“This is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” states a recent United Nations report. Thousands are dying, millions are displaced from their homes, and two-thirds of the population doesn’t know when their next meal will be. Bombs rain from the sky, dropped at the orders of foreign leaders who daily tighten their stranglehold on the neck of this people. Sound familiar? No, we’re not talking about the crisis in Syria. This is Yemen, now in its third year of war.
You may not have heard of this war for a couple of reasons. First, Saudi Arabia, who leads the airstrike campaign against Yemen, has restricted Western journalists from entering the country. Second, the United States military is the number two to the Saudi’s number one, and we all know the American press hardly relishes in depicting the United States as the bad guys. Yet the humanitarian situation in Yemen is getting worse every day. Since 2015, over 5,000 civilians have been killed by relentless bombings from the Saudis. According to U.N. estimates, two million Yemeni children are starving. A Yemeni child dies every five minutes. On top of the bombing, shooting, and famine, Yemen is suffering from its worst outbreak of cholera in years. Keep in mind that the United States military is backing the Saudis as they commit these horrific war crimes. It’s almost like our country doesn’t even care.
The Saudis’ primary motive is to crush the Houthi uprising. Houthis are an offshoot of mainstream Shia Islam and a prominent political and religious force in Yemen. They ousted the Yemeni dictator in 2011 during the Arab Spring, sparking a bloody civil war. The Houthis are backed by the Saudis’ nemesis, Iran. This is the major reason why Saudi Arabia has launched these attacks. Yemen lies on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, and a prominent Iranian influence so close to home threatens the Saudis. However, in their attempts to crush the Houthi fighters, the Saudis have created a massive humanitarian crisis. Human rights groups all over the world condemn the airstrikes and are strongly urging the United Nations to investigate. Intentionally starving civilian populations violates international law. Bombing civilians violates international law. The Saudis are guilty of both crimes. The United States also shares significant responsibility for these tragedies.
The United States and Saudi Arabia share a mutually beneficial relationship, and have for decades. U.S. presidents on both sides of the aisle have furthered our relationship with Saudi Arabia. Our thirst for Saudi Arabian oil and shared aversion to communism have made them a key American ally in the Middle East. This relationship has led to gigantic arms deals that have made U.S. arms dealers rich and the Saudi military one of the world’s most feared militaries. Just this past May, President Trump signed a $100 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, who has been the top recipient of American-made arms since 2011. A portion of the arms deal included the sale of multiple F-15 fighter jets, the deadly aircraft responsible for the carnage in Yemen. Moreover, the US military provided and continues to provide crucial intelligence and air-to-air refueling to guide and intensify Saudi air strikes in Yemen.
While the Saudis may be justified in their stated goal of preventing Iran from establishing itself further in Yemen, the collateral damage–innocent civilians–is inexcusable. We can’t play this game forever. Better late than never, the world is beginning to wake up to the reality of the U.S.’s moral backwardness. With numerous United Nations agencies calling for inquiries into the atrocities committed against civilians, the United States is at a crossroads. We have the opportunity to right our wrongs and advocate for justice and human rights in Yemen. Will we abandon our hypocrisy, take the high road, and cut off military support to Saudi Arabia until the killings of the innocent end and humanitarian aid is effectively distributed? Or will we ignore the irony of our sponsorship and turn a blind eye to human suffering?
The government of the United States of America is caught up in a monumental deception. We cannot call ourselves world leaders if we allow these atrocities to continue. How can we condemn the actions that lead to the current crises in Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea when we ourselves are contributors to the bloodshed and terror in Yemen? The time is long overdue for the U.S. to establish its moral leadership: defend the defenseless and help the helpless. No matter the cost, our character and values as a nation must not be sacrificed on the altar of alliances. I expect more from us. The American people, you, should expect more from us. And so does the world.