what purpose? It isn’t necessary for U.S. security. Supporting the war on Yemen has strengthened jihadists and destabilized the region to our detriment. There is no obligation to support the Saudis and Emiratis in a foreign war of choice. The U.S. has no defense treaties with them, and they are the aggressors in any case. Support for the war on Yemen is the definition of a policy that the U.S. doesn’t need to have, and the war itself is a perfect example of an absolutely unnecessary war.

What message would be sent if the U.S. stopped supporting the indefensible war on Yemen? The message would be that the U.S. doesn’t provide mindless, unconditional support to its clients regardless of what they do. It would tell the world that most Americans want no part of this despicable policy that was made without our consent. It would at the very least convey a message that the U.S. is still capable of correcting horrible foreign policy errors. More than that, it would show that Congress and the American people won’t stand for enabling famine and crimes against humanity. The Trump administration strongly opposes sending all these messages, and so it is against every effort to cut off support for the Saudi coalition. Congress must ignore what the administration wants and end U.S. involvement, and if they do that they will also be sending the message that they won’t simply roll over for illegal and unauthorized wars as they have been doing for the last fifteen years.

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Mohammed bin Salman, Regional Menace

Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, and his wife, Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump,at the Murabba Palace with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Hisham Melhem has written a searing denunciation of Mohammed bin Salman’s disastrous foreign policy record and his destabilizing domestic power grabs. Here he calls out the crown prince’s responsibility for the destruction and starvation of Yemen:

But the culprit responsible in the main for condemning the country once known as Arabia Felix for an agonizing slow death is Saudi Arabia. For this reason alone, Mohammed Bin Salman should be boycotted by the democracies of the world.

The war on Yemen has been the crown prince’s signature policy, and it was the very first thing that he did after he was made defense minister by his father. The reckless decision to intervene and the stupid determination to persist in an unwinnable war told us everything we needed to know about Mohammed bin Salman’s judgment and competence a long time ago, but unfortunately it took several more years and many more outrages and crimes for a lot of people to catch on that he was a menace and a war criminal rather than a reform-minded visionary. It isn’t surprising that someone as ignorant and hapless as Jared Kushner has been taken in by Mohammed bin Salman, but what is everyone else’s excuse?

Many American policymakers and politicians have downplayed and whitewashed Saudi coalition crimes in Yemen because of our government’s involvement in the disaster, and some of them are so obsessed with Iran that they have been prepared to ignore or explain away any number of atrocities as long as they can claim that opposing Iran is the goal. Mohammed bin Salman hasn’t had many successes in the last few years, but he did know which buttons to push to get credulous Western pundits, businessmen, and politicians to fawn over him as if he were Ataturk reborn. To their lasting discredit, the crown prince’s fan club were more concerned with “rooting” for his success than they were about the lives of Yemeni civilians and the rights of his many jailed, tortured, and murdered critics. Every puff piece profile of Mohammed bin Salman has been sure to mention that he permitted women to drive, but there have not been nearly as many articles talking about the torture of women’s rights activists detained by the Saudi government:

The sources say that masked Saudi interrogators tortured the women during the initial stages of interrogation, but it was unclear whether they were seeking to force the women to sign confessions or merely to punish them for their peaceful advocacy. Following the interrogations, sources said, the women showed physical signs of torture, including difficulty walking, uncontrolled shaking of the hands, and red marks and scratches on their faces and necks. At least one of the women attempted to commit suicide multiple times, the sources said.

There was never any reason to assume that Mohammed bin Salman would be an improvement over his predecessors, but there was every sign from the very beginning that he might prove to be much worse. He has turned out to be exceptionally repressive and cruel even by Saudi standards, and in just a few years he has become one of the world’s great war criminals. The U.S.-Saudi relationship was already a bad one before he came to power, and with him in power it has become truly toxic. There is no good reason for the U.S. to have close ties with a government that is both a liability and a regional menace, and the crown prince ensures that it will be both for the foreseeable future.

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The Great Saudi Rip-Off

President Trump and his good friends the Saudis (White House photo)

Samuel Oakford and Ryan Goodman discovered that the U.S. failed to charge the Saudis and Emiratis properly for refueling their planes, so in addition to aiding in their war crimes the U.S. has been subsidizing them as well:

President Donald Trump, who repeatedly complains that the United States is paying too much for the defense of its allies, has praised Saudi Arabia for ostensibly taking on Iran in the Yemen war. It turns out, however, that U.S. taxpayers have been footing the bill for a major part of the Saudi-led campaign, possibly to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Given the president’s endless complaints about being ripped off by other countries, it is fitting that he presided over almost two years of letting the U.S. get ripped off by the Saudis and Emiratis at the same time that he has kept the U.S. involved in a disgraceful war. U.S. refueling coalition planes stopped as of last month thanks to mounting public and Congressional pressure. Increased Congressional scrutiny of U.S. support for the war is the only reason that we now know these new details. The full costs of U.S. support for the war on Yemen still aren’t known, but this brings us a little closer to a proper reckoning.

