Home/Daniel Larison/The War on Yemen and the Failure of Western Media

The War on Yemen and the Failure of Western Media

Nawal al-Maghafi aptly describes the war on Yemen and why it is mostly ignored:

Unlike in Syria, the UK and US are two of the primary causes of the problem in Yemen. Put simply, a coalition of the wealthiest Arab states have joined forces to bomb and starve one of the poorest, with the assistance of two of the world’s richest and most powerful powers.

The striking thing about the war on Yemen is how utterly unnecessary it is. The U.S./U.K.-backed coalition is not fighting to defend itself or for the sake of regional security. They are battering their neighbor to reinstall a deposed leader, and that leader is now widely hated across most of the country for his role in inviting the attack on Yemen. The U.S. and Britain were likewise not threatened by Hadi’s overthrow, and the war hasn’t made either one of them the least bit more secure, but they have backed it mainly to keep the Saudis and the other GCC clients satisfied. Insofar as the war has strengthened AQAP (and the coalition has sometimes even made common cause with them on the ground), the U.S. and our allies are less secure now than we were before the war began. The war has also exposed Saudi Arabia to attacks that it had not faced before the intervention, and in the wake of the funeral hall massacre this weekend many in Yemen want to escalate their fight and go deeper into Saudi territory. Both Saudis and Yemenis would have been much better off if the coalition had never intervened.

The U.S. and British publics ought to be hearing about Yemen all the time, because this is a disaster that their governments have helped to create and it is one that their governments could still ameliorate if they wanted to. Unlike in the Syria, the U.S. and Britain have influence with most of the coalition governments that are attacking Yemen and could put a stop to their campaign quickly if they so chose. Our governments could significantly improve the situation simply by withholding the support they have provided to the coalition and by providing more humanitarian assistance to the people that the coalition has been starving to death, but they aren’t doing it because almost no one at home is pressuring them to do so. The near-total neglect of the war in Western media coverage helps the U.S. and British governments avoid the scrutiny that they should be facing, and it allows them to continue to support an unjust and outrageous war.

Al-Maghafi makes the same point:

Of course, this is not about denigrating the suffering of Syrians, which has been immense, but to highlight the forgotten, ongoing tragedy in Yemen and how the failure of the media to inform the public of the nature and extent of their government’s role in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophes today has made it much easier for the US and Britain to pursue their disgraceful support for an indefensible war.

That may be slowly starting to change each time the coalition blows up hospitals, schools, and funerals, but it isn’t changing quickly enough. The war continues to be neglected after a year and a half, and the lack of attention makes it easier for the coalition and their patrons to keep doing what they have been doing.

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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