Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Fri, Aug 12th, 2016

Chipping Away at Yemen

The hopes for some kind of resolution of the crisis in Yemen were dashed again as the peace talks in Kuwait fell apart. During the talks there had been a temporary lull in the daily attacks on Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. But now the Saudis are again emboldened to renew the bombing campaign. And once again they are denying the civilian deaths that result.

A bombed out potato chip factory in Sanaa.

A bombed out potato chip factory in Sanaa.

Events elsewhere in the Middle East and the “trumpeted” media frenzy over the U.S. election head the news stories and there is hardly any reference to the continuing atrocities in Yemen. On August 9th, the Saudi coalition bombed a Potato Chip Factory in Sanaa. A potato chip factory! In addition to destroying the building, 14 people were killed, including 5 women. While I do not consider potato chips the healthiest of foods, it is ironic that such a food factory would be destroyed when there is so little food available in Yemen. The World Food Programme estimates that 14.4 million Yemenis are “food insecure”. One person out of every five is in ”desperate need of food assistance.” Save the Children estimates that 1.3 million Yemeni children under five, that is one out of three, are suffering from acute malnutrition. In the Gospels Jesus said “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I do not think he meant that they should starve and be bombed to death in order to get to heaven, no matter what their religion.

If you have the stomach to see the bitter reality facing Yemen’s children, look at the images on this website. It is obvious that the stench of rotting flesh does not reach the perfumed palatial diwans of the Saudi elite, who have just ordered $1.15 billion dollars worth of military hardware from the United States. This includes 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment. This ground war supply complements the billion-dollar “jet diplomacy” of the Obama administration. There are indeed “weapons of mass destruction” let loose in the Middle East, but their brand is Western and their likely victims will all be in the Middle East.

How is it possible that a war that has created a disastrous humanitarian crisis has been almost completely ignored in the mainstream media for almost a year and a half? How is it possible that the poorest country in the Middle East is being savaged by a coalition of the richest countries on the Arabian Peninsula? How is it possible to hold lofty ideals of human rights and then fund a conflict that not only denies those rights to Yemenis, but kills thousands and totally devastates a country’s infrastructure? How is it possible to look the other way as the most extremist elements of Sunni Islamic radicalism are accepted as allies (untrustworthy to the core) in order to foster a proxy war against Shi’a Iran?

It is possible, of course, because it is too easy not to care. It is too easy to be absorbed by local crises, the disaster of a Trump candidacy in the U.S., the continuing terrorist attacks in Europe, the civil unrest in Turkey, the Russian involvement in Syria, and the list goes on. There is more news than can be covered, but there are some situations that cry out for attention. In the ’70s over 1.5 million Cambodians died in the brutal Pol Pot regime; in the ’90s some 800,000 died in the Rwandan civil war and almost 100,000 died in the Bosnian genocide. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria: the killing continues. How many Yemenis need to be killed before their crisis becomes something worth reporting? Is it only about numbers? Forget the prophetic fascination with a cataclysmic Battle of Armageddon in Israel at the end of the world; Yemen right now is undergoing its own Armageddon. It is not the end of the world for us, but it is for many Yemenis, who do care.

About the Author

- 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, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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