Sunday, July 09, 2017

27.6 - Outrage of the Week: war crimes in Yemen

Outrage of the Week: war crimes in Yemen

Now for our other regular feature; this is the Outrage of the Week.

The poorest country in the Middle East is Yemen. And it has been in a bloody civil war since late 2014.

I'm not going to even try to disentangle the history of the war; I will just note that the actual current round of fighting, which is not the first Yemen has seen, broke out when Houthi rebels seized control of Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, in September 2014. A few months later, they seized the presidential compound, forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee the country in late February 2015.

Since then, the fighting between supporters of the Hadi government on the one side - with outside aid coming from the US via drone strikes and from Saudi Arabia via blockades and an air campaign - and the Houthi on the other - with outside aid from Iran - has continued and gotten more vicious over time.

Despite the on-going brutality and suffering, neither side has gained a decisive advantage.

What has happened is that upwards of 10,000 have died in what the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs calls "the forgotten war." The health service there has "completely collapsed" and health workers have been working without pay for more than six months. UNICEF reports that of the total population of 27 million people, an estimated 21.2 million, nearly 80% of the total, need humanitarian assistance of some kind. Half of that number is children.

Of that 27 million, 3.3 million, more than 10 percent of the entire population, have been forced from their homes. Around 17 million people in the country are "food insecure," meaning they don't know from one day to the next if there will be enough food to eat, and 6.8 million of them "one step away from famine." There are 1.5 million malnourished children the country, 370,000 of them severely malnourished.

And over two-thirds of the people of Yemen lack access to safe drinking water, which has in turn lead to the worst outbreak of cholera in the world, an outbreak that is getting worse by almost any measure.

By the end of June, there were nearly 250,000 reported cases of cholera in Yemen, with thousands more every week. Already 1,500 have died. More die every day.

And at this point let's be absolutely clear about two things:

One, as noted in April by Idriss Jazairy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, it is the air and sea blockade imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia that is the biggest single cause of this humanitarian catastrophe. That blockade has restricted and disrupted the import of food, fuel, and medical supplies as well as humanitarian aid. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been carrying on a campaign of air strikes - over one-third of which have been against civilian targets such as schools, hospitals, markets, and mosques - that has been responsible for the destruction of infrastructure that has lead to the hunger and the cholera epidemic.

That is, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a pattern of war crimes in Yemen.

And two, this would not be possible without the collusion of the US. We are actively aiding, abetting, and enabling war crimes in Yemen.

We are the ones who sell the Saudis the jets and the bombs.

We are the ones who helped with intelligence.

Sen. Chris Murphy
We are the ones who provided them with precision-guided weapons on the idea that they would help the Saudis to better avoid civilian targets only to, after discovering they were instead being used to better target civilian targets, nonetheless have now approved sending another $500 million worth of those weapons after an attempt in the Senate a couple of weeks ago to block the deal failed by a vote of 53-47.

The aid we give is even more direct: As Sen. Chris Murphy pointedly noted during the debate over that arms deal, "The Saudis simply could not operate this bombing campaign without us." Not only do we sell them the weapons, not only do we stand side by side with them when they are reviewing intelligence about targets, but "their planes can't fly without US refueling capacity."

The Saudi air war, the Saudi war crimes, could not happen without us. We are involved. We are guilty. We are guilty of war crimes in Yemen.

There is a move now in the House to bar the US from refueling Saudi jets. Frankly, while a worthy effort, the chances of that passing Congress and overcoming an inevitable veto are negligible.

So day after day, we are guilty of war crimes in Yemen. And the White House is prepared to encourage that while the Congress, it appears, is prepared to stand by and let it happen.

And that is truly an outrage.

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