Before they ended, the refueling operations were opaque. It was difficult to determine how much fuel the military was providing to coalition planes for its bombing campaign in Yemen. Oakford reported on this in 2017:

But U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, now admits that it doesn’t even know how much fuel it offloads for Saudi Arabia and its partners — directly contradicting information about refueling operations that it previously released. Responding to questions from The Intercept, CENTCOM now says that it lumps together refueling data for the coalition with data for U.S. planes in the area, joint U.S.-Emirati missions, and possibly other operations. Even this pooled data has unexplained discrepancies.

In other words: The U.S. military says it doesn’t know how much of its own fuel goes to an indefinite number of operations.

The military then claimed that they weren’t tracking what the refueled planes went on to do. Secretary Mattis also insisted that ending refueling operations would lead to higher civilian casualties, which never made any sense in light of the coalition’s repeated and increasing attacks on civilian targets. Despite Mattis’ assertions, the military didn’t know how their refueling support was being used, and they weren’t inclined to find out. Now it turns out that there has effectively been no formal agreement with the Saudis the entire time that the refueling was going on:

After the first year of the Yemen war, the U.S. drafted a provisional ACSA with the Saudis, but the Pentagon says that Congress was never notified because the Kingdom, even today, hasn’t “fulfilled all of its internal procedures necessary for an Agreement to enter into force.” In short, throughout the entire duration of U.S. refueling, the Pentagon admits there was never an official servicing agreement in force with Saudi Arabia.

The military failed to meets its obligations under two different administrations, and Congress failed until very recently to do the necessary oversight that they should have been doing all along. The U.S. has not only been enabling Saudi coalition war crimes in an unauthorized war for more than three and a half years, but American taxpayers have also been paying far more for the war than we knew.

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The Week’s Most Interesting Reads

Meet the senators who took Saudi money. Ben Freeman reports on the Saudi lobbyist money donated to 30 of the 37 Republican senators that voted against S.J.Res. 54.

New nutrition analysis confirms children are being starved in Yemen. The International Rescue Committee released a statement on the findings of a new IPC report that finds that 240,000 Yemenis are already living in famine conditions.

It’s not too late to save Yemen from apocalypse. The U.N.’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, describes the actions needed to prevent Yemen from suffering from one of the worst modern famines.

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Our Complicity in the Crime of Mass Starvation in Yemen

Nick Kristof has written an extensive report on his recent visit to Yemen. I recommend reading it in full, but there were a few points that deserved emphasis:

After witnessing the human toll and interviewing officials on both sides, including the president of the Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen, I find the American and Saudi role in this conflict to be unconscionable. The Houthis are repressive and untrustworthy, but this is not a reason to bomb and starve Yemeni children.

What is most infuriating is that the hunger is caused not by drought or extreme weather, but by cynical and failed policies in Riyadh and Washington. The starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it [bold mine-DL]. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, backed by the United States, are trying to inflict pain to gain leverage over and destabilize the Houthi rebels. The reason: The Houthis are allied with Iran.

There is no question that the Saudi coalition has been using starvation as a weapon in its war on Yemen, and that by itself should give us a good enough reason to cut off all support to their war effort. It shouldn’t matter whether we consider the Saudis and Emiratis to be our “allies” (they’re not) or whether Iran is significantly involved in the conflict (it isn’t). It should be taken as a given that our government shouldn’t be party to or complicit in crimes against humanity, but each day that the U.S. continues support for this war that is exactly what is happening. When the Senate debates whether U.S. participation in the war should continue, it is also debating whether the U.S. should continue to participate in these crimes against the people of Yemen. The answer is an obvious no, and it is a national disgrace that the debate wasn’t settled long ago.

The report is very well done. Kristof acknowledges the abuses and war crimes of all parties, including the Houthi recruitment of child soldiers and arbitrary detention and torture of critics. His reporting confirms what I have read in the accounts of Yemeni activists, aid workers, and U.N. officials, and it backs up what I have been saying about the war and the humanitarian crisis for a long time. All of this makes clear that our government’s support for and involvement in this war is indefensible, and it ought to end at once. More important, the report talks about the victims of the Saudi coalition’s crime of mass starvation and tells some of their stories that are almost never heard outside the country. This is one of those victims:

He is an eight-year-old boy who is starving and has limbs like sticks, but Yaqoob Walid doesn’t cry or complain. He gazes stolidly ahead, tuning out everything, for in late stages of starvation the human body focuses every calorie simply on keeping the organs functioning.

Yaqoob arrived unconscious at Al Sadaqa Hospital here, weighing just over 30 pounds. He has suffered complications, and doctors say that it is unclear he will survive and that if he does he may suffer permanent brain damage.

The war has already done long-term damage to the health and development of an entire generation of Yemeni children. Beyond the danger of massive loss of life from famine, Yemen will be living with the wounds of this war for years and decades to come. Kristof makes clear that most of the civilian deaths come from Saudi coalition bombings and the effects of their blockade and economic war:

Still, the civilian loss of life has overwhelmingly been caused not by the Houthis but by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and America, through both bombings and starvation.

The Saudi coalition backed by our government has done the most damage to the country and it bears the greatest responsibility for the humanitarian crisis. The U.S. shares in that responsibility because our government has aided the coalition in its war and covers for their crimes. That was the message that the heads of five major humanitarian organizations delivered last week, and it is a message that every member of Congress and every American needs to hear as often as possible until it finally sinks in.

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