While the rest of the world was tuning into the inane US Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a small Middle Eastern nation, Yemen, was reeling under savage air strikes from the Saudi Arabia-backed coalition forces. On Saturday, at least 140 people were killed and more than 500 injured in airstrikes that targeted a funeral procession in the Yemeni capital Sana’a.
To the uninitiated, more than 10,000 people have died, and three million have been displaced in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition entered the Yemen's civil war 18 months ago. The coalition supports former President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by the Iran-backed Houthis in March 2015. What we are witnessing in Yemen are crimes against humanity. The Saudi-led coalition forces backed by the United States and the United Kingdom have deliberately targeted innocent civilians.
In its report, the UN has “uncovered ‘widespread and systemic’ attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law,” according to noted British daily, The Guardian. At the scene of the deadly air strikes, local journalists have reported on the horrors left behind. Washington, a key ally of the Saudi kingdom, warned that it might cut off military support to Riyadh in light of Saturday’s events. Speaking to the media, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, Ned Price, said, "US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank cheque." Washington said it was reviewing the "already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition".
It is not the first instance of war crimes perpetrated by the Saudi-led alliance. As long as the British and Americans continue to fund and arm their ally, Yemeni civilians will continue to be at the mercy of targeted killings. The Obama administration’s threat of cutting off military support to their ally is disingenuous. Both the US and the UK will never cut off ties with their ally, especially with so much oil at stake.
In fact, without their active support, the atrocities committed by the Saudi forces would not have been possible. According to The Guardian, “The Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US government.”
Earlier this year, The Intercept, a non-partisan international news website, published a report, which claimed: “In his first five years as President, Obama sold $30 billion more in weapons than President Bush did during his entire eight years as commander in chief.” But the role of the US and UK administrations isn’t just limited to funding. In his address to the press, the Saudi Foreign Minister reportedly said, “British and American military officials are in the command and control centre for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen” and “have access to lists of targets.”
In other words, both Western powers have been at the heart of this 18-month long carnage. Their complicity in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians cannot go unnoticed. In the event of devastating civilian casualties, both London and Washington issue vague statements expressing “concern”.
However, soon after both nations go back to fuelling the atrocities. What the world is witnessing in Yemen is representative of the meddlesome and murderous role the West has played in the Middle East, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.
What makes America’s forays into Yemen all the worse is that the Obama administration has been aware of its complicity in committing egregious acts of terror. An investigative report by Reuters uncovered that the US State Department officials had warned Obama that the US may be implicated in war crimes for supporting the Saudi administration. Despite the explicit warning, Washington went ahead with an arms sale worth $1.3 billion to its ally last year.
Glenn Greenwald, a well-respected investigative journalist with The Intercept, best sums up the hypocrisy of Western governments on the issue of human rights: "The U.S. and U.K. are the two leading countries when it comes to cynically exploiting human rights concerns and the laws of war to attack their adversaries.
They and their leading columnists love to issue pretty, self-righteous speeches about how other nations — those primitive, evil ones over there — target civilians and commit war crimes. Yet here they both are, standing firmly behind one of the planet’s most brutal and repressive regimes, arming it to the teeth with the full and undeniable knowledge that they are enabling massacres that recklessly, and in many cases, deliberately, target civilians."