By Gary Brecher. Jointly posted with The Exiled
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We’re living through a massive artificial famine, right now. In NW Yemen, home of the Yemeni Shia who’ve fought off a Saudi-financed invasion, the “coalition” of invaders has settled on a slower, more effective strategy: artificial famine and blockade. This is how you kill off a troublesome population, not with bombs and guns alone. Hunger and disease are much better mass killers than firearms and bombs.
NW Yemen has been blockaded for years now. And the Saudi strategy is working well. Yemen has had up to a million cases of cholera, an illness unheard of in countries with modern antibiotics. Untreated cholera is fatal in about half of all cases (versus 1% when normal treatment is available). Since medical supplies are being blockaded (with the help of the US Navy), and few journalists have made much effort to find out what has been going on in the blockaded areas, we may be dealing with an unreported death toll of half a million people, most of them children.
Yemen is a perfect target for artificial famine and blockade, because it never had enough farmland to feed its people. Before the Saudi invasion, Yemen imported almost 90% of its food supplies. When the Saudis imposed their blockade, cutting off all food imports to Hodeidah, the one Red-Sea port serving NW Yemen, those imports stopped. There has never been any alternative route for food supplies to Yemen. Even before the war, road traffic between Saudi and Yemenwas all but shut down. (Which is why, in a year spent a few miles from the Yemen border, I went up to the border many times, looked over it, but never gave a thought to crossing it. It would never have been allowed.)
So NW Yemen is closed off very nicely, from the Saudi view. Which is also the view of the US, UK, UAE, Israel, Kuwait, and the oil companies — basically, anyone who matters in this world. Shia Yemenis are dying at a very satisfactory rate, children first (because children are always the first to die in long sieges like this).
The next step for the Saudi-led “coalition” will be taking Hodeidah, the Shia provinces’ one source of food and medical aid. That operation is well underway as I write.
Last I’ve heard, Sunni forces are only a few km from Hodeidah town, and the Shia may choose to evacuate, withdraw inland to the mountains where they can fight more effectively against the expensive air power and armor of the invaders.
The coalition attackers have taken a sensible approach to conquering Hodeidah, coming from the south along the coastal plain, where air and armor are at their most effective. There’s talk that this strategy was pushed by the UAE, which has bought some highly-placed foreign officers (including a US Lt. Col. who somehow insists he’s not “in” the UAE military, though he wears the uniform and draws God-knows-what insane salary from it) — and plenty of mercenaries, from places as far afield as Sudan (plenty of unemployed ex-Janjaweed throat-slitters looking for work these days) and Colombia, where there’s also a surplus of experienced killers.
The Saudis, who’ve been a disaster militarily from the start of this war, stalled out along the mountainous northern border and are now just trying to stop Shia technicals from overrunning any more Saudi towns along the border. So this advance toward Hodeidah from the south not only means the death of many inland civilians, it also shows the fracture-lines within the Saudi/UAE alliance running the invasion, suggesting that down the line a few months, even more Yemeniswill die as factions backed by the UAE fight others sponsored by Riyadh over who controls the conquered territory (think Saruman’s vs Sauron’s Orcs).
When the Shia fighters pull out — or even if they stay and make a last stand in the rubble of Hodeidah — the blockade will be airtight. From then on, it’s just a matter of waiting for the blockaded population to die off in such numbers that they lose the will to fight.
It happens pretty quickly. You, a Shia fighter, might be willing to die fighting the invaders, but you’re less likely to be willing to watch your children die. You’ll give up eventually, and the “invaders” who failed on the battlefield but won by blockade will roll triumphantly into your towns as if they were brave warriors.
It’s happened before. It’s how the Nigerian Army crushed the Igbo in Biafra in the 1960s. The Biafrans won on the battlefield, but the Nigerian Army was as well-connected, world-wide, as it was cowardly and corrupt. So it laid out big money to its foreign friends and got a very cooperative silence while it starved Biafra to death. That huge international silence had a lot to do with oil and money, just as this one does. When oil, money, and a huge international alliance all line up with the people starving out a troublesome minority, you can expect a complete media blackout on news about those who are dying.
