Robert Fantina

In what ways is the US complicit in Yemen's humanitarian disaster?

The situation in Yemen is complex, with the U.S. supporting the Saudi Arabia puppet government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been bombing Yemen at least since 2015.

By Robert Fantina*


The news is awash with information about those things that the media tells the public it must care about. The G20 Summit; Donald Trump’s Russian ties; current sports scores and the latest celebrity marriage are all topics which viewers follow relentlessly.

Sadly, there are real things occurring in the world that deserve our attention, but are either underreported, or not reported on at all. Suffering in Gaza; child labor in Africa and many others are all but ignored.

One humanitarian disaster, which is caused by the United States and could be ended today by the U.S., is occurring in Yemen.

The situation in Yemen is complex, with the U.S. supporting the Saudi Arabia puppet government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been bombing Yemen at least since 2015.

And what is the result? The country is facing famine, which is entirely man made. A report by the ‘Integrated Food Security Phase Classification’ from March of this year said this: “Food security in Yemen has deteriorated further since the last IPC analysis conducted in June 2016. An estimated 17 million people, which is equivalent to 60% of the total Yemeni population, are food insecure and require urgent humanitarian assistance to save lives and protect livelihoods”. [1]

To put this in numbers, 7.3 million people are nearing starvation. This is roughly the total number of people living in Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore.

The Washington Post reported that “Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children languishing in refugee camps and remote villages are nearing starvation”[2]. Nearly 3 million people, more than 10% of the population, have had to flee their homes. Today, because of lack of food in refugee camps, about 1 million are returning to their homes, despite the mortal risk of doing so.[3] But for these people, the risk of death from bombs or U.S. and Saudi-led rebels is better than the sure knowledge of death by starvation.

Why is this happening? Why aren’t international aid organizations rushing to Yemen to prevent the starvation of hundreds of thousands of innocent children? The effort is being made, but is thwarted by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. A report from Britain’s Independent states that, in February of this year, Britons donated nearly $26 million (U.S) for famine relief in Yemen. “Yet we are in an intolerable bind where Britain’s development and humanitarian organizations try desperately to get aid and medicines, paid for by the British taxpayer, into Yemen while a Saudi-led coalition, of which Britain is a part, is pounding the very port facilities through which British taxpayer-funded support needs to pass.”[4]              

With war and starvation come disease. Aljazeera reported in June that “Yemen is facing a severe cholera epidemic, with the World Health Organization estimating there have been more than 530 deaths and more than 65,000 suspected cases of cholera since April”[5]. This indicates a lack of clean water and sanitation. These deaths are completely preventable; cholera is a disease that need not kill anyone, and wouldn’t have occurred at all in Yemen had it not been for the war.

To add to all this ugliness and suffering, reports are now coming from Yemen that the U.S. is working with United Arab Emirati (UAE) and Yemeni forces backed by the UAE to torture political prisoners. An Associated Press article quoted by Human Rights Watch in late June reported that prisoners in these torture centers “were ‘crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks,’ beaten, and trussed up on a ‘grill’ – a spit like a roast to which the victim is tied and spun in a circle of fire. Prisoners were also sexually assaulted, among other forms of abuse.” The article also alleges that some prisoners were transferred to a ship where US ‘polygraph experts’ and ‘psychological experts’ conducted interrogations”[6]. U.S. officials attempted to distance themselves from this after U.S. Department of Defense officials confirmed that U.S. military leaders knew about the allegations. They said that their investigation found that no torture occurred when U.S. forces were present. Apparently, in the eyes of the U.S. government, this absolves the U.S. from all responsibility.

Does it matter to the United States? After all, Yemen is a mainly Muslim country, and U.S. hostility towards Islam is now a part of government policy.

The political reasons for the war – a former dictator trying to hold on to his power, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. claiming Iran is supporting the rebels, etc. – are unimportant in the context of the suffering of innocent men, women and children. Depriving these innocents of the basics of sufficient food and clean water is a war crime, but the government of the United States, running the entire show in the Middle East, or at least trying to, always believes it is above the law.

What is to be done? What can the world do to prevent an entirely man-made disaster that has already killed tens of thousands of people, and has the potential of killing millions more, nearly all of whom are civilians, and millions of whom are children?

Petitions don’t help; government officials don’t care about the desires of the people. Demonstrations may draw attention to the issue, but not if the media chooses not to report them.

The only thing that works, even in an oligarchy like the U.S., is to vote. Even in a presidential election, when two awful candidates are representing the major parties, as was the case in the U.S. in 2016, voting is important; there are always many third-party candidates running. In next year’s mid-term elections in the U.S., voters should, as a general rule, vote against the incumbent.

The U.S., despite its waning influence in the world, is still able to call all the shots, waging war wherever it wants, and supporting such repressive regimes as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Until the people of the United States end their apathy, begin to care for their fellowmen and act upon those feelings, people in Yemen, Palestine, Syria and other places around the world will continue to suffer.














* Robert Fantina is an author and peace activist. His writing has appeared on Mondoweiss, Counterpunch, Trutout and other sites. His latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy

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