Ole Solvang of Human Rights Watch reviews the harm done to civilians in Yemen over the last seven months. Here he discusses casualties caused by the bombing campaign:
The war, and particularly the numerous coalition airstrikes, has taken a terrible toll on civilians. As of late September, the U.N. had documented that the war had killed 2,355 civilians and wounded 4,862, the majority in coalition airstrikes. In the nearly two dozen strikes that we have investigated on the ground, we collected the names of more than 300 civilians who died, many of them children.
Solvang concludes his article with a plea to the governments supporting the bombing campaign to “join in this public criticism and use their leverage to change the way the Saudi-led coalition conducts the war.” I agree that this is what these governments, including ours, ought to be doing, and they should go even further. Instead of simply pressuring the Saudis and their allies to change the way they’re fighting this way, the U.S. ought to be using whatever influence it has to halt the campaign and the blockade all together. Ideally, the administration should stop providing any assistance to the coalition, but at the very least it should condition any support it still provides on the lifting of the blockade and a sharply reduced air campaign.
Unfortunately, it has become only too obvious over these past seven months that not much criticism or pressure will be forthcoming from this administration. The administration has been able to back this war with virtually no criticism at home because so few people are even aware of what the U.S. role in the conflict has been. Despite the important work done by HRW and other human rights, aid groups, and journalists, the war on Yemen remains one of the most ignored conflicts in the world, and this seems especially true here in the U.S. While there has been a bit more scrutiny of Saudi tactics and U.S. support for the war in Congress in recent weeks, there are very few members of Congress that are paying attention to any of this, much less doing anything to change it.
Our presidential candidates likewise usually have nothing to say about this conflict or the U.S. role in it. The only candidates that have said anything about it have been Rubio and Christie, and both of them have made predictably awful arguments in favor of the Saudi-led campaign. None of the Democratic candidates has mentioned it, though I shudder to think what Clinton would say if she did bother to comment on what is happening there. The U.S. role in Yemen’s ruin has been made possible in part by a comprehensive failure of our elected representatives and presidential aspirants to do the bare minimum in holding the administration to account for one of its most horrific mistakes. Until that starts to change, it is unlikely that the U.S. will bring sufficient pressure to bear on Riyadh.