Russia’s bloody, illegal invasion of Ukraine has captured the world’s attention. Many are breathlessly looking on in horror as Russia wages an aggressive war which according to the United Nations (UN), is a breach of international law and may constitute war crimes.
The world is outraged, as they should be. But one must wonder: why hasn’t the ongoing war in Yemen ever received the same attention and outrage?
US Officials Condemning Russia Are Hypocrites
In the last few weeks, we have witnessed some blatant hypocrisy displayed by the US government. Former officials directly complicit in war crimes in Yemen, like President Trump and Hillary Clinton, have—without any hint of shame or self-awareness—actively condemned Russia for violating international law.
If Russian leadership would rather not be accused of committing war crimes, they should stop bombing hospitals.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 10, 2022
All the while, the US government continues its blatant support for quite similar atrocities and violations via the war in Yemen.
If you’re not yet acquainted with the catastrophic blunders of US government intervention, then their complicity in some of the most heinous war crimes may come as a shock. Nevertheless, it’s the truth.
Here’s the backstory.
The Backstory: US Support for Horrific War in Yemen
In 2015, Barack Obama launched a counteroffensive war in Yemen in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which has now led to what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This campaign was set in motion amidst internal strife within Yemen between a northern rebel faction, called the Houthis, and the US/Saudi Arabia installed puppet-dictator, Mansour Hadi. Even before all this, war and domestic disputes had ravaged Yemen for decades, often exasperated by foreign intervention.
In this case, the intervention of the US and Saudi coalition hasn’t just exacerbated this conflict. It has transformed a domestic dispute into a deliberate medieval-style siege campaign against the civilian population–effectively bringing an entire nation to the brink of famine.
From 2015 to 2020, the US sold over $64.1 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, making the Kingdom the world’s largest arms importer. Alongside weapons for the Saudis, the US has also provided intelligence sharing and logistical support for military operations. (This essentially means our government runs the entire war.)
Why does the US do all this?
Why the Establishment Backs Atrocities in Yemen
One reason the federal government is so willing to participate in the war in Yemen is to fuel the military-industrial complex, which makes politically-connected defense contractors small fortunes.
According to the New York Times, defense conglomerate Raytheon has sold more than $3 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2020 alone. (Surprise surprise: Raytheon lobbyists have reportedly gone through “great lengths” to thwart any attempt to end the war.)
This counteroffensive war has been waged through a naval blockade on the country, perpetual Saudi airstrikes, and UAE mercenary fighters on the ground—all backed by the US through military, diplomatic and intelligence support. Mind you, these mercenary fighters are partially made up of Al-Qaeda and child slave soldiers from Sudan. Yes, you read that correctly: the U.S. is backing the side that fights with and empowers Al-Qaeda.
This seven-year war has led to countless war crimes. According to the Associated Press, these include UAE forces committing rape, torture, and murder.
On top of this, the Saudi air force has been deliberately bombing Yemen’s infrastructure and other civilian targets such as electricity, water, and sewage systems, schools, hospitals, factories, bridges, markets, weddings, funerals, civilian apartment buildings, and refugee camps. The Saudis have also targeted Yemeni farms and every aspect of the process of food distribution that they can. Because Yemen normally imports 80-90% of its food, the consequences of having its small domestic production system assaulted while imports are nearly nonexistent have been nothing short of catastrophic.
The World Food Program warned in 2021 that Yemen could become the worst famine in modern history. The numbers are astonishing: 10.3 million children are suffering from starvation while 30,000 children under the age of five die every year due to malnutrition-related diseases. And we’re hardly even scratching the surface of the horrors they are facing.
Simply put, the war in Yemen is an atrocity from almost any perspective.
US Support is Playing a Huge Role in Yemen’s Suffering
Yet three American presidents—Obama, Trump, and now Biden—have lied about this war while offering US support for an endless nexus of war crimes. Without US logistics and maintenance of Saudi warplanes alongside incessant arms deals with the Saudi-led coalition, this war would come to a swift end. We hold all the leverage, and yet every congressional effort to end this disgrace has been impeded upon.
And U.S. government officials will smile and bow and approve billions of dollars in arms sales to be used in further atrocities against the people of Yemen. https://t.co/5uApc3HYNM
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 12, 2022
Amen! Next week I will force a vote to stop funding the Saudi starvation blockade of Yemen.
Senate Skeptics are Right: End Missile Sales to Saudi Arabia – The American Conservative https://t.co/eYttOaPB6z
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 2, 2021
Why does the United States’ continued involvement largely evade the kind of scrutiny Russia is currently facing?
Perhaps because our involvement takes the form of a “proxy war.”
The Perils of Proxy Wars
A proxy war is a war instigated by a major power that doesn’t itself become directly involved.
Through proxy wars, the War State that is the US government gets to reap all the economic and political benefits of war without paying the ultimate price—the death of our own countrymen. Unfortunately, the American public doesn’t tend to pay as much attention when our young servicemen aren’t coming home in body bags.
Proxy wars effectively mean that the US government has the option to hide their crimes behind the authoritarian regimes they back. US complicity in a proxy war doesn’t draw attention or make for gripping news entertainment like a more conventional conflict might.
The US Shouldn’t Evade the Scrutiny Facing Russia
This all combines to enable these atrocities and shield them from the kind of public scrutiny and condemnation Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is (rightly) receiving.
When the infamous former Soviet Communists commit a crime of conventional standing—like unjustly invading their neighbor—there’s a global uproar. Yet when the US enables war crimes and human rights violations, it hardly gets noticed.
So, honest onlookers condemning Russia can’t overlook the US’s bleak track record in Yemen. To do so is the height of hypocrisy.