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Bombs, Billions and Body Parts | Mellanöstern Tidningen Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
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Published On: Fri, Dec 9th, 2016

Bombs, Billions and Body Parts

War has always been a nasty business. Hand-to-hand combat, the anti-modus-vivendi before gunpowder, was brutal with spears, swords and daggers tearing into flesh. World War I introduced aerial bombardment, carried to a new level in World War II, including the first use of an atomic bomb on Japan. The variety of bombs that can be dropped from the air has expanded exponentially, with some designed specifically to inflict maximum casualties. Despite the name, there is no such thing as a “smart” bomb, nor is so-called “surgical bombing” as surgical as the people who use the term suggest. Bombs blow bodies to bits, no matter where they fall.

[Warning: The following image depicts the severed body of a young boy and may be found disturbing!]

The sky in the Middle East these days is glimmering with sophisticated aircraft that drop bomb after bomb on allegedly “military” targets, as though human life does not matter at all if it can be dismissed as “military.” A recent report by Human Rights Watch documents the use of American-made bombs sold to Saudi Arabia for use in the never-ending bombing campaign over Yemen. “‘Saudi-led forces are bombing civilians in Yemen with newly supplied US weapons,’ said Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. ‘The Obama administration is running out of time to completely suspend US arms sales to Saudi Arabia or be forever linked to Yemen wartime atrocities.’” There is little chance that the U.S. complicity in these atrocities will be any less when Donald Trump takes office.

The proof is visible, since each bombs tells where it is from and when it was sold. This includes American-made “cluster bombs,” which the U.S. Congress sees no reason to stigmatize. The fact that 119 countries have signed a treaty to ban use of such bombs obviously does not matter to lawmakers in the “land of the free.” So the Saudis can spend billions of dollars to feed their war machine much to the financial delight of the United States and UK arms manufacturers. A year ago the demand was so great that American arms manufacturers had to work round the clock.

While the politicians justify their indifference to the loss of life from selling such weapons and the arms makers make record profits, the victims mount. No, the number of those killed has not reach World War I or II levels, nor Stalin’s genocide of Russian peasants, nor the Pol Pot regime.  But do the numbers really matter when they are only in the thousands, or even the hundreds of thousands (as in Syria)?  In many cases bodies are so obliterated that the person who had been alive cannot be identified.  In other cases the image is so shocking that it seldom makes a newspaper. Consider the image here of  a Yemeni boy. This is the true face of war, not the bombs or planes or pilots. What crime did this boy commit? What military danger did he pose? What justifies such an atrocity? If you can look at this set of body parts and not see the absurdity of such bombs, then you have no soul, or perhaps you have sold your soul for mammon.

The current bombing campaign in Yemen is a rhetorical nightmare. The coalition usually denies that there are any civilian casualties and always claims that it only targets military sites. But when virtually every factory, health clinics, schools, mosques and heritage sites are routinely bombed, it seems that there is no inch of Yemeni soil that is not deemed a military target. Yet as the campaign expands beyond 18 months, it is no nearer to breaking the power of the Huthis in the north than when it began. The intense hatred that this prolonged war has left in the north will be a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia for years and probably decades to come.

About the Author


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Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, a Senior Postdoctoral Scholar at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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