America is the world champion for unprovoked invasions of countries. The American Way of War is famous for “death at a distance”—mass indiscriminate killings of civilians by planes, artillery, drones or just soldiers “going full auto” (unloading an automatic weapon) on civilians—as they used to say in Vietnam.
“I know all that,” you say. “But this is different. And that’s in the past.”
Okay—or not “okay” really, because billions live with the consequences of that past1 every day—let’s take one, very current example: the U.S.-backed war in Yemen. The war most people in this country don’t even know is going on because 99 percent of the time, America’s servile “free press” voluntarily reports only what is in the service of U.S. imperialism.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is located directly to the south of Saudi Arabia, one of the richest, and more importantly, a key U.S. ally in the struggle to control the Middle East, an economically and strategically crucial part of the U.S. empire.
Further north is Iran, which is contending with the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia for regional power and influence.
In 2014, a religious-political movement known as the Houthi overthrew the Saudi-backed, corrupt and unpopular government. The Houthi are broadly aligned with Iran, and so a Houthi government in Yemen is considered intolerable by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. (For a full analysis of the war in Yemen, including disputes in the U.S. ruling class about it, see “Saudi Arabia Escalates Genocidal, American-Backed War in Yemen; U.S. Rulers Maneuver as 14 Million Yemenis on Brink of Starvation” at revcom.us.)
Thus in 2015, Saudi Arabia, with full U.S. backing, pulled together a coalition to militarily attack and invade Yemen, and impose an “acceptable” government. While the coalition has over a dozen members, the military core is Saudi air power, plus land forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), beefed up by tens of thousands of child soldiers as young as 14, recruited mainly from the impoverished Darfur region of Sudan, who do much of the actual fighting for the Saudi/UAE coalition.
Yemen quickly became the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Close to 400,000 people are estimated to have died either directly in combat or due to famine and disease caused by the war. Seventy percent of these deaths were reportedly children under the age of five!
And the U.S. is all-in on this war. Through three administrations (Obama,2 Trump, Biden3), the U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military support—this year alone it sold $670 million in anti-tank missiles and other weaponry to Saudi Arabia. U.S. commandos reportedly train Saudi/UAE troops; Green Berets, intelligence agents and surveillance planes provide and interpret information for Saudi/UAE military actions; the Saudis drop U.S.-made bombs from U.S.-made planes that are refueled inflight by U.S. aircraft. A Yemeni man said it plain to PBS in 2018:
The missiles that kill us, American-made. The plane that kills us, American-made. The tanks, Abrams, American-made. You’re saying to me, “Where is America [in this war]?” America is the whole thing.
On top of this, the U.S. has provided political cover: ignoring, downplaying or justifying Saudi/UAE atrocities. This has been so blatant that in September, 2020, the New York Times reported that the U.S. was “scrambling for a legal shield” against “potential legal liability for aiding and abetting war crimes,” in relation to “13,500 civilians [killed] in targeted attacks.” The Times noted that “U.S. officials have had full knowledge of the pattern of indiscriminate killing, which makes them legally vulnerable.” But to this day, they have never let up on their military support, and never stopped covering for Saudi crimes.
To get a sense of the scope of this, read the accompanying box compiled from a range of sources.
For anyone to go on and gush about Ukraine, and even call for the U.S. to “do more,” but say nothing—or perhaps even know nothing—about Yemen, is shameful. The question is this: will you turn a blind eye to this, or will you oppose all oppression—especially that which “your own” rulers carry out or sponsor?
Biden’s Promises as an Excuse for Liberal Self-Delusion—a “LIE”!!!
In terms of the war and the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, in Biden’s first foreign policy speech, he promised:
We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen—a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe. I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks.
… And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.
Liberals who found such promises a reason to turn off their moral compasses should consider the findings of the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank closely associated with the Democratic Party. While couching their conclusion as an expression of Biden’s “naiveté” (really? after decades as a high-level operative of the U.S. ruling class?!) and the influence of the arms industry (as opposed to the actual strategic interests of the U.S.), their report concludes that “Biden’s assertion that the U.S. would end support for offensive operations is a lie.” (emphasis added)
Essentially Biden’s definition of “offensive operations” was framed and implemented in such a way that the U.S.-supported genocidal Saudi air raids on Yemen were deemed a “defensive” operation because the raids were “responding to” acts by the other side in the war.
Further, Biden said nothing about, much less call for an immediate end to the U.S.-backed Saudi blockade that is literally starving and killing massive numbers of people in Yemen by keeping out essential food, fuel, and medicine or making these necessities prohibitively expensive. And, while this is kept almost completely secret, the U.S. Navy itself, not just the Saudis, is playing a role in imposing that blockade.