And you’re living through one of those guilty silences right now. Very few journalists have shown any interest in reporting the suffering imposed by the blockade. One of the few to try is RWN guest Bethan McKernan, who just published the only story I can find in English about how losing Hodeidah will cause massive death among the Shia.
All the other media reports I’ve found on Hodeidah are so wildly pro-Saudi they read like parody. Here’s one example from the Saudi mouthpiece Arab News:
“…the failure of negotiations compels [the Saudi-led coalition] to enforce this military solution that will cut off resources from the Houthis once and for all, ultimately shifting the balance of the war and ending the suffering. It is not just a military objective, but a moral imperative.”
Did you catch that? Tightening the blockade by capturing Hodeidah is a “moral imperative.” And that was the English-language version, the soft sell aimed at foreigners. (Arab News is aimed at Anglo expats with money living in KSA, and routinely soft-pedals stories to push the “reformist” image of MbS and the other bin Salmans, one of whom is the boss of Arab News’s parent company.)
Other media in the Sunni world had a more openly bloodthirsty, gung-ho tilt. After all, it was only a decade ago that Bandar, one of the most powerful Saud princes, warned that the Shia had provoked the Ummah’s Sunni majority to the limit, and would soon meet their doom:
“Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence…had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: ‘The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally “God help the Shia”. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.’”
Another Saudi mouthpiece journal, Asharq Awsat, published in London but funded from Riyadh (and run by yet another bin Salman brother) gloated much more openly:
“The Saudi-led coalition and the legitimate forces will be able to tighten the siege on the coup militias and close the last important port it controls after the liberation of Hodeidah governorate and its strategic harbor.”
Asharq Awsat apparently didn’t get the PR memo that the conquest of Hodeidah should be spun as a way to open up humanitarian aid. No, they’re saying the inconvenient truth of the operation, that its goal is to “tighten the siege…and close the last important port…” supplying the Shia provinces of the interior.
So the situation is lining up very nicely, militarily, for the UAE, Saudi, and their friends in D.C. and London. All you need to tighten the noose at this point in a campaign of extermination by famine/blockade is the silent collusion of world media.
And Lord, how happy the Anglo media have been to supply that last necessary element! Compare this silence to alleged starvation stories from Sunni regions of Syria.
If there was even a rumor that Sunni Syrians might be going hungry, every mainstream media outlet was all over the story. If their CIA-funded shills from the White Helmets made ridiculous claims of massacres and giant famines, later disproved, you could count on everyone from BBC to CNN to blast them over every TV in the Anglosphere.
But the hundreds of thousands of verified, real famine and epidemic cases in Yemen get very little coverage. There’s nothing subtle about why not. The Syrian Sunni jihadis were de facto allies of the US/UK/Saudi/Israel/UAE bloc. So their suffering needed to be amplified. The Shia Yemenis can be slandered with one word: “Iran.” Anything touched by Iran, for Anglo media, is inherently evil, and anything done to those so tainted needs no further justification. The “Houthi,” i.e. the Shia of NW Yemen, are allegedly puppets or proxies for Iran, the Shia Mister Big of journalistic imagination, and therefore legitimate targets for even the nastiest war of extermination (such as by hunger and disease.)
Just by the bye, the Iranian connection is mostly nonsense. The Shia of NW Yemen have been fighting against Sunni imperialists since the Ottomans tried to take their mountain villages centuries ago. They had no Iranian help then, and get very little now. The Sunni forces sent against them have always been the true foreign interlopers, featuring everything from Albanians to Egyptian contingents. But that kind of influence is just a normal fact about the world, to Anglosphere reporters, whereas even the faintest hint of Iranian aid is as horrifying as those globs of Alien goo on the landing craft of Ripley’s Nostromo.
The truth is that the mountain Shia of NW Yemen are eminently killable precisely because they DON’T have influential friends abroad. An inland population, very poor, isolated, facing a very rich and well-connected genocidal enemy — that’s the situation here, and it’s perfect for a successful extermination campaign.
