Sloppy Western Reporting and the War on Yemen
Western media coverage of the war on Yemen and U.S. support for it is very rare to begin with, so it is most unfortunate that some major outlets do such a horrible job when they do choose to cover it. Consider this garbage story from FoxNews:
The Iranian-backed suicide attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials told Fox News.
There is absolutely no evidence to support this assertion about an intention to target U.S. ships, and the “analysis” behind the story depends entirely on the Houthi use of their standard slogan in a video. It is slipshod analysis presented in poor, largely context-free reporting, and it does a huge disservice to the audience by misleading them about a conflict that most Americans know little about. The reaction from experts and journalists was deservedly harsh:
This is quite stupid and also dangerous in the current climate. Very irresponsible. https://t.co/7oOw9oGhTS
— Michael Hanna (@mwhanna1) January 31, 2017
— Laura Kasinof (@kasinof) January 31, 2017
As stupid as it is dangerous. Scary that there are officials w such minimal understanding of Yemen in key positions.https://t.co/DWqmiMLjxh
— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) January 31, 2017
— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) January 31, 2017
As ever, the extent of Iranian involvement in the war has been grossly exaggerated. Describing the attack on a Saudi ship as “Iranian-backed” is both inaccurate and inflammatory, and it ignores that the Houthis and their allies have their own reasons to target Saudi vessels engaged in attacking and starving their country. The danger in promoting such falsehoods is that it aids Saudi propaganda, encourages the administration to continue our shameful support for the war, and distorts the public’s already limited understanding of a conflict that the U.S. has been involved in for almost two years.
The problem here isn’t just that the claims made in the story are nonsense, but that they obscure the extensive enabling role that the U.S. had in wrecking Yemen while stoking fear about threats to U.S. ships for which there is no evidence. Further, the fact that the officials quoted in the story seem to have such a poor understanding of Yemen and the war there is especially alarming in light of our government’s ongoing involvement in supporting the Saudi-led campaign. If one wanted to stoke tensions between the U.S. and Iran on purpose on the flimsiest of pretexts, this is the sort of poor reporting of bad analysis one would publish.