The Long, Brutal US War on Children in the Middle East

On November 28, sixty-three U.S. Senators voted in favor of holding a floor debate on a resolution calling for an end to direct US Armed Forces involvement in the Saudi-UAE coalition-led war on Yemen. Describing the vote as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and the Trump Administration, AP reported on Senate dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi last month. Just before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called current objections to US relations with Saudi Arabia "Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on."

The "caterwaul" on Capitol Hill reflects years of determined effort by grassroots groups to end US involvement in war on Yemen, fed by mounting international outrage at the last three years of war that have caused the deaths of an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under age five.

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people endure conflict-driven famine, a hue and cry – yes, a caterwaul – most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

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Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament

In the state of Georgia’s Glynn County Detention Center, four activists await trial stemming from their nonviolent action, on April 4, 2018, at the Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay. In all, seven Catholic plowshares activists acted that day, aiming to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to "beat swords into plowshares." The Kings Bay is home port to six nuclear armed Trident ballistic missile submarines with the combined explosive power of over 9000 Hiroshima bombs.

This week, five people have gathered for a fast and vigil, near the Naval Base, calling it "Hunger for Nuclear Disarmament."

Kindly hosts in Brunswick, GA turned over their Air B and B to us. The accommodation is a remodeled garage – were we not fasting we might find the kitchen a bit crowded, but for us, this week, the accommodations are ideal. Egrets, ospreys and vultures glide overhead. Huge live oaks surround us, looming and beautiful, draped in Spanish moss. Tannins released from the oak trees seep into the nearby river, historically a source of fresh water because the tannins killed the bugs. Centuries ago, colonizers would fill huge containers with "brown" water from the river, water in which the bugs couldn’t survive, and use that water for their drinking needs throughout their voyages back to Europe.

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Kathy Kelly on Scourging Yemen

On May 10, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia informed the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Saudi Air Defenses intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles launched from inside Yemeni territory targeting densely populated civilian areas in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. No one was killed, but an earlier attack, on March 26, 2018, killed one Egyptian worker in Riyadh and an April 28 attack killed a Saudi man.

Unlike the unnumbered victims of the Saudis’ own ongoing bombardment of Yemen, these two precious, irreplaceable lives are easy to document and count. Death tolls have become notoriously difficult to count accurately in Yemen. Three years of U.S.-supported blockades and bombardments have plunged the country into immiseration and chaos.

In their May 10th request, the Saudis asked the UN to implement “all relevant Security Council resolutions in order to prevent the smuggling of additional weapons to the Houthis, and to hold violators of the arms embargo accountable.” The letter accuses Iran of furnishing the Houthi militias with stockpiles of ballistic missiles, UAVs, and sea mines. The Saudis’ letter omits mention of massive U.S. weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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Kathy Kelly on A Treacherous Crossing

On January 23rd an overcrowded smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Aden in Southern Yemen. Smugglers packed 152 passengers from Somalia and Ethiopia in the boat and then, while at sea, reportedly pulled guns on the migrants to extort additional money from them. The boat capsized, according to The Guardian, after the shooting prompted panic. The death toll, currently 30, is expected to rise. Dozens of children were on board.

The passengers had already risked the perilous journey from African shores to Yemen, a dangerous crossing that leaves people vulnerable to false promises, predatory captors, arbitrary detention and tortuous human rights violations. Sheer desperation for basic needs has driven hundreds of thousands of African migrants to Yemen. Many hope, upon arrival, they can eventually travel to prosperous Gulf countries further north where they might find work and some measure of security. But the desperation and fighting in southern Yemen were horrible enough to convince most migrants that boarded the smuggling boat on January 23rd to try and return to Africa.

Referring to those who drowned when the boat capsized, Amnesty International’s Lynn Maalouf said: "This heartbreaking tragedy underscores, yet again, just how devastating Yemen’s conflict continues to be for civilians. Amid ongoing hostilities and crushing restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, many people who came to Yemen to flee conflict and repression elsewhere are now being forced yet again to flee in search of safety. Some are dying in the process."

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41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo by Kathy Kelly

January 11, 2018 marked the 16th year that Guantanamo prison has exclusively imprisoned Muslim men, subjecting many of them to torture and arbitrary detention.

About thirty people gathered in Washington D.C., convened by Witness Against Torture, (WAT), for a weeklong fast intended to close Guantanamo and abolish torture forever. Six days ago, Matt Daloisio arrived from New York City in a van carefully packed with twelve years’ worth of posters and banners, plus sleeping bags, winter clothing and other essentials for the week.

Matt spent an hour organizing the equipment in the large church hall housing us. “He curates it,” said one WAT organizer.

Later, Matt reflected that many of the prisoners whose visages and names appear on our banners have been released. In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. Shaker Aamer has been reunited with the son whom he had never met while imprisoned in Guantanamo. Mohammed Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, has finally been released. These encouraging realities don’t in the slightest diminish the urgency we feel in seeking the release of the 41 men still imprisoned in Guantanamo.

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Remaining Peaceful Was Their Choice

People living now in Yemen’s third largest city, Ta’iz, have endured unimaginable circumstances for the past three years. Civilians fear to go outside lest they be shot by a sniper or step on a land mine. Both sides of a worsening civil war use Howitzers, Kaytushas, mortars and other missiles to shell the city. Residents say no neighborhood is safer than another, and human rights groups report appalling violations, including torture of captives. Two days ago, a Saudi-led coalition bomber killed 54 people in a crowded market place.

Before the civil war developed, the city was regarded as the official cultural capital of Yemen, a place where authors and academics, artists and poets chose to live. Ta’iz was home to a vibrant, creative youth movement during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Young men and women organized massive demonstrations to protest the enrichment of entrenched elites as ordinary people struggled to survive.

The young people were exposing the roots of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

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