After 4 years of chaos, Obama’s “war of choice” has devolved into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As you might know, civilians in Yemen are paying the highest price for ongoing violence.
Remember the “Arab Spring,” that misleading, Euro-centric term used to characterize a period of dramatic political change in the Middle East? It began in late 2010 in Tunisia when an impoverished fruit and vegetable vendor set himself on fire in front of a government building. The young man— Mohamed Bouazizi—was the sole provider for his widowed mother and six siblings. The local police wanted to see his vendor’s permit; he didn’t have one. So they attempted to confiscate his cart. Mr. Bouazizi resisted; the cart was his sole means of earning a living. His refusal supposedly prompted a policewoman to slap him. This act of public humiliation was possibly the last straw for Mr. Bouazizi. Desperately poor and with no other means of support than his cart, the young man took his own life as a form of resistance to an otherwise hopeless situation in which the government and its various servants blocked all the exits to a life lived with dignity.
His death sparked a wave of protests across the country. Pro-democratic voices demanded that Tunisia’s iron-fisted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his regime relinquish power. He got the message and one month later closed shop and scurried out of town. And so it began—a wildfire that rapidly spread across Middle Eastern and North African countries in which the people rose up against their despotic overlords. There was nothing spring-like in these uprisings. Nor did they represent the sudden awakening of the Arab masses to the splendors of democracy and capitalism. Rather, the protests and demonstrations shared a unifying call for revolution, dignity, and the restoration of basic human rights—what generations of oppressive regimes had denied them. (The Arabic terms, transliterated, are thawra, karama, and haqooq.) In some cases, large-scale protests led to peaceful, though temporary transfers of power and a short-lived period of greater cultural and political freedom. In Syria and Yemen, protests met with a government crackdown and the emergence of warring factions that were all too soon embroiled in civil war.
In Yemen powerful tribal and military leaders side with pro-democracy protesters calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation. Protests erupt for the first time in January of 2011. The failure of negotiations between loyalists and members of the opposition leads to fighting in the city of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. In November, ten months later, President Saleh hands over power to his vice president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi assumes power after an election in which he is the only candidate. During the ensuing national dialogue, warring sides attempt to reconcile their differences. By 2014, the talks have failed. Angered by President Hadi’s failure to include Houthi representatives in his government, Houthi fighters from the north of the country take control of the capital. (Houthis belong to the Zaidi religious minority, an offshoot of Shia Islam. The Houthi resistance movement, or Ansar Allah, is named after Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi who founded the movement in the 1990s partly in response to the growing influence of Saudi Arabia’s Salafist Sunni ideology in Yemen.
President Hadi escapes to the port city of Aden and onward to Saudi Arabia. The country’s ruler, King Salman, is certain the Houthis are Iranian proxies. Determined to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in the region, he organizes a military coalition of predominately Sunni Arab states.
In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition intervenes in Yemen’s civil war. One of its principal goals is to restore to power the government of President Hadi and quell the insurgency. Reacting to the sudden outbreak of fighting, the Obama administration issues a press release announcing its support for the military coalition and begins to expedite the delivery of arms to the nations involved:
“In response to the deteriorating security situation, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, and others will undertake military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government.As announced by GCC members earlier tonight, they are taking this action at the request of Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The United States coordinates closely with Saudi Arabia and our GCC partners on issues related to their security and our shared interests. In support of GCC actions to defend against Houthi violence, President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations. While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.”
After 4 years of chaos, Obama’s “war of choice” has devolved into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As you might expect, civilians in Yemen are paying the highest price for the ongoing violence. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, all sides in this conflict have violated international law without being held accountable (as usual:)
“Houthi forces have used banned antipersonnel landmines, recruited children, and fired artillery indiscriminately into cities such as Taizz and Aden, killing and wounding civilians, and launched indiscriminate rockets into Saudi Arabia.
Both sides have harassed, threatened, and attacked Yemeni activists and journalists. Houthi forces, government-affiliated forces, and the UAE and UAE-backed Yemeni forces have arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared scores. Houthi forces have taken hostages. Forces in Aden beat, raped, and tortured detained migrants.”
