STORY BY AARON STRAIN
The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has recently been called into question after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but absent from most discussions on Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations is the most glaring example of them: their devastating involvement in the war on Yemen. Save the Children recently reported that 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died of starvation since the escalation of the war.
To add on top of the existing starvation toll, 14 million Yemeni people, half of Yemen’s population, remain at risk of complete famine. Cholera, a deadly disease which can be controlled by proper sanitation practices and can be treated easily, has potentially infected over a million Yemeni, with some five thousand new cases reported each day during rainy seasons, according to the World Health Organization. The crisis has grown to become the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded.
The deaths of tens of thousands of children, mothers, and fathers were the direct result of continued military involvement and enforcement of blockades by the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Saudi-led coalition.During the Arab Spring in 2011, Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Sunni with close ties to the Saudi kingdom whose government was ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world, was overthrown, sparking a civil war between Houthi rebels and supporters of Yemen’s government. Saudi Arabia quickly took action in supporting the Yemeni government, and other countries took sides in reaction, including Iran supporting the predominantly Shia Houthis. However, the minimal influence Iran has on the Houthis is dwarfed by the United States joining the Saudi-led coalition, and silently arming, refueling, and bombing since the start of Saudi involvement.
American-made cluster bombs, which are bombs that parachute down from a plane and deploy bomblets that scatter across the sky, were banned by a treaty of 120 countries, with the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia notably absent from the list of signatories. These bombs are nevertheless sold for hundreds of millions of dollars and are dropped regularly on Yemeni civilians. Drone strikes, which are heavily criticized for their inaccuracy and effects on civilians, were conducted under the Obama administration, and they have only escalated under Trump in what former Press Secretary Sean Spicer called “very, very well thought out and executed … highly successful operations.” In these “highly successful operations,” the United States supplies intelligence, refueling stations, and “more than $20 billion in new weapons transfers” to the Saudi coalition.
These American weapons are used on “civilian sites, including homes, factories, markets, hospitals, children’s schools, and [even] a funeral.” Including on August 9 of this year, when 40 boys and 11 adults were killed in a school bus that was destroyed by a bomb manufactured by defense contractor Lockheed Martin and supplied in a shipment of 1000 such bombs approved under the Obama administration in 2015. The Trump administration has continued the tradition of exporting arms to Saudi Arabia and recently loosened the minimal rules aimed to prevent civilian casualties.In 2017, the United Nations declared that the “total collapse” of Yemen is “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.” According to the World Food Programme, 3 million Yemeni have been internally displaced, 18 million are food insecure, and 8 million are entirely reliant upon humanitarian aid, most of whom are women and children, meaning that “famine is a possibility for millions of people.”
Most humanitarian aid sent to Yemen has been denied due to blockades run by the Saudi-led coalition for over three years, including “all Yemeni ground, air, and sea ports” as of November 4, 2017. Before the war, Yemen relied upon imports of aid from its neighbors and the United States, as it was then and remains now the poorest country in the Middle East.
It is an injustice to the people of Yemen to call what is happening to their country simply a war – it is a genocide.
The United States Senate voted on a resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen on November 28. The 63-37 vote discharged the resolution out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and sent it to the Senate floor. If the motion to discharge had failed, the resolution would stay in committee and potentially die there. From the floor, the resolution will soon be up for a vote to proceed; and, if it proceeds, will be voted upon by the Senate in full.
Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted differently upon discharging the resolution.
Senator Jerry Moran voted Yea on the motion. He released a statement the same day:
“It’s Congress’s constitutional responsibility to authorize when the American military engages in war. Therefore, I will once again vote in favor of the joint resolution denying American military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. If the resolution prevails, it should help force a diplomatic resolution on the nearly four-year-long war and reduce the humanitarian crisis where 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of death from starvation.”
Senator Pat Roberts voted Nay on the motion and has not made a public statement on his decision as of December 2.