Home/Daniel Larison/Yemen Is Being Starved to Death

Yemen Is Being Starved to Death

Ibrahem Qasim/Flickr: air strike in Sana'a, May 2015

A CNN report on Yemen included this incisive quote from Peter Salisbury:

“Basically, policymakers in the West see the world as a giant game of Risk, and they see more value to maintaining their relationship with Saudi Arabia than getting rid of bad PR over Yemen.”

Since the war on Yemen is mostly ignored, the U.S. and Britain don’t have to worry about getting too much “bad PR.” They can enable an atrocious war and support the Saudi-led coalition as it creates famine conditions in Yemen without facing much scrutiny at all. By helping to thwart independent inquiries into war crimes committed by all sides, the U.S. and U.K. governments work to whitewash the coalition’s record and thus shield themselves from criticism for making the coalition’s crimes possible. Even so, the quote gets at something important about the cynical and disgraceful policy of backing the Saudis and their allies: the effect of the war on the people of Yemen is irrelevant to the coalition’s patrons so long as their despotic clients are satisfied.

The CNN article refers to Yemen as the “forgotten war” as many other reports have done in the past, but that’s not quite right. The war hasn’t been forgotten, since that suggests there was some point when the world was paying close attention to it. Rather, the war has been ignored as much as possible, and it is ignored as much it is now because it embarrasses the U.S. and its clients. As soon as it is brought to the attention of the governments in the West that are fueling it, the war is then either dismissed as unimportant or distorted beyond recognition as a mission of Saudi “self-defense.” When it comes to the Obama administration and the British government, the war on Yemen is the one they’d rather not talk about and would like us to forget, but the longer it goes on the more likely it is that others take notice of it.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe is about to get even worse:

With food ships finding it hard to get into Yemen’s ports due to a virtual blockade by the Saudi-led coalition that has backed the government during an 18-month civil war, over half the country’s 28 million people already do not have enough to eat [bold mine-DL], according to the United Nations.

Yemen’s exiled president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, last month ordered the central bank’s headquarters to be moved from the capital Sanaa, controlled by Houthi rebels in the north, to the southern port of Aden, which is held by the government. He also appointed a new governor, a member of his government who has said the bank has no money.

Trade sources involved in importing food to the Arab peninsula’s poorest country say this decision will leave them financially exposed and make it harder to bring in supplies [bold mine-DL].

Diplomats and aid officials believe the crisis surrounding the central bank could adversely affect ordinary Yemenis.

The Saudi-led coalition has blockaded the country with U.S. approval and support, and that blockade has deprived much of the country of essential food and medicine. They have bombed the port in Hodeidah to make it even harder for supplies to be brought into the country. They have also bombed out bridges leading to the capital, which has made it still more difficult to get food to the people living there. Then the Saudi-backed Hadi government moved the central bank in a move that everyone agrees will inflict even more harm on the civilian population. Millions of Yemenis are starving in large part because of the coalition’s actions over the last eighteen months, and our government has reliably backed those actions. This is the war effort that the U.S. and Britain have been enabling every day for the last year and a half, and there are no signs that either one is inclined to stop.

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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