And so, despite Biden’s crocodile tears and hypocritical lip service to caring about the human cost, “America’s strategic interests” dictate that the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world” continues to sponsor the most horrific crimes against humanity.
The Crimes of the U.S.-Sponsored War in Yemen
What follows is a compilation of what the U.S.-sponsored war against Yemen, waged primarily by the U.S. ally Saudi Arabia (as well as the United Arab Emirates—UAE, and other U.S. allies), has done. If you are intimidated by the long list of bullet points that follow, just remember that every single one of them is shedding light on crimes against humanity that brought down great suffering and death on millions of innocent people, and that they were carried out in your name, backed by your rulers, and for the most part, accompanied by your silence.
2015-2016: Attacks on Hospitals and Civilian Infrastructure
A 2017 report from Save the Children is the main source for the next listing of war crimes during the first 18 months of the war:
- In late 2015 and 2016, the Saudis conducted hundreds of airstrikes against Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, population 2.5 million, and the surrounding area. In addition to military targets, the strikes hit “civilian infrastructure, including residential areas, schools, places of worship and medical facilities.” For at least 18 months, electricity was only available in the city for between 15 minutes and two hours each day.
- In April 2015, Saudi airstrikes on Sana’a damaged a medical facility and civilian infrastructure: “at least 1,000 people were trapped in the area without food or medicine for more than 2 weeks.”
- In May 2015, Saudi airstrikes damaged Sana’s’s main public hospital.
- On May 8, 2015, the Saudi military declared the entire city of Saada, 100,000 people, to be a “military target” and demanded that everyone “evacuate by 7 pm” that day.
- In September 2015, the Al Sabeen Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Sana’a was damaged by Saudi airstrikes.
- In October 2015, the World Health Organization reported that at least 19 medical facilities in Sana’a had been damaged by Saudi attacks in just the past six months.
- On October 26, 2015, Saudi bombs destroyed a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders) in the Saada governate. The hospital served 200,000 people, was clearly marked as a medical facility, and had previously provided the Saudis with its GPS coordinates.*
- On January 5, 2016, a Saudi airstrike hit a rehabilitation center for the blind in Sana'a.
- On January 10, 2016, a missile hit another MSF-backed hospital in Saada, killing six, wounding ten, and depriving 120,000 people of hospital access. Two weeks later, a Saudi rocket hit the same hospital.
- In February, 2016, “Shelling hit the only cancer hospital [in Taiz, a city of 600,000 people] and the children’s hospital, shutting them down.”
- In August 2016, a Saudi airstrike on the MSF-run Abs Hospital in the Hajjah governate, killed 19 people and wounded 24. MSF withdrew staff from six hospitals in the region in response.
Save the Children reported that in 2016, the UN listed the Saudis (along with the Houthis) as “perpetrators of grave violations against children,” but quickly removed Saudi Arabia from the list “following pressure from Saudi Arabia and its allies.” [Emphasis added.]
2017: Blockades of Food and Medical Aid Meant for Children
- BBC reports that in early 2017, the Saudi coalition, which at that time controlled the port of Hodeida, blocked the import of supplies that Save the Children used to treat children for diarrhea, malaria, measles and malnutrition. Aid groups are also cited as saying that “a de facto naval blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition has ‘significantly restricted’ imports of food, medicines and fuel.”
2018: Rampant Sexual Torture in UAE-Controlled Prisons: “I wish for death every day and I can’t find it”
In June 2018, the Associated Press released a report on a “hidden network” of at least 18 torture-prisons run by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen. Among the crimes reported:
- Hundreds of Yemeni detainees being held without charges were sodomized on the pretext that they were hiding cellphones in their bodies. AP reports that “the men screamed and wept. Those who resisted were threatened by barking dogs and beaten until they bled.”
- Some prisoners were videotaped as they were raped, and the recordings were then used to blackmail the victims into becoming informants.
- One victim said “They tortured me without even accusing me of anything. Sometimes I wish they would give me a charge so I can confess and end this pain. The worst thing about it is that I wish for death every day and I can’t find it.”
- A father of four said that sometimes the screaming of torture victims is so loud that he can feel his cell shake. “It’s beyond imagination.”
- At least one torture-prison is located on a UAE base where both prisoners and security officials report the presence of U.S. personnel. Prisoners told the AP that the Americans had to be aware it was going on, “either because they have heard screams or seen marks of torture.”
- Confronted with all this by the AP, a U.S. military spokesman claimed that the U.S. has seen no evidence of detainee abuse in Yemen.
2018: Attacks on Port Accelerate Starvation and Epidemic Disease
- In 2018 aid organizations already considered Yemen to be “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” with 22 million facing hunger and one million cases of cholera.
