Saudi Arabia Escalates Genocidal, American-Backed War in Yemen

U.S. Rulers Maneuver as 14 Million Yemenis on Brink of Starvation

| Revolution Newspaper |


The Saudi-led coalition’s three-and-a-half-year-long war of aggression on Yemen has killed tens of thousands, pushed millions to the brink of starvation, and created the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world today. This war has been enabled and supported by the U.S. and Britain from the start—with planes, bombs, intelligence, refueling, ships, special operations forces, and more.

In early November, the Saudi-led coalition escalated this murderous—and potentially genocidal—assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah with near continuous airstrikes that have already killed hundreds.

Between 70 and 80 percent of Yemen’s food, medicine, and other aid comes through Hodeidah. This Saudi-led escalation is obviously aimed at seizing control of this lifeline in order to starve the Houthi movement and Yemen’s people into surrender (or strengthen the U.S.-Saudi position at any peace negotiations). But this criminal assault is already putting millions more Yemenis in danger.

In recent weeks, there have been temporary ceasefires, and peace talks between the Saudi coalition, Yemen’s Houthi movement, and the other parties involved have been scheduled to begin in December. But it is far from clear whether they will actually take place or what the outcome will be, so the danger of a renewed Saudi-led offensive looms ominously.

Starvation and Disease: Weapons of War, Backed by the U.S.

The Saudis have been waging a war whose strategy involves starving and sickening the Yemeni people. The Saudis have blockaded food, medicine, and other needed goods, while bombing Yemen’s food, water, and medical systems, and infrastructure. In other words, the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition is using starvation and disease as weapons of war—a savage, monstrous war crime.

On November 17, the Guardian reported that Hodeidah’s “largest public hospital was attacked three times in the last week, forcing patients—some of whom were still connected to medical devices—to run into the streets.” It also reported that the cost of basic food staples had doubled in the last eight months as incomes dropped. “For a country that’s dependent on imports for the basic needs of life, this is disaster,” one relief worker told the paper.1

The number of Yemenis now on the brink of starvation has skyrocketed from 8.4 million to over 14 million. “Every ten minutes, a Yemeni child under the age of five dies from ‘severe acute malnourishment’ or preventable diseases, UNICEF reports.” Relief officials call this the worst famine in 100 years—on top of the worst cholera epidemic in modern history—which makes previous famines such as the 1944 Bengal famine which killed three million and the famine in Rwanda which took 800,000 lives pale in comparison.

Meanwhile, new studies have shown that the number directly killed in the war, mainly by U.S. and British bombs dropped by the Saudi coalition, is at least 57,000 people—over five times more than previously reported.

One heartbreaking reality: child marriages have sharply risen because destitute parents have been forced to marry off daughters they can no longer feed!

One aid worker called the situation in Yemen an “apocalyptic scenario.”

Sharp Differences Among U.S. Rulers Over How to Pursue Their Predatory Interests

On October 30, the State Department called for a “peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen,” and Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis have called for a ceasefire by the end of November. The U.S. has also ended mid-air refueling of Saudi warplanes.

The heartless oppressors heading the imperialist state aren’t taking these steps because they suddenly give a damn about human life and suffering. And it is far from clear that the Trump/Pence regime itself is united on an approach. (See “Dissecting (and Revealing the Truth in) Trump’s Cold-Blooded Statement on Murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi: ‘The World Is a Very Dangerous Place’... and We’re Going to Commit Any Crime, Tell Any Lie, and Support Any Butcher to Keep ‘America First’!”) But to the degree the regime is pursuing this path, they are doing so because of the sharp contradictions the war in Yemen poses for them and Saudi Arabia.

Some in the U.S. ruling class fear that Yemen has turned into an unwinnable quagmire that (along with Khashoggi’s murder and other crises) may be gravely weakening the Saudi kingdom, which has been one of the linchpins of the U.S. empire—its Middle East domination in particular—since 1945. (One Washington Post columnist wrote, “The bottom line: Saudi Arabia is at an existential tipping point. The United States urgently needs to understand how the kingdom got into this grisly mess, and where it’s going.”)

Today, the U.S. rulers see Iran, whose reach is growing and contention with Saudi Arabia for influence is sharpening, as the main threat to their control of the Middle East. They may have concluded that continuing the war in Yemen could create openings for Iran, weaken Saudi Arabia, and make it more difficult for the Saudis to help spearhead the Trump/Pence regime’s full-court press against Iran’s Islamic Republic.2

The war in Yemen has also exposed the U.S., Britain, and France—supposedly the “good guys” in the world—as guilty of abetting some of the most massive, murderous war crimes taking place anywhere on earth. The horrors of this U.S.-Saudi war are being driven home to millions around the world who are now seeing pictures of emaciated, starving children. The exposure of such brutal atrocities has the potential to cause many all over the world to question the legitimacy of those who’ve carried them out, and this can have profound consequences for the rulers—as we’ve seen in previous wars like Vietnam.

So the imperialists are maneuvering, including calling for a ceasefire and peace talks. But they’re doing so in ways that further their imperialist interests and which leave open the possibility of further, genocidal escalations.

For example, when the U.S. suspended its mid-air refueling of Saudi warplanes, Mattis stated it was done in consultation with the Saudis, who can now refuel their own planes. He also made clear the U.S. would continue to back the Saudi war in Yemen, and “collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces.” The U.S. didn’t end other forms of military support to the Saudis. It’s recently been revealed that the Pentagon is carrying out a secret operation in support of the Saudi military in Yemen, in addition to its deployment of Green Berets on the Yemen-Saudi border. (Yahoo News, 11/10) In short, while the Trump/Pence regime—or some elements of it—may be pressuring the Saudis to end the war, it’s attempting to do so without weakening them.

