While the spiraling campaign of Donald Trump continues to capture the nation’s attention with news stories plastered across the front pages of virtually all media outlets, a huge story broke last week that went surprisingly unnoticed.
The United States went to war.
In a shocking sign of the military consensus in Washington – which can more-or-less take such action with impunity – the US Navy bombed Yemen on Wednesday, October 12.
A retaliation for missiles fired at a US vessel by Houthi rebels, the missile strike annihilated three radar sites. While several rocket propelled missiles were evidently directed at US vessels, the fact is that the retaliation ushers in a new level of escalation in Yemen, which has a population of 26 million, most of whom are debilitatingly poor.
Additionally, the exchange happened in a larger context than a couple wildly ineffective missile attacks. As Impact Tap discussed earlier this month, a 500 pound US-made bomb fell on a civilian funeral in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, killing 525 people. Launched by the Saudi-led coalition – which is sponsored by the US military and the US weapons industry – the attack constituted a blatant war crime. An investigation, initiated by the Saudi government, concluded that it was indeed at fault for the attack, remarking that it “wrongly” committed the airborne massacre.
Furthermore, the US government has been providing logistical support for the Saudi government for over a year. So while the ostensible reason for the retaliation may be grounded in the supposed reasonableness of retribution, it arrives on the coattails of an increasingly involved engagement of the US armed forces in the Yemeni civil war.
Yemen is very poor, with about 14.4 million people “food insecure” according to the UN. Since the civil war commenced a year-and-a-half ago, 6,800 people have been killed. The Houthi rebels – who are Shia – are at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s powerful Sunni neighbor that has taken in the ousted Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his political allies. Both sides are responsible for crimes against humanity. Houthi rebels, for example, have been accused of using land mines, a weapon banned by international law.
But the majority of casualties in the conflict have been civilian, most of whom have been killed by Saudi airstrikes in urban zones.
While the situation is complex, the United States is certainly only exacerbating the current tension, and providing more radical groups in Yemen – such as an active ISIS spin-off – the rhetorical angle they need to justify their own campaigns of terror.
Brokering a ceasefire is more important that siding with a misguided ally. The United States ought to cease its direct involvement rather than get entangled in yet another intractable conflict that it has essentially no reason to participate in.