As we see every day, via the non-coverage of this huge story by everyone (except the Cockburns, Bethan, and a few other brave outliers). There’ll be a time when the artificial famine in Yemen takes its place with other, similar horrors, like that in Ireland in the 1840s, Ukraine in the 1930s, and Bengal in the 1940s. And when revisionist scholars get around to counting the dead in this latest atrocity, they’ll note that there was a deadly silence from media outlets that should have known better—and DID know better, truth be told.
When Alfred Lord Tennyson, the adored Poet Laureate of Britain, was invited on a tour of Ireland at the very worst moment of the artificial famine there, he laid down strict conditions: he was to be provided with a coach with window shades that could be pulled down so as to shut out any view of “Irish distress” on the roads he traveled, and his hosts at every manor house were to instruct other guests to refrain from any mention whatsoever of this “distress”.
It’s what you see with most such famines. The loathing for the targeted minority long precedes their extermination. Once that loathing has been vented without blowback from world media, the genocidaires grow bolder, and begin to think practicalities. How and when, not “whether” to take out the troublemakers.
They don’t need, or even want, too much backing from media. All they ask is silence, distraction, anything other than the genocide itself. And they have the money and moral influence to enforce it (yes, weird as it sounds, money and power do strike most people as possessing moral force in their own right). With those advantages, and a liberal dispensing of cash to publishers, think tanks, and lobbyists, a lethal silence descends on those who are dying.
This is the last, most important element of the Ireland/Biafra/Bengal/Yemen strategy: a collusive silence from the media. Sure, it’ll be noted decades later. Books and articles will be devoted to explaining or justifying it (mostly “justifying” because powerful states tend to stay powerful, and don’t want their grandfathers’ crimes exposed).
And there’ll be a whole new set of career opportunities, for the grandkids of the journalists who are blocking the Yemen horror from their consciousness right now, in publishing scholarly articles on the complex quandaries that stopped their ancestors from seeing or smelling the corpses — when really (as I discovered when I once tried to research literary reactions to the Irish Famine) it was simple swinishness, generation after generation.
This article originally appeared as Radio War Nerd Newsletter #71, for subscribers to Radio War Nerd on Patreon. Subscribe today!
We are guilty. I am guilty. God help us.
Please explain why you attribute guilt to yourself and all others, including me. I am horrified and angered by the famine used as a weapon – an ancient strategy – but am unable to accept guilt or impose the judgment on everyone. The people who control the`sanctions`or blockade and the people who control state and private actions are guilty here as elsewhere, I`d claim. People who suffer the consequences of agents who engage in evil are victims. And should not, I believe, be assigned guilt because of the futility of their inaction or attempt to act.
Because we live in a country where the people are supposed to have influence upon elected officials, directly via the vote and indirectly through the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to petition the government to address grievances.
We can argue later whether or to what extent any of these rights are at all meaningful, especially compared with the right to write fat checks.
Personal declarations and assumptions of guilt over things which one has precisely zero power to affect in the slightest are one of the smarmiest forms of virtue-signalling there is. It is moral-superiority stuff-strutting, designed to highlight, point-up and center-stage the superior sensitivity of the one self-proclaiming all this guilt.
I am not impressed. And I am not guilty. Nor is any other member of the zero-power majority outside the Halls Of Power in this country.
Now, if a hundred million Americans were to pool their own individual powerlessness in the manner of the slime mold, which becomes an interesting creature through the co-ordinated movement of millions of individually helpless little mold-organism cells; then a Hundred Million Member Public might be able to amorphously advance upon certain objectives . . . in the manner of a slime mold or a lava flow.
But that is not strictly political power as we are invited to understand it.
Doctors Without Borders is in Yemen doing what they can. Here’s a link to a video showing the conditions they are working in and the suffering of the people.
Horror story. Whatever the long standing conflict has been, resorting to the famine strategy and Houthi genocide should be condemned but this will not occur just because the US is compromised by their current political alliances. And there it is. Once you play the game you feel obligued to give carte blanche to your allies whatever their interests. You become bloodstained. The rest of the world cowardly looking elsewhere. It is a shame for all of us. A moral defeat for everyone.
The usual innocents stuck between a rock & an extremely hard place, which I suppose is similar to the residents or inmates of Gaza. Billions on high tech weapons but falling back on that old tried & tested method of siege warfare & mass starvation.
Man is known by the company he keeps.
It’s similar but also different as Gaza has been getting 100x media attention of Yemen in MSM and 10x on Naked Capitalism despite 10 times less casualties. Or maybe 100 times, as War Nerd correctly observes, nobody bothers to count.
Gaza involves the Israelites, of course, and a lot of the media attention is to tell the rest of the world “how evil Hamas has vowed to destroy Israel” (by running onto the bullets and bayonets, I guess).
What organizing principle could people start demanding? Something on the order of “a decent life for everyone, and shrink the Elite to a size that could be drowned in the bathtub”? Lots of definitional issues in that of course, and getting there, given what is too apparent of “human nature,” is a Herculean (maybe Sysiphean?) task…
yea, but my point was that the media that are unsympathetic to Israel also give much more attention to the Israeli Gaza conflict than to other more deadly ones (of which the Yemeni civil war is the most prominent but not the only one).
Anyway this is not the topic of this article and your organisational principle definitely sounds good
Why does the US sit idly by as this genocide is happening? Oil transport is #1. Expansion of the Saudi Kingdom is #2. To the Saudi regime, Yemen (like Qatar) is an annoying little Shiity [sic] country with economic leverage mainly because both sit on strategic oil tanker routes. Yemen also opposes the House of Saud on religious (Shia) – not to mention other grounds.
Given the current royal family shake-up in Arabia, arrests and abductions can achieve only so much. Like all monarchs in history, it is the high priests (Mullahs, bishops, etc.) who justify their autocracy. The genocide of Yemen is aimed at ensuring a steady flow of oil and eliminating the Shia Houthi. The survivors of this manufactured disaster will be too weak (even eager perhaps) to welcome absorption into the Saudi Kingdom.
How does everybody involved sleep at night? Well, technically, the Saudis did not slaughter the Yemeni, Allah just wrought a plague upon them. Thus, it is the will of Allah.
The US is NOT, I repeat, NOT sitting idly by. Target coordinates are delivered by US intelligence, KSA fighter planes are refuelled by US planes, and US troops are active on the ground as well.
In UK, Boris the not-so-usefull idiot does want any criticism raised towards the Saudis as there is too much money involved.
So a genocide is brought upon those poor humans by your elected representatives, and MSM maintains a guilty silence.
Exa tly. The US is an active and important participant. Without the US the naval blockade would be ineffective, and the Saudis would run out of bombs. US soldiers are on the ground in Yemen. How much more can they participate?
Re: “…Given the current royal family shake-up in Arabia, arrests and abductions can achieve only so much.”
The crisis in S.A. itself has also been underreported. While it seems to have subsided, who knows what might be percolating below the placid surface?
Good article, and I’m glad he acknowledged the Cockburns’ work. His parallel with Biafra interests me, but this bit from the Wikipedia page he linked suggests something more complicated than Nigerian oil money smothering opposition to its campaign.
Another little part of the Global War on Mopes is the current rulers’ ramping up of Obama’s “killing people [with brown and olive skins, and white and black folks at home]:”
Nice little header chart, with running tally of numbers of “strike missionss,” numbers of air-dropped ordnance, and numbers of dead (to the nearest thousand or so, plus or minus, from “available sources.” And hey, it’s from, my goodness, HillaryBama Love Central, DailyKos LLC!
“We” and our rulers are truly, truly exceptional… but of course, TINA to “protect national interests…”
The Guardian also has quite a good opinion article on the Yemen genocide today.
Thanks for jointly posting this, hope it will help this conflict get the attention it needs
It has been said that Hitler never visited the death camps. He “pulled down the shades” as it were. The same was true of most German civilians. Here in the US we prefer to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by our own troops, much less the Saudis. It’s hard to maintain the fiction of exceptionalism and morality with reality staring you in the face. While such behavior is therefore consistent throughout many cultures, TPTB could at least spare us the hypocrisy of pretending it isn’t so. From a consistency standpoint the Romans had it all over us. Celebrate war and conquest and bring on the gladiators they said. There would be no “shoot and cry” for them.
Let’s see now. According to wikipedia, in 1985 the population of Yemen was about 10 million. They also have a sustained sky-high fertility rate, and with enough food the population should double about every 20 years. Let’s think about this.
1985 – 10 million
2005 – 20 million
2025 – 40 million
2045 – 80 million
2065 – 160 million
2085 – 320 million
2105 – 640 million
Forget ‘climate change’, Yemen has always been arid, on their own they could probably grow enough food to support between 5 and 10 million. As Malthus and Mills and Keynes and Ma Yinchu etc. have described, the above numbers are absurd. There is no physical way that the Yemenis could possibly build chains of nuclear reactors and advanced desalinization plants in time to keep up with this POTENTIAL growth (even if our stupid government wan’t dropping bombs on them). So it won’t happen. But mostly not by famine, it’s a mistake to focus on famine. It is generally the effects of chronic malnutrition that are the great restraint on population growth. Which is why Yemen’s growth rate is starting to slow down. But that’s nothing to cheer when it comes about due to crushing poverty causing women to be in such poor condition that they can’t get pregnant or bring a pregnancy to term…
OK sure, the external world can feed the Yemenis. But for how long? And Yemen is not the only place with a growing need for food…
What, you say that the Yemenis have to become rich before they can be expected to lower their fertility rate? Well, that has basically never happened. The iron law of development is that FIRST people lower their fertility rate while they are still poor, and THEN, if everything else goes more-or-less right, they can slowly acquire and reinvest a surplus and build prosperity.
But yes, what’s happening in Yemen is indeed our fault. For refusing to admit the obvious truth out of a misguided sense of politeness.
Not so sure about your Iron Law of Development. One might think of the industrialization of England/Britain — https://www.thoughtco.com/population-growth-and-movement-industrial-revolution-1221640 Though that, of course, was the time of growth of their Empire.
And it seems to me it’s not politeness but involvement with the Israelites and the globalized economy owned by supranational corporations that is the biggest driver. Helped along by all the people who find “meaningful and well compensate work” serving the Imperial machinery, either oblivious to or actively and intentionally forwarding the Imperial enterprise — “the oil must flow” is a simplification, but it’s about protecting the vampire squids and other parasites that fatten off of “trade and finance” and profits from pesticides and GMOs and all the rest.
So in an ongoing genocide through siege and starvation you decide the issue is over-population… Kind of grotesque no?
Also, I think you’re confused between politeness and basic human decency.
He’s not confused between politeness and basic human decency, he just doesn’t see any reason to nurture either of those traits.
He says the Yemini, by the numbers, should understand that their expectation of continued existence is unreasonable, Malthus agrees with him, so does the coalition, so what’s the problem?
Sounds somewhat like the British opinions about the Irish.
Say, how about empathy first and intellectual excursions into “laws of development” later?? A moment of silence to reflect on this unspeakable suffering might be in order here before setting off on enlightening the rest of us on how all of this is just a giant red herring designed to deflect our attention from the Yemenis propensity to breed uncontrollably.
well jeez, when you put it that way, there’s nothing to see here…they were eventually going to suffer anyway! It’s ok that the U.S. legally compels me to pay my taxes and creates money out of thin air to inflict death, despair, and misery upon these people. May as well double down and say the U.S. is doing them a favor, right?
Like Syria, Yemen is a multi-sided civil war that is being fought with foreign intervention. The US has aided the Saudis… but mostly to target Al Qaida and ISIS.
It’s difficult for the US or any western country to act as a mediator in the conflict since most sides (Houthis, Al Qaida, and ISIS) pretty much hate us. I mean… the actual motto of the Houthis is ‘Death to America’:
We could try and intervene on the side of the government to end the bloodshed sooner (as Russia did in Syria)… but there are two governments. I don’t think there’s an easy solution.
Targeting Al Qaeda and ISIS, or shepherding them? The U.S. has a history in the formation and invigoration of both groups. The solution is to stop selling weapons, refueling weapons, and providing intelligence that supports this crisis.
The US does not support Al Qaeda and ISIS. We have been supporting other groups, in Syria for example, that work with and support both.
The jihadis who fight on the ground are much more fluid about membership to the organizations then we’d like. Much of the weapons the CIA gave to opposition groups in Syria ended up in Al Qaeda and then ISIS’s hands :(
I agree we need to stop selling weapons to any of these armed groups. Heck, I’d vote to stop selling them to most countries.
The claim that the Saudis target al-Qaida and ISIS is laughable. They don’t target their own people.
The US makes regular drone strikes in Yemen with the Saudi’s assistance. That’s a fact.
Both al-Qaida and ISIS claim their overall goal is to overthrow the Kingdom of Saud and establish the Caliphate. (ISIS already claims to have done this.)
I agree that the Saudi’s have an al-Qaida / ISIS problem. At best, I’d expect the Saudi’s see them as useful fools… whos leadership needs to be clipped every now and again. It’s more likely they have support without the government’s consent.
Thank you, Yves.
Further to Prince Bandar, W’s friend and fellow connoisseur of single malts, and the money that makes western elites turn a blind eye or worse, here’s some insight from my neck of the woods:
Bandar owns an estate, Glympton Park, north of Oxford. Nearby are the country homes for some of the UK’s elite, aka “the Chipping Norton set”, and Ditchley Park, home of the Ditchley Foundation, similar to the Council on Foreign Relations. One country home is owned by a peer of the realm, scion of a famous Hong Kong trading dynasty and the brother in law of a top central bank governor and former alumnus of Goldman Sachs. Many country homes are owned by media and arts luvvies, often opinion formers and the talking heads who monopolise the air waves, especially on Sundays. Some homes are owned by a scion of the Murdoch family and Murdoch media group hacks and current and former Tory politicians. NB the Murdoch investment in an oil company prospecting on the Golan Heights.
At this time of year, often over strawberries and cream, the great and the good will gather at these places to debate the great issues of the day, away from the great unwashed. It’s incestuous and secretive. The only time one sees them is when they come out for Boxing Day (fox) Hunt at Chipping Norton.
With regard to single malts, the father in law of one former Tory politician / PM, father of a Tory minister and a former Tory minister himself owns a estate in the Outer Hebrides where a superior brand of single malts is produced. Said estate owner’s Oxfordshire estate is south of Oxford. The elite caravan moves from estate to estate, a world away from the famine they so effectively hide.
Good write up. Thanks for posting.
This is how Native Americans were decimated. I think the Iran deal made this war possible and for that reason was leary about it.
The Iran Deal has basically nothing to do with this conflict. It started before the Iran Deal was signed, and the Iran deal was about, you know, Iran, not Yemen. Talk of ties between the Houthi and the Iranians are greatly exaggerated because it’s the one talking point we can use to justify our stance on the conflict to the public. At the start of the conflict I doubt there was any relationship at all between the Houthi and the Iranians.
This is speculation on my part. I think that the concession that Saudi Arabia demanded for the Iran deal was U.S. help with the Yemen war. I have not seen evidence of Iranian supplies to the Houthis, although why would this be illegal?
(June 11, 2018) Yemen – U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide
Where are the MSM articles about this? Oh that’s right, it wasn’t Assad that did this.
“MSF Yemen @msf_yemen – 10:29 UTC – 11 Jun 2018
“This morning´s attack on an @MSF cholera treatment centre in Abs by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition shows complete disrespect for medical facilities and patients. Whether intentional or a result of negligence, it is totally unacceptable.”
And now there are Saudi airstrikes on the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Cholera Treatment Center in Northern Yemen-
The Doctors Without Borders had told the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC) its coordinates so it appears that the SELC used the coordinates as targeting coordinates. B*******.