Five Years of the US-Backed War on Yemen

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. The war has not ended, and the humanitarian crisis created by the war has only grown worse over time. I have to apologize to my readers and to the people of Yemen, because I have not been covering the story in Yemen as regularly as I should have. There have certainly been many other important stories in the first three months of this year, but that is no excuse for ignoring what remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Our government’s role in creating that crisis and prolonging the misery of the people of Yemen cannot be forgotten. Despite the considerable efforts of many activists and members of Congress, illegal U.S. involvement in this war has continued into a new decade. The fault for that lies squarely with the president, who has vetoed Congressional resolutions that would end the shameful US role in wrecking and starving a country whose people have done nothing to us.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis demands special attention now because the devastation of the health care system and the severely compromised immunity of the population because of malnutrition make them very vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. We have to hope that the virus does not spread widely in Yemen, because if that should happen it would be fatal for countless innocent people:

“It is a perfect storm of a disaster should this virus introduce itself,” the country’s World Health Organisation (WHO) representative, Altaf Musani, said.

Cholera, dengue, malaria and poor sanitation are rife and around 80% of Yemenis are reliant on humanitarian aid while millions live on the brink of starvation, leaving them vulnerable to other forms of disease.

Over the course of the last five years, the US has aided and abetted some of the worst governments in the world as they have committed thousands of atrocities against the civilian population of Yemen. More than 100,000 people have died in combat, and at least 130,000 more have died from starvation and disease. There have been well over a million cases of cholera in the largest epidemic of that disease in modern times, and more than ten million are on the verge of famine. The wholly man-made crisis in Yemen is to a very large degree the fault of the US policy of unconditional support for the Saudi coalition, and we must stop enabling the starvation and slaughter of innocent people.

Rereading my article for TAC from the summer of 2015, I was struck by this line:

No one with any understanding of local conditions in Yemen thought the intervention would succeed.

Five years on, everyone understands that the intervention has failed, but somehow no one in a position to do anything about it is willing to end it. The Saudi crown prince remains stubbornly committed to a disastrous policy that defines his foreign policy record, and Trump reflexively sides with the Saudis no matter what. The Saudis can no longer afford this war, but their leaders are still too proud to admit that they failed. It is imperative that the US pressure the Saudis to end their intervention once and for all, and Congress needs to keep pressing the Trump administration to that end. Every year that US support for this disgraceful war continues is another year that we have failed to end our government’s role in a horrific humanitarian catastrophe.

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.