Message of the Day: Hunger, War
Food for the hungry, stolen for war, CNN investigative report, May 20, 2019
Food for the hungry is being stolen for war in Yemen, an undercover investigation by CNN reports today.
This report, in conjunction with Yesterday’s Sunday Review piece by Nick Kristof in The New York Times, which references an earlier CNN report as well, provides the reminder that must never be forgotten.
Power has no ideology. In the hands of a few against the many who have no power, it murders and starves and commits war crimes and crimes against humanity without conscience.
We covered the horror in Yemen previously in our post on October 15, last year.
A bipartisan effort passed by the US Congress recently attempted to end US support for the war in Yemen and produced the first bill on the War Powers Act to cross a president’s desk. It was the first attempt by Congress to restore and take responsibility for its constitutional role in declaring war in a long time.
President Trump vetoed it. But honestly, it didn’t make him different from his predecessors on the issue. Either of willingness to limit White House war-making authority or to limit support for Saudi Arabia. In fact, it took the virtually public barbaric killing of a Washington Post journalist by the Saudis and the constant images of starving and bombed children in Yemen for Congress to do what it did.
And the Hadi government in Yemen that the Saudis back has international recognition, with the UK, France and others joining the US in supporting Saudi military intervention.
And the war was started, in the main, by the Houthis backed by Iran.
It has become a proxy war between Iran and the Saudis, and the US and its allies. As Kristoff points out, talk of war between the US and Iran can obscure the fact that its already happening in Yemen, and elsewhere.
And as CNN’s investigation today reminds–there are no good guys in this story. Iran through its support of the Houthis is consciously starving countless people.
If you want to somehow pick between Saudi Arabia and Iran, good luck with that argument.
Then there’s the nuclear issue.
Arguably, the signature accomplishment of the Obama administration (with all it’s serious faults in the area–what was and wasn’t done in Syria especially–we’ll be back to that again) was the nuclear deal with Iran, as pointed out more than once by us, backed by–everybody (well, almost, the Saudis and Israelis, frenemies, didn’t like it)–including the Russians and Chinese, who had backed sanctions with Iran as well. That unity is long gone and the sacking of the nuclear deal by the US basically gives Iran the excuse to do what they stopped–developing nukes. Which would mean war if they did.
The deal was sacked in the name of the bad deeds of Iran, but the deal was never about anything but nukes–for good reason. If Iran nukes up or is feared to, the Saudis and others in the region will too, and that’s Armageddon in the actual biblical spot for sure, even if the US and Israelis didn’t strike Iran first, which they virtually doubtless would.
A stop on that, even for a limited time, gave the possibility of dealing with other issues–and a natural process inside Iran of a younger population which rejects the clerical dictatorship leading to its certain demise in time. And while the US and its allies would fight Iran on other fronts, hopefully a containment of the situation could occur while the above process was encouraged.
The theories on where Trump is on war or no war with Iran change daily. But the facts on the ground that keep feeding the carnage in Yemen remain.
In an unimaginable twist that has occurred elsewhere and is like a bad version of groundhog’s day, CNN’s previous investigation showed that Saudi Arabia and its partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen, violating their agreements with the US.
Saudi Arabia. The place that helped grow al Qaeda into the group that perpetrated 9/11 on the US.
And current US policy is basically–that’s the way it is (once again).
This fog of war, the fog in general seemingly thicker than ever covering up facts, is everywhere, and been going on for some time.
There are many issues here which become their own repetitive mantras that are both true and one-dimensional ideological twitches–the history of the Europeans, US, Russia (pre, during and post-Soviet), Turks and other power-players in the area, the history of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia going back millennia, and in the end, as always, the long twilight struggle between the haves and have-nots.
David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, told the BBC World Service today (May 21 in the UK) that Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world currently and some 12 million people–almost 40% of the population–are on the brink of starvation.
The UN and the World Food Programme are trying to make a difference. A different kind of intervention was and is possible. And sometimes it requires force as an element. Once in a blue moon it’s happened, but too often not when needed, and too often at best a grave error, at worst a naked power-play with no other values attached. The UN itself is a work in progress as pointed out often, a context tied up with the power competitions of UN member states. We’ve covered all these issues at length and will return to them.
Here we focus with a specific limited purpose that also has potential wider application. We focus on the murder by starvation and war of the people of Yemen perpetrated by all sides in the game of power.
Change often happens focused on a particular time and place. The elements of such change because of the focus on Yemen have been shown to have a possibility by ending the horror there. Alternatively, the danger of the crime of obliterating a people and wider-war resulting in inconceivable obliteration stare us in the face. It’s not something out there we get to watch from the cheap seats. It will hit us all one way or another–and we all have the responsibility to make choices and do whatever we can.