In addition to these charges, both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have made an already catastrophic humanitarian situation worse by blocking or confiscating food, medical supplies, and fuel necessary to keep hospital generators functioning and pump water to homes. A UN-commissioned report undertaken by the University of Denver finds that more of Yemen’s civilians are dying from hunger, disease, and a dearth of health clinics than from actual fighting. By the end of 2019, an estimated 131,000 Yemenis will have died from these collateral consequences of the war and its destruction of civilian infrastructure, including the targeting of hospitals by Saudi planes. Four years of war have had a particularly devastating effect on pregnant women and new mothers who are acutely malnourished. In 2018 approximately 410,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women seen by health clinic staff suffered from acute malnutrition. According to Dr. Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children’s field manager in the port city of Hodeidah, “This is a creeping but catastrophic consequence of the brutal conflict. We regularly see hungry pregnant women surviving on just one meal of bread and tea a day. Many come to our clinics unable to walk, too exhausted from not getting enough to eat.”
Maternal malnutrition threatens both the mother and the child, and is one of the leading causes of miscarriages along with infections, severe vitamin deficiency, and fear. Babies who survive may be born prematurely, have low birth weight, and stunted growth, which has adverse, long-term effects on the child’s mental and physical development. Dr. Hayat, whom Save the Children field workers interviewed for a recent report, described the all-too-typical results of maternal malnutrition during pregnancy:
“The pregnancy progresses normally but due to malnutrition when she reaches a certain month, she miscarries. Suddenly, [the family] calls me that she has pain, and I go to her. She would have heavy bleeding, and we take her in an ambulance to the city. There would be nothing that I could do for her.”
Periodic Saudi blockades of Yemen’s port cities, supported by the US and UK, are imposed to restrict the importation of arms to the warring parties. Unfortunately, the blockades also prevent the delivery of essential humanitarian items like drugs and medical supplies. Journalist Peter Osborne, reporting for Middle East Eye in 2016, spoke with Dr. Ahmed alHaifi in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a about the consequences of these blockades:
[Dr.] al-Haifi estimated that 25 people were dying every day at the hospital for want of medical supplies. ‘We are unable to get medical supplies,’ [he said.] ‘Anaesthetics. Medicines for kidneys. There are babies dying in incubators because we can’t get supplies to treat them. They call it natural death, but it’s not. If we had the medicines, they wouldn’t be dead. I consider them killed as if they were killed by an air strike, because if we had the medicines they would still be alive.’
Since the war began, there have been roughly 12,000 reported fatalities from the direct targeting of civilians. Of these, nearly 70% are from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on hospitals, homes, schools, factories, and markets, among other civilian targets. In other words, the coalition, aided and abetted by the US and UK, are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths. Equally complicit in prolonging this carnage is our own mainstream media, content to provide Donald Trump and his steady stream of lies and offenses with maximum coverage while scarcely mentioning the bloodshed and mayhem in Yemen—tragic consequences of the administration’s desire to keep US weapons makers (Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, et al) fat and sassy no matter how many lives are lost in the process, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with its Persian Gulf allies, particularly Saudi Arabia.
UN assessments, without exception, reveal a grim reality for the people of Yemen. The war and the collapse of the economy have brought the country to the brink of famine. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “An estimated 80 per cent of the population—24 million people—require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.4 million, or 53% of the population, who are at risk of starving to death. Nearly 400,000 Yemeni children suffer from acute malnutrition, rendering them susceptible to infections, disease, and stunting.
Attacks on civilian infrastructure have seriously degraded the country’s ability to provide clean water and medical services. Under such conditions, easily preventable diseases are spreading. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that there are now 1.1 million Yemenis suffering from cholera. The estimated 3 million Yemenis who have abandoned their homes to escape the violence have become either internally displaced or have sought refuge in neighboring countries like Oman, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, and even Saudi Arabia. Literally millions of internally displaced Yemenis struggle to survive in makeshift shelters.
If you are proud to be an American and have supported either the Demorat Obama or the Republicon Trump, I hope you understand that the actions described above rest on your soul and that the $20 you toss into the collection plate on Sundays will do nothing to save it….
If you are brave enough, Learn More at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/51839.htm