Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sat, Aug 20th, 2016

Hint: They Don’t Care

For those who follow news about the continuing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where 17 months of almost daily bombing in some areas have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, the news yesterday that the U.S. is pulling out most of its tactical military advisors for the Saudi bombing campaign is welcome news.

Result of bombing MSF clinic in Abs, Yemen

Result of bombing MSF clinic in Abs, Yemen

But this “Saudicus Interruptus” does not, unfortunately, signal an end to the entrenched Saudi desire to punish the Huthis through a campaign that is unable to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Whenever a mosque, or a school, or a clinic has been destroyed, the coalition claimed that it was harboring Huthi weapons. This principle that “all damage is collateral damage” was shown to be a blatant distortion from the start of the campaign, when the entire city of Sa’da was declared a military zone. Despite documented reports of direct hits on heritage sites, mosques, factories, schools and civilian houses, the slow American reaction to such violations of international law has finally been speeded up by the attacks last Tuesday of an MSF clinic in Abs. Although the coalition had the exact location of the clinic, it was hit directly, killing 11 people. This was not the first time an MSF facility had been hit; it was the fourth time. It also prompted MSF to withdraw its staff from several of their field sites due to a total lack of faith in the Saudi ability not to bomb them.

Any suggestion that this well-marked clinic had military value for the Huthis is absurd. The attack was immediately condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just over two months after he was coerced by the Saudis to remove UN condemnation for the number of Yemeni children killed by their bombing. Finally, there appears to be some movement within the United States to stop the unlimited supply of military hardware to the Saudis and their allies. One of the more vocal U.S. representatives pressing for stopping the billions of dollars worth of arms deals to Saudi Arabia is Ted Lieu, who is also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. “When it’s repeated air strikes that have now killed children, doctors, newlyweds, patients, at some point you just have to say: Either Saudi Arabia is not listening to the United States or they just don’t care,” Lieu said after the attack.

Not listening or they just don’t care. The Saudis deny that they are targeting civilians, as does their puppet sliver of UN sanctioned legitimacy, former President Hadi. But the facts on the ground leave few options. It could be that the Saudi pilots are so incredibly incompetent that they are unable to distinguish their targets, assuming that “sophisticated” weaponry could be foolproof. If, as Lieu suggests, they are not listening, it is not clear what they are being told. Are they listening to mere platitudes that they need to be careful or are the advisors telling them just how incompetent they appear to be? And what does it mean to say they just don’t care?

In the broader picture it seems rather obvious that the Saudis do not care about anything more than their blind proxy war against Iran. The “official” excuse of restoring the interim, GCC-imposed Hadi to power in Yemen ignores the fact that he has no support whatsoever within Yemen. Those groups who are anti-Huthi are not pro-Hadi. There is a reason why Hadi cannot even return successfully to Aden, which the coalition claims to have liberated. But look even deeper into how the Saudi state was formed. The fanatical Wahhabi message that the ancestors of the royal family wielded against their neighbors, including Iraq, the not-yet existing Gulf States and Yemen, was a bloodthirsty one of intolerance. One French observer describes the Saudi attack on the Shi’a city of Kerbala in 1802:

12,000 Wahhabis suddenly attacked the mosque of Imam Husayn; after seizing more spoils than they had ever seized after their greatest victories, they put everything to fire and sword… The elderly, women, and children — everybody died by the barbarians’ sword. Besides, it is said that whenever they saw a pregnant woman, they disemboweled her and left the fetus on the mother’s bleeding corpse. Their cruelty could not be satisfied, they did not cease their murders and blood flowed like water. As a result of the bloody catastrophe, more than 4000 people perished. The Wahhabis carried off their plunder on the backs of 4000 camels. After the plunder and murders they destroyed the Imam’s shrine and converted it into a trench of abomination and blood. They inflicted the greatest damage on the minarets and the domes, believing those structures were made of gold bricks.

Having built up their oil-fueled stately pleasure dome for a royal family with Bedouin roots, the history of the Saudi political clique against its neighbors and to many of the non-Wahhabi groups absorbed into the kingdom is one long stretch of not caring about anything other their than own power. Ibn Sa’ud tried to conquer Imam Yahya’s capital of Sanaa in 1934 and failed; the Saudis tried to reinstate Imam Badr in north Yemen after the 1962 Republican revolution, and they have interfered in Yemen on all fronts ever since. The Saudi elite do not care. But they also have failed to learn from history, shielded by their fabulous wealth. Perhaps if those planning Saudi Arabia’s future took time out to read Ibn Khaldun’s theory of regime rise and fall, this war would be over in a flash. But, sadly, it is obvious that at this moment they do not care how many Yemenis suffer and die.

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.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>