When Politics Mean More Than Human Lives: Saudi Arabia Bombs Yemen

Yesterday a coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia bombed targets across Yemen in an attempt to reverse recent gains by Shiite rebels. The Saudi’s also announced that 150,000 soldiers had been deployed in anticipation of a possible ground invasion. It’s all part of a familiar recipe.

It has become so familiar that we may not stop very long to think about it; just one nation bombing another. We spend far more time on the "what" than the "why." Oil prices rose 4% on the news; one hundred planes were used; it is called "Operation Decisive Storm."

The justification is assumed. The rebels must be bad. They probably torture. There are terrorists in the region. Something about nine-eleven.

The reality is that this is a messy conflict and different factions control different areas of the nation. The Houthi rebels, who are Shia, control much of the north, the US backed Sunni government dominates the south, and pockets within the tribal regions, mostly in the sparely populated east, are controlled by Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups.

Saudi Arabia may claim the invasion is necessary to make sure a dictatorship does not return to Yemen. Yet, since 2011 they have been lending ground troops to support a decades long dictatorship and crush a Shia-led rebellion in Bahrain.

Another pretext is that terrorist groups operate in the country. The problem is that the extremist groups will not be quelled by this campaign, likely they will thrive on it. Disorder and violent repression the world over, whether it be in Syria, Gaza or Kashmir, are steroids to these groups. It’s no coincidence that their power bases are always in conflict zones.

There may be an underlying current that assumes the airstrikes have some moral or ethical edge to it, but that’s little more than propaganda. Saudi Arabia and its partners support the Sunni’s in large part because they too are Sunni and political allies. The airstrikes and further violent intervention is nearly certain to intensify the conflict and greatly increase the loss of life. And for what?

The United States is the classic case; championing democracy in one nation while simultaneously supporting another nation’s dictator when it’s politically expedient. But it’s not just the US, many nations with military might use that force to dictate power in other nations. Yemen is just the latest country where politics mean more than human lives. It may not be a surprise anymore, but it’s still appalling.

John Dennehy runs a political blog called Truth in a Foreign Language. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, VICE, Adbusters, Truth-Out and Narrative.