Here’s today’s CNN report and the Sunday Review piece in The New York Times:
By Sam Kiley, Sarah El Sirgany and Brice Lainé, May 20, 2019, CNN
Bani Qais, in Houthi-controlled Yemen (CNN) Issham Beshir is two years old. She’s twig-thin and so badly malnourished she’s yet to take her first steps. The world is trying to help her and nearly 16 million more hungry people in Yemen by sending food.
The villages of the ‘doomed’
How the alleged fraud was covered up
Missing supplies, missing money
UN takes drastic action
Children now skin and bone
Food for favors
Hit by air strikes, corruption and gun-running
Houthis say they are ‘happy’ with aid
Controlling food, information and people
A shattered lifeline
UN: ‘We’re here to keep people alive’
Is America headed for a war involving Iran?
Actually, we’re already mired in one. It’s the unconscionable war in Yemen, where we are complicit in the deaths of almost a quarter million Yemenis so far, many of them children who have starved to death.
Just a few days ago, bombs (perhaps American made) killed four Yemeni children. Every 12 minutes, another child in Yemen dies.
Yemen is a complicated place with many bad actors, but here’s the bottom line: Because of our enmity toward Iran and our bond with Saudi Arabia, we are helping to starve and bomb Yemeni children.
With tensions in the region high, Saudi Arabia is now encouraging the United States to escalate the hostilities and order a military strike on Iran. “They must be hit hard,” Arab News, a newspaper with ties to the Saudi government, declared on Thursday.
Beware. That was the Saudi line as well in 2015 when Saudi Arabia’s Mad Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, intervened in Yemen. He wanted to show his toughness and assumed that his armed forces would crush an Iran-backed faction there called the Houthis.
Instead, the Saudi intervention resulted in Iran gaining influence in Yemen, while the Saudis have helped cause what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. With talk of American conflict with Iran again in the air, Yemen should be a reminder that wars are easy to get into, harder to exit.
It is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that drop the bombs on Yemen, but Washington supplies weaponry and intelligence that allow this war to drag on indefinitely. American policy is to support the starvation of Yemeni children because they are ruled by a faction with ties to Iran.
This should not be a partisan issue. President Barack Obama backed the Saudis in Yemen, and President Trump has doubled down on that support.
Most presidential candidates (with the exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a strong opponent of the Yemen war) don’t mention Yemen much, and it receives little public attention. I’m writing about it partly because I was able to slip through the Saudi blockade into Yemen late last year, and I’m haunted by seeing my tax dollars go to help starve children to death.
Congress passed a bipartisan measure to end U.S. involvement in the war, but Trump vetoed it last month. A recent U.N. study calculated that if the war ends this year, it will have claimed 233,000 lives, and that if it continues until 2022, it will claim a total of 482,000 lives. If it lasts until 2030, the U.N. estimated, it will cause 1.8 million deaths.
“Every day things get worse,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, told me this month. “There isn’t anyone working today in Yemen who doesn’t believe that the only solution to this terrible, senseless crisis is to end the conflict. We have to face the fact that if fighting drags on, Yemen will be a failed state, unstable for generations.”
“Nearly every family has either lost someone, is hungry, has children out of school or is battling cholera,” Grande said. “It’s hard to understand why the lives of so many innocent people seem to mean so little.”
The Mad Prince’s rash interference in Yemen not only backfired and helped Iran, but a CNN investigation also found that it led Saudi Arabia to give American weapons to fighters linked to Al Qaeda. The chaos led to the cholera outbreak, which worsened recently, with more than 300,000 suspected cases so far in 2019.
Iran and the Houthis have also behaved badly, but that’s a poor excuse for Americans to support war crimes against Yemeni children.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are no longer enthusiastic about the Yemen war, but they don’t want to leave and give Iran and the Houthis a victory. So it’s difficult to see how the war ends unless the U.S. forces the issue.
Trump has said that if the United States doesn’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, then Russia or China will. But Saudi Arabia needs American spare parts, and it also buys U.S. weapons partly for the implicit security guarantee that comes with them. No other country can provide that security blanket.
“The Saudi military is dependent on American spare parts, logistics and munitions,” noted Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution. “If Washington uses its enormous leverage, the Saudis have no choice but to end the war.”
We are drifting toward an increased risk of a collision with Iran, and the U.S. Navy in particular worries about an accident in the Persian Gulf that escalates. In 1988, in a similar period of tensions, the United States mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing 290 people on board.
So of course let’s work to reduce the risk of a war directly with Iran. But let’s also not forget this old, shameful war outside Iran’s borders: It’s time to end American support for the bombing and starvation of children in Yemen.
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