The death toll from the Saudi strike on a wedding in Yemen has now risen to 130. The wedding took place near Mocha, a port city on the Red Sea. The groom was tied to the Houthi rebels somehow, which apparently assuaged whatever moral qualms remained within the Saudis, who then decided to massacre the attendees. It’s almost fitting that Saudi Arabia would commemorate the six-month mark since the beginning of their assault on Yemen’s civilian population with such a brutal act of official mass murder. So what has been the result of the six-month long pummeling of Yemeni civilians by Saudi warplanes? 5,000 killed, over 2,300 civilians dead, ports blockaded, creating a colossal humanitarian crisis. Infrastructure leveled, port cities destroyed, this war of attrition that Yemenis are being subjected to feels more like a punishment than anything, and once it’s all over it will take decades to put their country back together.
So why should any of this matter to US citizens? Because, lack of media attention notwithstanding, the US government is providing arms and strategic advice to the Saudis, midair refueling, as well as helping to choose enemy targets. The New York Times reported earlier this month of a $1 billion US weapons giveaway to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to calm the Saudis over the Iran nuclear deal but more than likely to aid the Saudis in the slaughter of Yemenis, and reinforce the Saudis regional dominance. Indeed, assistance to Saudi Arabia in their war on Yemen is the price the US is paying for Saudi support of the Iran deal.
Where is the media outrage, where is the great debate over the wisdom of enabling such a civilian massacre? Where are all those “humanitarian” interventionists who cajoled the US into unleashing air strikes on Libya? They’re nowhere to be found, there has been little to no debate in the media, and US officials don’t even mention what is going on in Yemen. In Obama’s recent speech to the UN General Assembly included no specific mention of the Yemeni civilian death toll, because that would mean acknowledging his role in facilitating it. The UN itself has become something of a farce amid the rising civilian death toll, with the country responsible for said death toll, Saudi Arabia, heading a UN Human Rights Council.
What of unintended consequences emerging from the rubble? One fact, messy for the US, is the resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen, due to the distraction/vacuum created by bombarding the Houthis. The past six months have seen Al Qaeda flourish, with the terrorist group establishing themselves and even allying with the Saudis in their effort against the Houthi rebels. High-minded rhetoric aside, a clean intervention seems to be forever beyond the grasp of the United States, or anyone, really. There’s always a price to be paid, when will this price be too high? If even Al Qaeda can be seen as a short-term ally, we have truly lost our way.
US support for the Saudi bombardment of Yemen has a stench of auto-interventionism to it. We do it because they’re our allies, because it advances some ridiculous and chimerical “grand strategy” against Iran and because the short-range is the only goal US officials ever seem to see. There was no public debate over the merits of supplying the Saudis with arms and strategists, it just happened. But as the civilian death toll spikes ever higher, more eyebrows begin to raise. 2,300 dead civilians can’t be ignored, especially by the country whose government is supplying the weapons. Is our alliance with Saudi Arabia worth so much that our government would sacrifice so many civilians? Is the fear of some imaginary future massacre by a nuclear Iran so great that it’s morally permissible to be complicit in the actual massacre of thousands of real people? Who’s inflicting terror upon whom here? At what point does the death toll become so high that someone with any political clout at all finally says enough is enough? Saudi consent over the Iranian nuclear deal can’t be worth this bloodbath, and if our government feels the need to participate in the Saudi war against Yemeni civilians, maybe it’s time to reconsider our alliance with them. Would the Saudi war against Yemen be as brutal without aid from the United States? It might be hard to say with any certainty, but one thing that is certain is that they sure as hell wouldn’t be dropping US bombs from US warplanes onto U.S.-approved targets. Whatever the short-term interests there are for the US in this fight, the long-term consequences of complicity in the massacre of civilians may emerge sooner than we think.
Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.