FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Yemeni Suffering Made Easy

Photo Source Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

The Saudi and UAE-led operation to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah, which could jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, represents more than the latest tragic chapter in Yemen’s civil war. It is the fully expected outcome of several Western nations’ complicity in a multi-country assault that has made Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.

The recent attack on Hodeidah is both a function of Western arms support and a feature of longstanding Western political programming that has sustained the coalition’s attack on the country since a bombing campaign began in 2015.

For the last several years the US, UK, and France have all greenlit arms sales, refueling missions, and special forces guidance to the coalition with few, if any, conditions. The operation in Hodeidah is no different, where French special forces are already on the ground and the US is providing intelligence and aerial refueling to assist the coalition. Since the beginning of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, the results of American, French, and British arms and support have led to the bombing of funerals, weddings, markets, hospitals, schools and other public spaces populated by civilians. The latest bombing of a wedding party (because there have been more than one) killed twenty, including the bride herself.

Some observers equivocate as to whether these destructive acts stem from purposeful targeting or simply the negligent use of sophisticated Western weapons technology, but the frequency with which non-combatants, civilian production capacity, and food supply chains continue to be struck appear deliberate. To assume these attacks are anything but calculated is to stretch the bounds of reasonableness: within the first day of operations in Hodeidah, a Doctors Without Borders treatment facility suffered a coalition missile strike even though the GPS coordinates of the facility had been providedtwelve times and the roof had clear markings to distinguish the building for medical purposes.

Such missile strikes are as indiscriminate for their attacks on civilians as they are precise in the striking of non-military use infrastructure. These strikes may very well amount to war crimes; war crimes made possible by American, British, and French munitions.

But unfettered access to arms is often only as beneficial as the political arguments that justify their use and here again the US, U.K., and France have proven more than capable to assist. The persistent narrative in Western capitals that Iran lurks behind any and all crises in the Middle East, an attitude further buoyed by the presence of staunch regime change advocates in the Trump administration, affords the Saudi-led coalition the easy political cover to claim Houthi rebels are merely Iranian proxies servicing Tehran’s regional ambitions.

Knowing its audience all too well, as if on cue, Yemen’s government-in-exile rationalized the Hodeidah operation by noting that liberating the port from Houthi control will “cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood.” While the claim that the Houthi rebels are merely Iranian proxies remains problematic, and has been challenged by experts and government officials alike, the ingrained narrative to see the hidden-hand of Iran as the main driver behind disruptive forces in the Middle East makes it increasingly difficult to question the Arab coalition’s ration d’état for attacking Yemen.

With such military support and political cover from Western countries why would Saudi Arabia, UAE, and other members of the coalition believe anything but the acceptance of their military operations in Yemen?

Western officials may at times express concern and beseech the coalition to show restraint, but in the end arms continue to flow and political acquiescence persists, as recently demonstrated by the American and British rejection of a UN security council resolution calling for an end to hostilities in Hodeidah. This is not to deny how Houthi actions have added to the civilian death toll by the firing of artillery into Yemeni cities, use of landmines, and arbitrary jailing of activists and journalists. Rather it is to recognize the willingness of Western countries to back a coalition that remains the leading cause of civilian and child casualties in the conflict through its use of disproportionate and indiscriminate violence toward anyone in its way. With Western support, Yemeni suffering is made easy.

The statistics of Yemeni suffering – 22 million in need of humanitarian aid, 60% of the population being food insecure, and one million people affected by a cholera outbreak – are so numbing as to create a loss of feeling, but it does not seem to matter. The abundance of warnings about the damage of ongoing bombing in Yemen and the Hodeidah operation- by the UN, aid organizations, and even half-heartedly by the same Western countries who support the coalition’s mission- is so widespread, but it does not seem to matter.

While the U.S., UK, and France may have felt the moral obligation to intervene in Syria after a ghastly chemical attack, Yemenis are not afforded the same protection for their suffering. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, justified the Syrian strikes by noting “we have done it because we believe it was the right thing to do” and, yet, since the beginning of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia have increased 500 percent.

The complicity of the US, UK and France in Yemen’s destruction carries on in Hodeidah. Only the extent of Yemeni suffering remains unclear. Undoubtedly clearer is that for those countries who choose to militarily support and politically abet the bombing of the Middle East’s poorest country, the windfall from arms sales and wishful thinking about regional dynamics matters significantly more than Yemeni lives.

More articles by:

Kevin L. Schwartz is a Research Fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague where he focuses on Iran. He was previously a research fellow at the US Library of Congress and a visiting professor at the US Naval Academy. His website is www.kevinschwartz.org.

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail