By Matthew Cunningham-Cook, who has written for the International Business Times, The New Republic, Jacobin, Aljazeera, and The Nation and has been a labor activist
In a craven act of genocidal depravity, the US Senate voted Wednesday to approve yet another tranche of weapons sales to the far-right Wahhabist theocracy of Saudi Arabia, bringing the total to over $20 billion in sales since the Saudi war began in March 2015. Those weapons will be used in the Saudis’ campaign of extermination against the civilian supporters of the Houthis, a postcolonial-nationalist militia aligned with Tehran.
Because of Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians, 14.4 million people in Yemen, out of 25.4 million, are food insecure, according to the World Food Program. On September 21 the BBC released a harrowing documentary on malnutrition among children in Yemen, all a direct result of the Saudi bombing campaign.
Over 4,000 civilians have been killed by the Saudi’s bombing campaign, with likely countless more dead from ancillary effects of malnutrition.
The region includes wartorn Somalia–the recipient of numerous US interventions and the site of ongoing drone strikes and US special forces presence–and the dictatorial, pro-US regime in Ethiopia that is also waging a campaign of mass slaughter and starvation, except against its Oromo ethnic plurality and rural villagers. All three countries sit at the center of the Mandeb Strait, a key strategic chokepoint that features around 7% of the world’s oil tanker transportation. Directly north is the fiercely independent nation of Eritrea, one of just two nations in Africa to not cooperate with the US military in its neo-colonial Africom project.
What in particular concerns Washington and Riyadh is that a Houthi Yemen would align itself with Iran and Eritrea, forming a counter-hegemonic bloc at the epicenter of global oil transportation and production. That just can’t happen.
Hence the campaign of starvation against the Yemeni people. It’s not without historical precedent–the British effort to head off anti-colonial disruption in Bengal by artificially raising the price of food in Bengal, leading to the starvation of over 4 million people, comes to mind.
Despite the US media’s painfully obvious Saudi sympathies, a few in Congress–to their everlasting credit–have waged a thus-far fruitless campaign thus far to raise the alarm about the US weapons industry’s–and the State Department’s–cynical enabling of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), led the campaign for a rejection of the sale in the Senate, where 27 Senators voted against the sale on Wednesday. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), has introduced a companion resolution in the House, where it actually has a chance of passing. In June, another Lieu resolution to block the sale of internationally banned cluster munitions to the Saudis failed by just twelve votes, 216-204.
A few more phone calls to members of Congress could change the equation this time, putting the Saudis on notice that their campaign of genocide against the Yemeni people is not tolerated by the world community.
The Senate roll call is below. The House roll call from the cluster vote in June is here. I urge you to contact your members of the Senate to thank or castigate them for their vote on Wednesday, and to contact your member of the House to request that they vote for the Lieu resolution.
Not Voting – 2