Stop the Saudi-Led Coalition’s Starvation of Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Alex de Waal recently spoke to PBS Newshour about contemporary man-made famines, especially the one caused by the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen:


How would you counsel the U.S., and other governments, to end this famine, or possible famine, in Yemen?


We should have a peace process. We should have a normalization of economic activity but we must start with lifting that blockade. And I think the what is required in order to move in that direction is public outcry [bold mine-DL]. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue on which people of all political colors can agree that starvation, mass starvation when it is inflicted in this way is completely unacceptable. It should be regarded as a crime. And ultimately those who who actually inflicted or stand by and allow it to happen should be brought before a court of law. And if that’s not possible at least they should be brought before the court of public opinion that says it’s utterly unacceptable to behave in this way [bold mine-DL].

The Saudis and their allies need to be publicly pressured into lifting the blockade of Yemen, and in order for that to happen their Western patrons need to be called out again and again for their role in enabling this massive crime. It bears repeating that more than eight million people are on the verge of starvation largely because of the coalition blockade, and millions more are badly malnourished. The vast majority of Yemenis lives in the areas that the coalition is deliberately starving of basic necessities in a cruel policy of collective punishment. The US ought to be condemning the perpetrators of this crime and seeking to end their blockade, but instead our government has been backing them to the hilt and helping them to cover up what they are doing to Yemen.

Western governments have mostly been able to avoid scrutiny and criticism for arming and supporting the coalition’s war and blockade for the last three years. Yemen has been mostly ignored in our media and there has been very little reporting on the role of our governments in making this disaster possible. Most people in the US and Britain probably still don’t realize the extent to which their governments are responsible for the unfolding catastrophe, and so they may not realize that this is something that American and British citizens can try to change. S.J.Res. 54, the resolution introduced by Sens. Sanders, Lee, and Murphy last week, is a chance for Americans to force an end to US involvement in the war as part of a larger effort to halt the war in its entirety.

Mohammed bin Salman’s upcoming visits to the U.K. and US are unfortunate in many ways, but they do provide an opportunity to call attention to the war’s terrible effects. These include the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and other numerous war crimes. The crown prince is coming to curry favor with the British and US governments and to seek foreign investors for his schemes back home, so it is a perfect chance to embarrass Riyadh’s supporters and press them to answer questions about the war criminal they are hosting. The Saudi government has invested considerable time and energy into presenting Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as a modernizing “reformer,” so they do not want the crown prince’s foreign tour to be dominated by stories of protests and criticism of coalition war crimes and their famine-causing blockade. That is exactly why opponents of the war on Yemen need to use the crown prince’s visits in the UK and US to draw attention to the ongoing killing of civilians and the starvation of millions of innocent Yemenis by Mohammed bin Salman’s government and the other members of its coalition.

It is shameful that the UK and US governments are welcoming Mohammed bin Salman, but it is even more so that they have been actively supporting the disastrous war of which he is one of the chief architects and leading war criminals. At the very least, the US and UK should cut off their support for that war and press for an end to the blockade, and ideally they should reevaluate their larger relationship with a government that has increasingly become a regional menace.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.