Further, the U.S. and the Saudis will attempt to advance their reactionary interests through whatever “ceasefires” or talks that take place. Pompeo and the Trump/Pence regime have put the burden of ending this U.S.-Saudi-UAE aggression on the targets of that aggression, Yemen’s Houthi movement. The Houthis are a religiously based reactionary movement in Yemen which has long opposed Saudi efforts to dominate that country. Now the U.S. is demanding that the Houthis have to stop fighting first, and only then will the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition cease its bombings and assaults.

(The Houthis have some ties with Iran, and a Houthi victory or Saudi defeat could open the door to greater Iranian influence. But calling Yemen a “proxy war” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. media repeatedly does, is a lie. It’s like calling Israel’s murderous assaults on Gaza a “war” rather than the one-sided slaughter that they are.)

Meanwhile, Pompeo has condemned Iran for doing nothing to “prevent the starvation” in Yemen—never mind that Iran has no boots or the ground or planes in the air over Yemen and the U.S. itself and Saudi Arabia bear overwhelming responsibility for the carnage.

In sum, the U.S. rulers are now seeking an end to the war in Yemen (which may or may not take place) on terms favorable to their imperialist interests, including to stabilize the barbaric, medieval kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and to better prepare for more aggression and greater crimes to come... against Iran.

This System Cannot Be Reformed, It Must Be Overthrown...

This war (and other wars) continue, despite exposure after exposure of their terrible toll because the U.S.-dominated system of capitalism-imperialism cannot function without exploiting labor, resources, and markets around the world, and politically and militarily dominating key strategic regions like the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and other blood-soaked oppressors like Israel and Egypt play key roles in America’s exercise of this dominance. The dynamics of their system compel the imperialists to compete, maneuver, and if need be go to war with other powers or forces—large and small—to maintain and extend their grip. This is why devastating reactionary wars can never be ended under this system—doing that requires a revolution to overthrow this system.

It is unacceptable—and unnecessary—that 14 million people in Yemen are forced to the brink of starvation by this war, among its other great horrors. On the basis of the reality of these horrors, the legitimacy of these regimes—U.S. and Saudi—should be laid bare, and the illegitimacy of this whole system of capitalism-imperialism brought to the fore. Their maneuvers to escalate their aggression against Iran need to be exposed, opposed, and resisted. Their “victories” strengthen their global empire of enslavement and oppression while their defeats and failure, in conjunction with what revolutionaries and masses of people do in relation to that, can weaken their ability to carry out further atrocities, and can contribute to exposing the illegitimacy of the whole setup, hastening its demise.

STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!


1. “UK to push Saudis for Yemen ceasefire,” November 17. [back]

2. Vali Naser, a scholar and former official in the Obama administration, points to some of the rulers’ concerns in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder: “Middle East strategy is in deep trouble, now compounded by the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month. The administration’s recent pressure on the Saudis to seek a truce in their war in Yemen is a clear signal of just how much the credibility of Saudi Arabia, which is at the heart of that strategy, has shrunk…. The strategy’s goal was to work with the Saudis to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East.” “A Saudi Murder Becomes a Gift to Iran,” New York Times, November 12. [back]

Seven-year-old Amal Hussein, whose name means "hope" in Arabic, is weighed at a health center in Hajjah, Yemen. August 2018. The number of Yemenis now on the brink of starvation has skyrocketed from 8.4 million to over 14 million. "Every ten minutes, a Yemeni child under the age of five dies from 'severe acute malnourishment' or preventable diseases," UNICEF reports. Photo: AP

Yemen mapMap:

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The Democrats: An Alternative When It Comes to Unjust Wars of Empire?

Some House Democrats introduced a resolution calling for an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen. On November 14, this move was blocked by House Republicans who prevented the measure from being voted on. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi responded, citing a letter from former Obama administration officials who wrote that “It is past time for America’s role in this disastrous war in Yemen to end” and that “Real, immediate action must be taken by the Congress to end this horrific humanitarian crisis.”

This does not mean the Democrats are better than the bellicose fascists of the Trump/Pence regime when it comes to opposing unjust wars. They are just as beholden to the needs and imperatives of imperialist empire as the Republicans. They just have differences over how—not whether—to maintain their system that’s led to war after war and death and suffering for literally tens of millions of people.

Let’s look at the recent evidence, just in relation to the war in Yemen. If the Democrats were actually opposed to unjust wars, then:

*They would have raised hell when Obama green-lighted the Saudi war in 2015 and supported it for the nearly two years remaining in his term. (Obama curtailed some weapons shipments, but it was a small fraction of the $112 billion worth he’d sold them!)

*Their Yemen resolution would not have explicitly supported wars launched under the authorization to use military force passed in 2001, an open-ended blank check that the U.S. used to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and rain death by drone on countries across the Middle East to this day.

*They would not be running pro-war military veterans for Congress.

*And they would be building mass opposition to U.S. wars, especially such blatantly barbaric criminal wars as the U.S.-Saudi war in Yemen, rather than staying silent. They’d be exposing how Yemen’s health care system was being obliterated, rather than just focusing on health care for Americans.

So no, these examples (and their actions over decades) show that while the Democrats may feel that certain moves internationally may harm America’s imperialist interests, they’re most definitely neither defenders of humanity’s interests nor real opponents of U.S. wars of empire.


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