The carnage in Yemen drones on with no end in sight. More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed since 2015 when the Saudis entered what was a civil war. So far two million people have been displaced as Saudi ground troops and air forces wage a one-sided assault, with U.S. help, against the poorest country in the region.
A Saudi blockade has prevented food, medicine and volunteer doctors from entering Yemen, resulting in what the United Nations now describes as the world’s greatest man-made humanitarian catastrophe; mass starvation and a cholera epidemic of epic proportions are on the horizon. Already more than 2,200 people have died from cholera and over 400,000 Yemeni children are severely malnourished. An estimated 17 million people do not have reliable access to food and 22 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile bombers made in the U.S. and Europe ignite firestorms on the ground in what the New York Times calls one of “America’s secret wars.” All in the name of the mighty gods of oil.
A bipartisan affair. Former President Obama launched the first air strikes and drone attacks on Yemen. He professed to be going after al-Qaeda but killed hundreds of civilians. President Trump is staying the course. He claims that withdrawal would damage relations with the Saudis and undercut U.S. credibility in the Middle East by appearing to abandon an important ally of U.S. imperialism. Both argue that more civilians would die if the U.S. weren’t helping to direct the bombs. In the meantime, Congress approved $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
It was recently revealed that a small group of Green Beret commandos is working on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia training Saudi ground forces and helping locate caches of ballistic missiles — all without congressional approval. This marks an important secret escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen because the Pentagon has maintained that its role is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and general intelligence.
The War Powers Act, passed in 1973 as uproar over the war in Vietnam roiled the country, restricts the U.S. president’s ability to go to war without congressional approval. Even former President George Bush sought, and got, bipartisan approval for the Iraq war in 2002. President Obama invaded Libya in 2011 without congressional backing because he could claim that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) asked us to intervene. Trump’s argument is that the military is merely providing support to the Saudis. This has now been revealed as just another of his many lies.
In November 2017, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for a resolution calling for an end to “unauthorized hostilities” in Yemen. However, it was non-binding and amounted to a mere suggestion.
In March, Senator Bernie Sanders sponsored a resolution to deny Trump war powers authority to intervene in Yemen. It failed, by a vote of 55-44. At press time, the Senate is considering a bastardized version of Sanders’ bill which does not call for a halt to U.S. military assistance and would actually increase the president’s authority to expand military intervention around the world.
The bourgeois media in the U.S. rarely reports on the war, or U.S. participation, and there is little public pressure on the Trump administration or Congress to end the carnage. In contrast, people in Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have hit the streets demanding and winning, at least temporarily, a ban on selling bombs and bombers to Saudi Arabia.
Blood for oil. The highly valued prize in this blood-soaked conflict is control of transport lanes over which a huge amount of the world’s oil supply travels.
The Saudi princes, the imperial U.S. president and the European Union want a pipeline across Yemen from Saudi Arabia to the Arabian Sea. They want to avoid using the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran regularly threatens to close, and they can do this if they can send oil to the Suez Canal via the Red Sea.
Between 2009 and the advent of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, one Yemeni president was run out of the country and his replacement was forced out of office. Fearing loss of control over the country, the Saudis entered the civil war to reinstall their puppet and hold off their Iranian competitors in the region.
Throughout it all, U.S. and European weapons dealers have been raking in the dough, exchanging bombers and war technology for Saudi oil money. The Yemenis are just collateral damage in the latest imperialist slaughterhouse.
Bitter fruits of British and U.S. imperialism. Yemen’s mild climate and arable land made it a target of both British and Ottoman conquerors. The rise of Arab nationalism led Yemen to declare its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1918. North Yemen became a republic in 1962, but it was not until 1967 that the British withdrew from what became South Yemen. In 1970, the south declared itself the Peoples Republic of Yemen and aligned with the Soviet Union. In contrast to the north, it was a workers state, with full employment, literacy programs and rights for women. However this regime collapsed in 1990 along with the Soviet Union and civil war erupted after a brief period of reunification between the north and south.
Now whatever progress was made in the south during the workers state has been erased as the country is being reduced to rubble by internally warring factions and the invaders’ bombs. Sadly, the people of Yemen have again become targets, hostages and pawns in imperialist battles for wealth and control.
End the arms traffic. The tragedy unfolding in Yemen will only end when people in the U.S. and Europe force their governments to get out of the lucrative armaments business — and Yemen. They owe the forced migrants this war has created a safe place to call home. Yemen has always been poor, but has also helped those fleeing war, starvation, environmental or man-made disasters. It is time to return the favor.
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