The Disgraceful U.S. Enabling Role in the War on Yemen

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By DANIEL LARISON

Nicolas Niarchos reports on the devastating effects of the war on Yemen and the role of U.S. and other Western support in making that war possible:

Since the war began, at least ten thousand Yemeni civilians have been killed, though the number is potentially much higher, because few organizations on the ground have the resources to count the dead. Some three million people have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands have left the country. Before the war, Yemen was the Middle East’s poorest state, relying on imports to feed the population. Now, after effectively being blockaded by the coalition for more than two and a half years, it faces famine. More than a million people have cholera, and thousands have died from the disease. Unicef, the World Food Program, and the World Health Organization have called the situation in Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Yet the U.S. and Great Britain have continued to support the coalition, mainly with weapons sales and logistical help. (A small contingent of U.S. Special Forces fights Al Qaeda militants in the south of the country.) Without foreign assistance, it would be very difficult for the Saudis to wage war [bold mine-DL].

Our regular readers will already be familiar with much of what the article says about the war and the U.S. role in it, but it is the coalition’s reliance on U.S. and other Western backers that needs to be emphasized here. News reports on the war frequently minimize or completely ignore U.S. involvement in the conflict, and very few make clear how essential our military assistance has been to keeping the coalition war effort going. This is why I and other opponents of our involvement have talked about the enabling role our government has in this war.

If the U.S. curtailed or halted its assistance to the coalition, it would be difficult if not impossible for them to continue fighting the war as they have. It would be bad enough if the U.S. were merely aiding and abetting the coalition in its wrecking and starving of Yemen, but it is worse than that. Our government’s support helps make continuing the war possible, and that ensures that the suffering of tens of millions of Yemenis, at least eight million of whom are on the verge of famine, will only get worse over time.

As awful as things were under the previous administration, it is also important to remember that they have gotten much worse in just the last year:

The former senior Administration official told me, “Since January, you’ve seen the humanitarian situation in Yemen fall off a cliff, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.” According to Rajat Madhok, of unicef, the cholera crisis and the malnutrition are unprecedented. “‘Bad’ would be an understatement,” Madhok told me. “You’re looking at a health collapse, a systemic collapse.”

The Trump administration is now belatedly and half-heartedly making some noises about the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Yemen, but that catastrophe grew significantly worse thanks in no small part to the administration’s indulgence of the Saudis and their allies over the last year. There still appears to be no recognition among administration officials that continued U.S. support for the war is partly responsible for creating the dire humanitarian conditions in the country, and unless that changes the world’s worst humanitarian crisis will keep claiming more innocent lives.

It can’t be stressed enough that the U.S. has no good reasons to be involved in this war. The coalition war has effectively strengthened the jihadist groups that do pose some threat to the U.S. and our allies. U.S. clients have committed numerous war crimes, and our government has made itself complicit in those crimes for the dubious honor of “reassuring” the war criminals in Riyadh that they can rely on us. Our military involvement in the conflict is not only unauthorized by Congress, but it is also a violation of U.S. law to provide military assistance to governments that impede the delivery of humanitarian aid. Even if the coalition relaxes some restrictions, it is still blockading an impoverished country for the purpose of starving it into submission, and it is outrageous that the U.S. is a party to that in any way. There is no justification for what the Saudi-led coalition has been doing to Yemen with our government’s backing, and there is no excuse for continuing to assist them in their ongoing crime against humanity.