Yemen, praxis and global responsibility



Opinion columnist Mohammed Rawwas discusses issues in Yemen and the importance of global responsibility.


According to a recently released United Nations Development Programme report, the conflict in Yemen will result in 233,000 deaths by the end of 2019, with 140,000 or 60% of total deaths being children under the age of 5. The total deaths total about 1% of Yemen’s entire population. 17% of the population lives with malnutrition. If the war was to end in 2019, it would set back human development 21 years to 1998. Beyond Saudi Arabia and U.S. bombings of school buses, weddings and funerals, the majority of deaths are being caused by a famine and cholera epidemic onset by an embargo imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia. What is happening in Yemen right now is a genocide, one that the U.S. supports, from arms sales to re-fueling Saudi Arabian fighter jets.

Congress, under the direction of Ro Khanna and Bernie Sanders, has attempted multiple times to curb U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, first passing a bill to remove U.S. armed forces from Yemen, which Paul Ryan tried to block in the House, and was eventually vetoed by Trump. Later, Congress passed a bill to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which was again vetoed by Trump. It was a U.S.-manufactured munition that killed 40 schoolchildren in a late-2018 strike, as is the case for many other strikes which have resulted in civilian deaths, and as of late May 2019, Trump approved another $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Liberals that make up the #Resistance love to criticize Trump for his use of Twitter, but perhaps his complicity in genocide is a more substantive reason for opposing him. The U.S. has just recently stopped re-fueling Saudi Arabian fighter jets, but only because Saudi Arabia has now developed the capabilities of continuing its operations without that support.

The Saudi-Arabian intervention in Yemen has been ongoing since 2015, and its absence from the national political conversation is egregious. In fact, one of Trump’s first acts as President was to authorize a raid in Yemen which resulted in the killing of an 8-year-old girl. Since then, the U.S. continues to be allies with Saudi Arabia, even after the killing of Khashoggi found its way into mainstream attention. Among the Democratic Primary candidates, only Senator Sanders has made an effort to discuss Yemen and has worked most closely with Representative Ro Khanna in drafting legislation to end U.S. involvement in Yemen. Sanders represents an entirely different set of politics than any other candidate on stage, one of international solidarity instead of the technocratic, green-imperialism of Warren. But beyond ending U.S. involvement in the conflict in Yemen, the U.S. should sever diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and sanction them until they end the embargo and their military involvement in Yemen.

Ending a genocide may seem like a daunting task, but there are many elements that all combine to the form the environment in which U.S. complicity in genocide can even occur, and more so occur with almost no visible protest from the entire U.S. populace. A simple example: just recently we had the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and the ROTC decided to trot out a Blackhawk helicopter and a Humvee outside of Schindler and Lawther Hall as a vehicle for recruitment, along with local police support and an unquestioning article in this very paper. The fact that 3,000 deaths that occurred nearly two decades ago are talked about more than 233,000 deaths that are still currently occurring in a genocide that is being funded with our very own taxpayer dollars is a testament both to how ingrained white supremacy is in our society and to how twisted our narratives on terrorism, the U.S. military and foreign intervention are. Politicians like Trump who pretend to care about 9/11 clearly do not: beyond bragging about how his building was now the tallest since the Twin Towers fell literally on the day of 9/11, as the smoke was still clearing, Trump clearly doesn’t care about civilian deaths since 30,000 Americans die every year from lack of healthcare, yet Trump along with Republicans (and most Democrats for that matter) are diametrically opposed to single-payer. The only reason 9/11 is brought up is because it feeds into Islamophobic narratives and can act as a pretense to foreign intervention.

Instead, we should discuss civilian casualties that are currently occurring and that we might actually be able to do something about. We should be more critical of the U.S. military and the people who compose it. And we should not allow the ROTC to exist on our campus. On the national level, the Sanders campaign is the only one which can properly bring an end to U.S. complicity in the genocide in Yemen. On the university level, work on building a base of student organizing that can demand changes to the U.S. military’s relationship to our campus, and talk with everyone you can about the genocide in Yemen and the ways in which we can help end it, both locally and nationally. And finally, act!