- The port city of Hodeida is normally the through-point for 70-80 percent of Yemen’s food and humanitarian aid that could at least lessen the disaster. Hodeida itself was under Houthi control at that time, but the whole city was under siege by the Saudi/UAE, choking the flow of food, medicine and aid, in or out.
- The UN declared Hodeida itself as “one airstrike away from an unstoppable” cholera epidemic. The Hodeida area has 600,000 people—300,000 are children.
- In June, Saudi/UAE forces launched a concerted air and land attack on Hodeida, claiming they wanted to “ensure the flow of humanitarian aid.” Houthi forces offered to turn port operations over to the United Nations, but the Saudi forces reportedly rejected this and continued their attack.
- In July, the Saudis bombed Hodeida’s main sanitation and water station!
- The International Rescue Committee summed up that Saudi/UAE claims to humanitarian intentions were “a publicity stunt meant to draw attention away from the undue suffering the attack is causing,” and that their “so-called relief plan ... must be seen for exactly what it is; a justification to launch an attack that will have catastrophic consequences.”
- On November 17, the Guardian reported that Hodeida’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.”
2018: Mass Murder of Yemeni Children and Other Civilians
- On August 9, as revcom.us reported, “a bus full of children was returning from a recreational outing in Saada in northern Yemen. Suddenly, without warning, it was hit by a missile fired by a Saudi Arabian warplane. The bus was obliterated. Body parts were strewn all over the crowded street: 40 children on the bus had been massacred and another 56 wounded”
- The bus was destroyed by an MK82, a laser-guided, 500-pound bomb made by Lockheed Martin, sold to the Saudis by the United States. A similar bomb killed 155 people in a 2016 Saudi attack on a funeral.
- The Saudis claimed that they were aiming at a “legitimate target”—supposedly, a missile launcher. But the attack took place in the middle of crowded market and there is no evidence the “missile launcher” existed. In fact, this attack was just one of at least 50 Saudi strikes on civilian vehicles in Yemen in just the first eight months of 2018.
- The U.S. does not appear to have ever acknowledged or apologized for its role in the slaughter of the school children and never publicly criticized the Saudis for this massacre.
- Human Rights Watch reported that the Joint International Assessment Team set up by the Saudi coalition to supposedly monitor and reduce their own attacks on civilians ended up justifying 73 out of 75 of the attacks they “investigated.”
- On September 12, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress that “the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
- The international humanitarian organization Oxfam denounced Pompeo’s “certification” as having no basis in “facts, moral code or humanitarian law,” and said the U.S. was “literally fueling the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
2019-2022: “Escalation of Conflict … Millions Face Risks”
- In February 2019, the United Nations relief agency said that “The escalation of the conflict since March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights.”
- On March 26, 2019 a Saudi missile killed seven people, including four children, at a Save the Children-supported hospital in rural northwest Yemen. The New York Times noted that, four years into the war, “Despite repeated Saudi pledges to honor prohibitions on attacking civilian targets, the conflict has been punctuated by airstrikes on hospitals, markets and public gatherings, including funerals and weddings.”
- In September 2019, a Saudi airstrike hit a university that was being used as a detention center, killing at least 70 people and perhaps as many as 100. Sixty more were wounded. Many were captured fighters from the Saudi/UAE forces; some were reportedly people critical of the Houthis.
- In March 2020, the Yemen Data Project issued a report stating that in the first five years of war, Saudi Arabia staged at least 20,624 air raids, and that at least a third of these hit civilian targets. The report also stated medical facilities were bombed 83 times.
- In October 2021, the United Nations removed its human rights monitors from Yemen, over strong protests from human rights groups. In February 2022, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that the withdrawal had unleashed “horrific violations”; that civilian deaths had almost doubled; and that deaths from Saudi air raids had increased by 39 times.
- Also in October, the World Food Programme reported that 16.2 million Yemenis were “food insecure,” and that five million were “on the brink of famine.”
- An Al Jazeera article noted that “Analysts have said that Yemen faces a bleak future, stoking fears that ongoing violence may exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.”
- On January 21, 2022, Saudi airstrikes hit a Houthi detention center, reportedly for migrants, in Saada. At least 60 people were killed. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) said that at least 200 were injured, and that “it is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”
- On the same day, Saudi planes took out the telecommunications center in Hodeida that links Yemen to the internet, causing “a nation-scale collapse of internet connectivity.”
* MSF routinely provides the Saudi coalition forces with the GPS coordinates of its hospitals so that Saudi bombers will know that these are medical facilities and not legitimate or legal military targets. [back]