Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Wed, Jan 6th, 2016

The Blind Bleeding the Blind

When I read the latest reports about the bombs and missiles raining down on the people of Yemen, I realize that in this ersatz air war nothing is sacred, certainly not human life. While the Saudi monarch sits in a silken luxury rivaling Harun al-Rashid’s Baghdad splendor (at least in the Disney variety) and the Saudi pilots spend their days off driving their Bentleys, ordinary Yemeni citizens die daily.


You will not see the mangled limbs and decapitated corpses of the men, women and children who are cluster bombed into pieces on the major news channels, either Arabic or Western. You can here, if you have the stomach. You may hear about major atrocities such as bombing a Doctors Without Borders clinic, but such stories fade quickly in the ferocious news cycle; the latest crazed statement by Donald Trump is deemed a better sell to a public more interested in sports and Hollywood than loss of life abroad.

Today is no exception to the spiraling absurdity of this war nobody wants to know about. So here is a question? What possible damage could a blind person, whether a Huthi sympathizer or not, do to the Saudi juggernaut? One of the coalition bombs yesterday destroyed the al-Noor Center for Care and Rehabilitation of the Blind in Sanaa. Not only is the bombing making cripples, including more blind Yemenis, but it even goes beyond this to finish the job. The center hit was a shelter for many blind Yemeni children, who are now homeless. Was it a deliberate target? I doubt it, although I am sure many of the residents of Sanaa feel that they are being singled out in the daily bomb runs that inevitably harm civilian areas. Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce was also hit, an ironic twist for an economy which has been completely shut down by the blockade and the destruction of factories. And even a wedding hall was bombed.

It seems to me that all sides in this unnecessary war are blind, blinded by their own lust for power and control. They are also deaf, unwilling to hear the screams of pain and the dying whispers of those bombed or shot, even their fellow citizens.  And they are certainly acting dumb in the full range of meanings for this term. There is a big difference between being blinded and simply shutting your eyes. The pilot who drops the bomb does not share the immediate impact apart from the smoke and fireball. He pulls the trigger or pushes the button from the safety of a cockpit thousands of feet above the prey. He does not see the blood and the torn apart flesh. This is, we are told, the civilized strategy for waging war. The old style of hand-to-hand combat is too primitive, too dangerous, something to be reserved for blockbuster Hollywood films. We recoil at the spectacle of a beheading or a suicide bombing, as we should, but is there really a profound ethical difference when the results are the same from distant bombing? Is the way a person is mutilated more important than the fact a person is suffering a terrible unnatural death? Is it justifiable that a baby or child is killed simply because some of the adults are political lunatics? Or is it simply comforting to be able to kill and fly away to kill again another day?

There is an old saying about the blind leading the blind. Given the direct and indirect support of the United States, Britain and a host of “coalition” forces for this war in Yemen, there is clearly a self-serving political strategy of intentional blindness. Current United States foreign policy in the Middle East, which has not really changed no matter which party is in power, is blind to the sanctified American ideals of democracy and human rights. Where are the human rights for Palestinians, who live under occupation by a “trusted ally”? Where are the human rights of the ordinary people of Yemen, who have actually experimented (even if unsuccessfully) with democracy? Where are the human rights of anyone blown to bits by bombs made in America or bullets supplied by American tax payer money? The sad truth is that the blind are not only leading the blind but they are also unwilling to see the hypocrisy in a war that has created a humanitarian disaster of staggering dimensions.

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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