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Stop the Destruction of Yemen

Radhya Almutawakel and Abdulrasheed Alfaqih, the co-founders of the Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana, detail the crimes that the Saudi coalition has committed against the civilian population there:

Saudi crimes in Yemen are not limited to regular and intentional bombing of civilians in violation of international humanitarian law [bold mine-DL]. By escalating the war and destroying essential civilian infrastructure, Saudi Arabia is also responsible for the tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians who have died from preventable disease and starvation brought on by the war. The United Nations concluded that blockades have had “devastating effects on the civilian population” in Yemen, as Saudi and Emirati airstrikes have targeted Yemen’s food production and distribution, including the agricultural sector and the fishing industry.

Meanwhile, the collapse of Yemen’s currency due to the war has prevented millions of civilians from purchasing the food that exists in markets. Food prices have skyrocketed, but civil servants haven’t received regular salaries in two years. Yemenis are being starved to death on purpose, with starvation of civilians used by Saudi Arabia as a weapon of war [bold mine-DL].

Mwatana is a credible, respected, and independent human rights organization, and they have documented and criticized war crimes committed by all parties, including the Houthis, throughout the conflict. It is organizations like theirs that speak for Yemen’s civilians, whose interests and rights have been ignored and violated by all of the warring parties and their patrons. When they say that the Saudi coalition is intentionally bombing civilian targets and deliberately starving the civilian population, they are telling us the truth and giving us a much-neglected Yemeni perspective on the war that is destroying their country and pushing their people to the brink of famine. Our government is participating in a massive crime against an entire people, and up to 14 million innocent people are close to being starved to death by our clients. Yemenis have been shouting these truths at anyone who will listen for more than three years, but for the most part we have ignored or dismissed them. The war has to stop, and Congress has an opportunity to stop it by voting to end U.S. involvement in the war.

One of the serious failings in our foreign policy debates, including and especially the debate over the war on Yemen, is our obliviousness to the views of the people harmed by our policies. Yemenis have been rightly saying for years that the U.S. is helping the Saudi coalition to kill them and wreck their country, and they have been witnesses to the thousands of war crimes committed against them with U.S. weapons and support. Mwatana recently verified the use of U.S.-made weapons in a number of attacks on civilians, and of course those were just a fraction of the total in which U.S.-made weapons have been used. Yemenis have known all along that the U.S. was involved in the war against them and they have told us this again and again, but very few in the U.S. were listening to what they were saying.

Almutawakel and Alfaqih continue:

Reversing course—ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen and supporting U.N.-led peace efforts and the reopening of Yemen’s air and sea ports—can still save millions of lives.

Ending U.S. involvement in the war is only the first step, but without doing that it is unlikely that any of the rest will happen. The U.S. has considerable leverage with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and unless our government wants to be known as an accomplice in the mass murder of millions of Yemenis it must use that leverage to end the war, lift the blockade, and prevent the world’s worst humanitarian crisis from turning into the world’s worst famine in decades.

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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