Saudi Arabia Intervention and U.S. Arms Fuel Escalating Carnage in Yemen's Civil War

Posted May 24, 2017

MP3 Interview with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence, conducted by Scott Harris


As the civil war in the impoverished nation of Yemen entered its third year in March, few Americans are aware of the death and destruction falling heavily on civilians – and their own nation’s involvement in the conflict. The combatants engaged in the war are the Huthis, an armed group whose members belong to a branch of Shiite Islam known as Zayidism. The Huthis are allied with supporters of Yemen’s former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and are alleged to be receiving arms from Iran. On the other side are forces allied with the current President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi supported by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition.

According to the United Nations, nearly 5,000 civilians have died and more than 8,000 have been wounded since the conflict began, the majority killed by Saudi led airstrikes. Combatants blocking critical food supplies threatens famine - and an outbreak of cholera that has spread to more than 30,000 – is expected to deepen Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

International human rights groups maintain that horrific abuses and war crimes are being committed throughout Yemen, including Saudi airstrikes that have unlawfully targeted schools, hospitals, homes, markets and mosques. The human rights community has condemned the $110 billion arms deal President Trump recently signed with the Saudi monarchy. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who discusses the death and destruction in Yemen’s forgotten civil war, exacerbated by Saudi intervention and U.S. arms. [Rush transcript.]

KATHY KELLY: Some people who were aware of our efforts to go to Iraq and bring food and medicine – mostly medicines to Iraqi children and families – when Iraq was under economic sanctions, have been helping us better understand what's happening now in Yemen, where the country is experiencing a naval blockade while they have been so dependent on food in particular that would come to the port of Hodeidah. And now, when they've experienced so many bombings indiscriminate bombings of hospitals and clinics as the Saudis have used the United States weapons and weapons sold there in 2015 to the Saudis to attack hospitals, roadways, including buses that are on roadways and civilian gatherings including weddings. They've undergone so much terror and fear already in Yemen and now they're facing starvation and an outbreak of cholera. And a very likely imminent bombing of their major port city of Hodeidah.

So, people who knew what we were doing in Iraq have said maybe we can help you to now focus on what's happening in Yemen because it's a place that is so very, very forgotten. President Trump was in Saudi Arabia negotiating a deal with the Saudis, such that the Saudis would invest maybe as much as $60 billion or more in United States infrastructure and people in the United States would get jobs if they're working for weaponmakers, and the United States would $100 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia. And then the Saudis said, "We're going to try to help stop terrorist attacks."

But, it's such a conundrum because, really the Saudis have been supporting people who have waging terrifying attacks in the neighboring country of Yemen. And also they're teamed up with the al Qaeda and the Arab peninsula and supplying groups with more weapons, as if somehow supplying groups with more weapons is somehow going to lessen terror and enabling aerial terrorist attacks which somehow will bring bring peace is – it's just so unthinkable.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Briefly provide our listeners with some ideas of what they can do here in the United States to get some attention on the conflict in Yemen, the U.S. role in that conflict, and what we as people could advocate for stopping the carnage.

KATHY KELLY: Well, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy who has repeatedly, and at some risk I would imagine to his own political future, spoke out about Yemen and about Saudi Arabia, and he has managed to get 27 cosigners to Senate Joint Resolution 40. And that's a resolution that says that weapons cannot be sent to Saudi Arabia while Saudis continue to indiscriminately bomb Yemen and to abuse human rights of people in other countries by violating international laws.

So Sen. Murphy, I think, would welcome more support. People could certainly tell their friends and relatives in other states to support Resolution 40 and also then get every single congressperson on board to be part of introducing a similar bill into the congress. And also joining 55 Congresspeople who've said that the United States can't continue to be complicit with the Saudi war without going to Congress and getting authorization. I'm not so sanguine about that one because, then if they would, with the makeup of the current makeup of our Congress and Senate, they might get that authorization. So we should say to ourselves as individuals, we won't authorize war. We'll do everything we can to resist it. And of course, education, education, education. These realities that people are experiencing in Yemen is alarming. The outbreak of cholera, the bombing of the port city, the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas. All of this should be part of our mainstream news coverage. And I think with Sen. Murphy's speaking as eloquently and clearly as he has in Connecticut, you have a choice to push this word out further and further into every possible kind of media. It's interesting that Iran is so villified but they did just elect someone who is not hardliner. Rohani is a moderate and he was just elected and he's now being told, "Well you're going to be shut out you're shunned, we believe that somehow your country is responsible for terrorism in the world. But I think that doesn't coher with the truth. You can't even find pictures or intercepts of phone calls that would give evidence that the Iranians have been arming the Houthi rebels. I mean, I'm not saying that they haven't, but there isn't the evidence. And there's so much evidence of the tens of billions and now seems to be hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons that the United States has sold to Saudi Arabia.

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