Saving Yemen from the Worst Famine in Decades
The heads of five major humanitarian organizations have written an appeal urging the U.S. to apply all possible pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bring the war to an end and stave off famine:
The United States is one of the most generous donors of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, but these contributions pale in comparison to the harm caused by U.S. military support and diplomatic cover to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While the Administration has said that reaching a political settlement and relieving the humanitarian crisis in Yemen are top national security objectives, U.S. policies tell a different story [bold mine-DL]. By providing such extensive military and diplomatic support for one side of the conflict, the United States is deepening and prolonging a crisis that has immediate and severe consequences for Yemen, and civilians are paying the price.
The statement makes clear that the Saudi coalition, the Houthis, and the U.S. have it within their power to avert the man-made disaster that has been devouring innocent Yemeni lives, it reminds us that at least 14 million lives are at risk from starvation, and it emphasizes that the U.S. shares responsibility with the other parties to the war for the horrific conditions that now prevail across much of the country. It is an important statement informed by the work that these aid organizations have been doing in Yemen throughout the conflict, and it is unflinching in holding all parties to the war, including the U.S., responsible for the suffering of the population. Members of the Senate should respond to this appeal by doing what they should have done eight months ago and vote for S.J.Res. 54 to end U.S. involvement in the war.
Kate Kizer has been one of the leading activists organizing opposition to the war on Yemen and highlighting war crimes and abuses committed by all parties. Today she writes about S.J.Res. 54 and what it means for Yemen and for U.S. policies in the region:
That’s why the vote this week on the bipartisan war powers resolution on Yemen (S.J.Res. 54), led by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), is critical on so many levels. It’s important to codify the Defense Department’s decision to end U.S. refueling support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and cut off all remaining U.S. military support for the coalition, which includes U.S. targeting assistance and intelligence sharing. Voting to pass S.J.Res. 54 will also bind the administration to its stated position of seeking a negotiated solution to the conflict and its call for a ceasefire within 30 days, and prevent the resumption of U.S. support should talks or a ceasefire falter. Moving to permanently end the U.S. military role in the conflict would not only be a much-needed signal to the coalition that U.S. support is not unconditional and the war must end now, but also an important step toward reasserting the constitutional authority of Congress over war-making.
But this vote could signal something even more important. If the bill passes, the Senate could stop the president’s plan for more war in the region in its tracks. It could show that there are limits to the tired Washington consensus that military confrontation is worth throwing American values and international norms out the window to maintain a hand-in-glove relationship with brutal dictators. It may also finally signal that, at the very least, Congress finally recognizes that backing despots who kill dissidents at home and abroad, starve millions of civilians for questionable military advantages, and use threats to keep Washington silent is a tried-and-failed strategy that serves no one but the despots themselves.
As many as 14 million people are at risk of dying from a famine that can still be averted, but that can only happen if the U.S. and the other parties to the conflict act swiftly to prevent it. Halting U.S. support for the Saudi coalition is the first step in doing that, but that needs to be followed up by the other measures recommended in the humanitarian organizations’ statement:
After years of conflict, people have exhausted their coping strategies and countless Yemenis are unlikely to live through the winter unless the parties to the conflict immediately cease hostilities, reopen all of Yemen’s ports and allow commercial shipments to enter the country without delay, facilitate access to people in need for humanitarian staff and supplies, and take basic measures to stabilize the Yemeni economy, including payment of civil servant salaries.
Assuming S.J.Res. 54 passes, there will have to be continued pressure on the Trump administration and the Saudi coalition to carry out these other measures. There is still time to prevent the worst-case scenario in Yemen, but that time is almost up. Yemen can’t wait.