When Senator Chris Murphy finally got his opportunity last week to underline the sickening conditions resulting from the Saudi-US blockade suffocating the Middle-East’s poorest nation, Yemen, he was greeted to a suspiciously empty chamber; many Senators presumably coming down with a rare form of man-flu that only strikes when the agenda switches from debating massive tax handouts for the super rich to debating US-sanctioned genocide.
He ploughed on, and for a fairly establishment-type Democrat who sits on the hawkish Senate Intelligence Committee, he pulled no punches in presenting the grim reality. He valiantly didn’t shy away from the blood-soaked elephant in the room: that this isn’t some natural disaster you see in Oxfam commercials, these people are the victims of direct US foreign policy decisions, being peppered by missiles designed and manufactured in Tucson, Arizona and Waltham, Massachusetts.
The day before, on the other side of Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives voted convincingly (366-30) to say that no legislative body of the United States has authorised the onslaught in Yemen. The Pentagon will now have to justify its actions in support of 32-year-old Defence Minister and De Facto leader of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman’s intervention that has claimed the lives of 12,000 Yemeni civilians.
130 children die every day from disease and famine in Yemen in what the UN has called the ‘world’s largest humanitarian crisis.’ pic.twitter.com/GhEKX0Qv0H
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) November 21, 2017
Yemen is a country that, before the war, looked to import ~95% of its food, and 100% of its medicine. It didn’t exactly require clairvoyance to predict what would happen when the Saudi-US coalition closed the nation’s ports. Cholera, a disease which was first successfully vaccinated against some 150 years ago, is desolating the country, with a million people expected to be suffering from the illness by the end of the year. 80% of Yemenis face severe malnutrition.
The use of starvation as a weapon is a war crime. A coalition that includes the US, and the tacit support of the UK, is committing clear violations of the Geneva convention.
The UN have been documenting breaches of international law in Yemen since mid-2015. They completed a report back in January 2016 demonstrating 119 cases of drone strikes that flagrantly targeted or made no attempt to avoid Yemeni civilians. Saudi leaders viewed the report and claimed that they would ‘investigate the rules of engagement’. Their investigation must have concluded that they could push things further without the toothless UN taking meaningful action, because the bulk of civilian casualties comes after this report was received.
The US have always remained safely one step away from the action in order to provide plausible deniability of the horrors taking place, but there is no doubt that their role is closer to orchestrator than a mere supporter of their Saudi allies. US operations in the region have avoided scrutiny by claiming to provide ‘advisory and logistical support to the military intervention’. This narrative began to fall apart when Yemenis found Raytheon missiles amongst almost every wreckage, from hospitals to mosques and community centres.
Now that the primary issue is starvation and illness, the ‘logistical and advisory’ service that the US provides, which includes the administering of ports that are turning away cargo ships, can no longer be downplayed as mundane assistance to help untangle their allies’ military obstacles and must be viewed instead for what it really is: a contrived US effort to win a war by starving a civilian populace. A violation of the international laws of war in a conflict that was never given the green light by elected legislators.
Congress are finally starting to ask questions. Now they must be answered.
Leak of Nations | Yemen