The Glaring Omissions in Western Coverage of the War on Yemen
The Financial Times reports on the enormous humanitarian disaster in Yemen:
“We are displaced people, we depend on aid to provide us with food. We cannot build baths or kitchens and we cannot even buy clean water,” says Mr Bahri, a shepherd in his 50s.
His 11-member family are among millions of Yemenis trapped in a conflict that has triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises: two-thirds of the 28m population face food shortages and lack access to clean water. More than 5,000 civilians have been killed by bullets and bombs. Another 7m are on the brink of famine, according to the UN.
Now a cholera epidemic is raging across the country. The disease has killed more than 2,000 people since April and infected 612,000 others; more than half of the suspected cases are children. It is a man-made catastrophe, UN officials say.
The report does a reasonably good job of conveying the scale and severity of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, which has become the world’s worst. Millions are starving, hundreds of thousands are contracting preventable diseases, and many millions are displaced by conflict. The gap between the enormity of the crisis and the attention given to it in most media coverage is huge, so every news story about the war has some value. But incomplete reports that don’t tell the entire story leave readers without some of the information they ought to have when trying to make sense of the horror unfolding in Yemen.
If you relied on this report, you would not know that the Saudi-led coalition imposes a sea and air blockade of the country. You wouldn’t know that the coalition effectively keeps the international airport in Sanaa closed, which prevents aid from being brought in and stops sick people from being able to seek treatment elsewhere. The words blockade and embargo never appear in the story. You also wouldn’t know that the coalition bombing campaign damaged or destroyed the cranes in the port of Hodeidah, nor would you know that they have opposed efforts to bring in mobile cranes as replacements. Likewise, you wouldn’t know that the coalition has routinely bombed hospitals, clinics, sanitation plants, roads, and bridges, all of which have contributed to the famine and cholera crises in the country. The mass starvation in Yemen isn’t just happening. It is being created by ongoing policies of the coalition governments and their Western backers. All parties to the conflict are responsible for creating the disaster in Yemen, but some have done much more damage and bear greater responsibility, and those happen to be the coalition and their Western patrons.
That’s the other thing you won’t find in the article: any mention of U.S. or U.K. support for the coalition or the complicity of those governments in what is being done to Yemen. It’s a glaring omission that is unfortunately still all too common in news reports about the war, and it’s why I keep emphasizing U.S. and U.K. backing for the war in my posts. This is a war in which the U.S. and Britain have taken the side of a group of despotic governments’ reckless, unnecessary intervention and have made the conflict and the plight of the people of Yemen far worse than they would have been. Our news reports at least need to acknowledge our governments’ enabling role every time they cover the war and its horrible effects, and failing to do so just helps the U.S. and British governments avoid accountability for the disgraceful policies they have been carrying out.