American-aligned leaders keen to wage war for "humanitarianism" now have a prime opportunity to prove their humanitarian bona fides. Let them withdraw their support for the Saudi suffocation of Yemen, a country starving from months of debilitating airstrikes and a lethally tight embargo.
If there exist true humanitarians in their ranks, they will understand why generations of bereaved Yemenis simply cannot wait any longer for freedom. Under Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose soldiers received American military training and $300 million worth of American-supplied weaponry between 2006 and 2011, Yemeni civilians for years abided a congeries of indiscriminate military bombardments, extrajudicial executions, and heinous government crackdowns on journalists. Saleh’s ouster during the Arab Spring and the disturbingly easy ascent of Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi yielded only a fleeting respite, after which San’a’s gridlock and aimlessness thrust the country back into mayhem. Amidst the commotion, the Shiite Houthis consolidated power in the north and lunged for Yemen’s capital in September 2014. Encircled and enfeebled, Hadi left for Aden in February 2015 and named it Yemen’s provisional capital, after which the rebels stormed the country’s southern territory and prompted Hadi’s departure from Yemen.
At that point, the Saudis, with assistance from Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States, initiated Operation Decisive Storm to reinstall Hadi’s government. The March campaign ushered in a slew of Saudi airstrikes and a severe blockade devised to restore peace by preventing the Houthis’ acquisition of Iranian weapons. The theory belies the reality, however, as the nominally "peaceful" blockade continues to take a calamitous toll on innocent Yemenis who need foreign imports to survive. By the onset of July, Yemen’s water sources were faltering en masse, and by the end of that month, approximately 2.3 million Yemenis were struggling to eat due to Saudi-induced food shortages and a consonant rise in food prices. Yemen’s paltry access to foreign fuel shipments, down to nearly a tenth of what it was before the Saudi intervention, has also impelled the closure of Yemeni health centers previously tasked with feeding over 400,000 destitute youngsters and providing medical assistance to almost 500,000 others.
In addition to the blockade, the threat of direct Saudi violence continues to plague ordinary Yemenis. On April 21, the Saudis terminated Operation Decisive Storm to pave the way for Operation Renewal of Hope, a "civilian-protecting" mission designed to cap off Decisive Storm’s subversion of Houthis’ weapon stockpiling. Pursuant to this new operation, the Saudi coalition has launched anti-Houthi airstrikes with reckless imprecision. In one failed attempt to assassinate Saleh’s family members in June, for instance, the Saudis inadvertently killed five non-targets nearby. In an attack on Taiz the following month, the Saudis assassinated 120 noncombatants and maimed more than 150 others.
All told, the escalating war and injurious embargo have already left millions of people hungry and are every day depriving an additional 20,000 Yemenis of food. The few civilians equipped to flee the country are doing so, while the remaining Yemenis still vigorous enough to protest are praying and marching for an end to the Saudi assault.
Meanwhile, the Saudi potentate’s blithe American friends make excuses for their chum’s monstrosities. Such statesmen as Secretary of State John Kerry recycle nauseating insinuations about the danger of Iranian support for the Houthis, even though the Houthis have considerable religious differences with the Iranian regime, receive no compelling instructions from Tehran, and use hardly any Iranian supplies. Like a mindless robot, he doubles down on "our" commitment to "our alliances and our friendships," as if the United States’ dubious "friendship" in this case actually counts for anything palpable or moral, as if it does not merely sow the seeds of discontent that will inevitably engender ill will towards the United States. And, quite ironically, Secretary Kerry still fulminates against Islamist terrorists, even while his government tenders weapons, military intelligence, and naval supplies to buttress Arabian attacks on Houthis arrayed distinctly against Al Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen.
All of this sloganeering, all of this diplomatic and humanitarian posturing, all of these barefaced inconsistencies would be risible were they not so utterly putrid and ultimately fatal. Let there be no mistake: the Saudi massacre is destroying a society before our very eyes, enervating its market, attenuating its familial bonds, and otherwise extinguishing any simulacrum of order, justice, or fairness within it. If the military states complicit in this atrocity harbor one iota of a humanitarian impulse, they will retract their support for the Saudi onslaught straight away and demand an end to the killing. Yemen has no time left.
Tommy Raskin is a contributor to the Good Men Project and Foreign Policy in Focus. He is also an intern at Antiwar.com.