The Saudi ‘Reformer’ Who Uses Torture

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Many of the detainees seized during Mohammed bin Salman’s purge last year were subjected to physical abuse, and one later died from his injuries:

During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.

Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab and subsequent shakedown of detainees were always aimed at consolidating power and extracting money by force. That seemed clear enough at the time, and this report just confirms it. The “anti-corruption” spin was always a pretext for doing these things and never a very convincing one, and it is a measure of how easily seduced by Mohammed bin Salman’s promise of “reform” they are that so many Western observers accepted his explanation at face value. Obviously, torturing people into handing assets over to the state is a crude abuse of power that has nothing to do with fighting corruption. Abusing detainees into signing over their wealth is consistent with Mohammed bin Salman’s heavy-handed crackdown on internal dissent and his prosecution of an atrocious war that is creating one of the worst famines of modern times. If foreign investors were nervous about the prospects of doing business in the new Saudi Arabia before now, this story should make them extremely wary. When the crown prince comes to the U.S. later this month, his hosts should force him to address the many abuses committed by his government. With any luck, he will find that many of his would-be investors don’t want to do business in a country ruled by such a reckless and incompetent man.

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The Ridiculous Hawkish Arguments for Supporting the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

James Jay Carafano must assume that his audience doesn’t know anything about the war on Yemen:

Instead of turning our back on Yemen, the U.S. should focus on ending the war.

If US support for the Saudi-led coalition were withdrawn, that would go a long way towards ending the war by making it much more difficult for the coalition to continue waging it. Carafano frames stopping US support for wrecking Yemen as “turning our back on Yemen,” which is about as misleading as can be. The US has been turning its back on the civilian population of Yemen for the last three years by aiding and abetting the governments that have been bombing and starving them. He notably omits any mention of the coalition’s commission of numerous war crimes against the civilian population. The plight of the civilian population created by the coalition blockade is likewise nowhere to be found. If the US were no longer enabling coalition war crimes and collective punishment, that would be the first time in years that our government would be seriously paying attention to the plight of the people of Yemen.

Carafano writes:

America is there for a reason: to keep the region from falling apart. The collapse of any friendly regime there is bad for us.

The first part of this is debatable, but when applied to Yemen it is clearly not true. US involvement in the Saudi-led war has been contributing to the country’s fragmentation. The war is causing the country’s devastation and division, and by supporting it the US is encouraging those outcomes. There is no “friendly regime” in Yemen to be defended. The Hadi government has no legitimacy in the eyes of most Yemenis and has virtually no support anywhere in the country, and the coalition’s goal of reimposing him on Yemen will never be reached.

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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.

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John Bolton Wants Preventive War Against North Korea

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

John Bolton defends preventive war against North Korea, but he won’t call it by that name:

Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against preemption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times.

The concepts of preemption and imminent threat have been so thoroughly warped by the Iraq war debate that their proper meanings have been all but lost. Preemption means striking before an impending attack occurs, but there is no such attack being prepared by North Korea. If the U.S. strikes North Korea first under these circumstances, our government would be committing an act of aggression pure and simple. There would be no preemption, because there would be no attack to preempt.

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The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen Keeps Getting Worse

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief described the “catastrophic” conditions that exist in Yemen today:

In a speech read by UN director of humanitarian operations John Ging, Lowcock said that 8.4 million Yemenis “are severely food insecure” and about 400,000 children under the age of 5 “are so severely malnourished they are 10 times likelier to die without treatment than their healthy peers.”

Yemen’s crisis is by far the worst in the world just by the sheer numbers affected and the severity of the conditions, and it is made even more so by the fact that the crisis could be quickly alleviated if the coalition halted its bombing campaign and lifted its blockade. If Yemen were allowed to resume normal commerce with the outside world and a sustained relief effort were made, the most dire, worst-case scenarios could be averted. That won’t help the tens of thousands who have already perished from preventable causes, but it could still preserve the lives of millions at risk of dying from starvation and preventable disease.

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Don’t Be Fooled by Saudi ‘Aid’ Efforts in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The International Rescue Committee dismisses the Saudi-led coalition’s “aid” plan for Yemen:

“The name in itself is misleading: it is neither comprehensive, nor particularly humanitarian,” said Amanda Catanzano, senior policy and advocacy director at the International Rescue Committee. “The Saudi-led coalition is offering to fund a response to address the impact of a crisis it helped to create. The acute crisis in Yemen needs more than what appears to be a logistical operations plan, with token gestures of humanitarian aid.”

As the IRC press release notes, the “aid” plan fails to do many of the things necessary for relieving the suffering of Yemen’s civilian population. First and most important, it fails to end the blockade that has done so much to create the disaster engulfing the country:

The severity of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen demands that all ports – including and especially Hodeidah and Saleef – remain permanently open. YCHO only extends the current 30-day window allowing access to Hodeidah for another 30 days, which makes little to no difference on the ground. If the Saudis were serious about addressing the humanitarian crisis, the most valuable step they could take would be to lift the blockade, permanently, which they and the international community should do without delay.

Of course, the Saudis and their allies are not serious about addressing the humanitarian crisis, because they caused it and have no interest in ending it. However, they want the rest of the world to think otherwise. Their “aid” plan was created to give the impression that they are doing something to remedy the catastrophe they have caused, but it simply isn’t true. This is why credulous reporting about Saudi “aid” efforts is so harmful to the cause of responding effectively to the humanitarian crisis.

The IRC press release concludes:

“A meaningful response to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis requires more access – not less. At best, this plan would shrink access and introduce new inefficiencies that would slow the response and keep aid from the neediest Yemenis, including the over 8 million on the brink of starvation,” said Catanzano. “At worst, it would dangerously politicize humanitarian aid by placing far too much control over the response in the hands of an active party to the conflict.”

The Saudi-led coalition continues its effort to starve Yemen into submission. It needs to be called out and condemned for that, and the U.S. and their other Western patrons need to pressure the Saudis and their allies to lift the blockade fully and permanently.

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 fromThe American Conservativewith permission.