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Our Indefensible War in Yemen

U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen illustrates much of what's worst in our foreign policy.
Our Indefensible War in Yemen

Bruce Riedel reviews the situation in Yemen:

The losers in the war are of course the Yemeni people. More than half the twenty-five million people are malnourished. Many are dislocated. Children are at greatest risk. The war gets almost no mention in the American media, but it’s our war [bold mine-DL].

If anything, this understates the damage that has been done. The many displaced internally are well over two million people, and half of the people described as malnourished are on the brink of famine. Thousands and thousands of children are dying or will die from preventable diseases. The starvation of a huge part of the civilian population is largely due to the coalition blockade supported by the U.S., and the aid that does get into the country cannot be easily distributed because of fuel shortages and the devastation of the country’s infrastructure from the bombing campaign that our military facilitates. Just this past week, the coalition destroyed a vitally important bridge needed to bring food into the capital:

Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, Oxfam Yemen Country Director, said: “This road is the main supply route for Sanaa as it conveys 90% of World Food Program food coming from Hodeidah to the capital. Its destruction threatens to leave many more people unable to feed themselves, worsening an already catastrophic situation in the country.”

The Saudi-led, U.S.-backed intervention has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen that is at least as severe as any other crisis in the world. The situation in Yemen is arguably much worse than any other comparable humanitarian crisis because it is being so badly neglected and the international response to Yemen’s dire need has been so paltry. Relatively few people outside the region are aware of the crisis, even fewer understand how severe it is, and even fewer are motivated to provide aid, and the lack of attention to the war and its effects reinforces this indifference. Millions of people are at very real risk of starving to death so that the Saudis and their allies can indulge their delusions about combating Iranian influence, and the Saudi-led coalition is encouraged and enabled to do this with U.S. weapons, fuel, and intelligence provided by the Obama administration. On the rare occasions when administration officials are pressed to explain why the U.S. is doing this, they simply lie about the conflict and almost no one notices.

I suppose one could call our policy in Yemen “committing war crimes from behind”: the U.S. doesn’t directly commit any of the crimes, but it wouldn’t be possible for the Saudis and their allies to keep waging the war and committing their war crimes without our government’s assistance. Hardly anyone here at home notices our government’s role in all this because it is so rarely reported, it is scarcely criticized in major media outlets when it is mentioned, and it seems to hold no interest for most of our representatives in Congress. That’s how our government can facilitate a disaster that threatens the lives of millions of people without paying even the smallest political price.

U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen illustrates much of what’s worst in our foreign policy. We see the usual reflexive deference to bad clients and the uncritical backing of their worst behavior. We recognize the dishonest spin that the clients’ aggressive actions are being taken in “self-defense” to ward off a threat that doesn’t exist or has been grossly exaggerated. We know only too well the irrepressible urge to take sides and interfere in a foreign conflict that has little or nothing to do with us, and we encounter the all-too-familiar overconfidence in military options to “solve” ingrained political disputes that we don’t really understand. Finally, we confront the callous, total indifference to the suffering of a civilian population when the people endangered by war are on the “wrong” side of a fight.



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