Trump just forked over $115B in arms to Saudi Arabia so they could expand their genocide of Yemen. This post describes the historic perspective, the scope of the current crisis and a Democracy Now video interview with Medea Benjamin. This is your tax dollars at work…slaughtering thousand of Yemenis, starving millions including 3.3M children. You are paying for this.
Yemen analysis follows two brief announcements.
Wake Up Sleeping Activists Click Activism Isn’t Activism. Retake routinely publishes analysis of how policies could help address social and economic injustice, but there are also ways that you as an individual (yes you), can help address the imbalance between those have much and those who have little. To find out more about what you can do click here and go to the events and opportunities page where you will find info on a raft of volunteer opportunities within Retake and with partner organizations. You will also find info on coming actions including the Roundhouse Rally Wednesday (wear yellow), the Wall of Love, training in conducting effective political conversations (we need to start seeing RSVPs for this important and very good training), and also opportunities to volunteer handing out flyers at community events, providing childcare at the events of our activist partners and other ways you can contribute. There is also info on this Saturday’s KSFR Retake radio show and it is going to be special. Not much energy from you on any of this of late. We are trying to build a powerful local movement here and that requires your engagement and if you are truly committed to equity, there are things you can do today. Click here.
Roundhouse Rally Wednesday (tomorrow) from 11-1. Need motivation to go to the rally, NM Voices for Children, a tremendous advocacy group has compiled an excellent analysis of the impact the Governor’s budget would have on children and families. Click here for the summary.
Yemen: A Historic Conflict That the US Just Made Worse
$350B Arms Deal with Saudis. Donald Trump just completed a $115B deal for “tanks and helicopters for border security, ships for coastal security, intelligence-gathering aircraft, a missile-defense radar system, and cybersecurity tools,” as reported by ABC News. And this is only the down payment as the deal commits the US to a total of $350B. From a Vox Report: “Back in September, the Obama administration approved a more than $115 billion arms deal with the Saudis. But as the death toll and reports of human rights violations in the Saudi-led war on Yemen began to rise dramatically, the Obama administration nixed the sale of the precision-guided munitions it had originally agreed to put in the deal to try to coerce the Saudis into curbing those atrocities.” So despite the fact that the atrocities have escalated since Obama cancelling the deal, Trump has no such moral scruples. In a bizarre twist to the deal, toward the end of the meeting, the New York Times reported that Trump suggested adding high tech anti-ballistic missiles and sophisticated radar systems to the deal. When the price tag caused the Saudis to balk, Jared Kushner picked up the phone in the meeting and called Marillyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin (the company that makes the system) and asked if she would consider discounting the price for the Saudis. What is so odd about this is that our President is asking a US company to make less of a profit on an arms project so that he can achieve greater benefit for the Saudis. An interesting twist on America First. Apparently one of the reasons Trump is so eager to please the Saudis is that there are discussions of their investing $40B in US infrastructure. You can’t make this up. Click here to read the full Vox report.
Something Rotten in the State of Trumpland. The above is weird enough, but then we find out that Trump negotiates an arms deal and the Saudis donate $100M to Ivanka Trump’s new foundation that supports women entrepreneurs. I am all for women entrepreneurs, but is it just me that finds significant irony in Trump lambasting Hillary Clinton for taking foreign donations for her foundation and now Ivanka is accepting a $150M donation at the precise moment that her father is negotiating a huge weapons deal with the donor. My head is spinning. Click here for a report from The Root that will provide background on this, with a touch of humor.
Why This Arms Deal Such a Heinous Idea. As with most all Mideast conflicts, there is no black and white and tons of really complicated grey. The Cliff Note version is that the Yemen-Saudi conflict’s roots are in a failed political transition from when longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh handed over power to Mr Hadi, his deputy, in November 2011. What was supposed to be a seamless transition, has been anything but. A combination of rampant corruption and hatred provided the Houthi movement, which champions Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority–an opportunity to expand its historic opposition to Mr. Saleh. With Mr. Hadi weakened by a combination of incompetence, high unemployment, rampant food insecurity, and corruption, the Houthi’s influence and support grew to even include significant support from the Sunni’s.
Between 2011-2015, not only did the Houthi’s take control of Saanah, the capital and force the escape of President Hadi, but they even pushed south and almost took the pivotal port town of Aden. The Saudis and the US see the insurgent Houthi’s as a threat to the established order in the Mideast (wait did I say ‘established order in the Mideast?). As a result, the US and Saudis are aligned with the exiled Yemen President and have been bombarding the Houthi incessantly essentially destroying the country’s infrastructure. The US’ interest is supposedly due to the presence of Al Qaida in Yemen and its fear that ISIS will use northern Yemen as a launching point for attacks in the region and even in the US. But as is the result throughout the region, these political machinations are seldom resolved peacefully and result in endless pain and suffering for innocent civilians, a very high proportion of which are children. More than 7,600 people have been killed and 42,000 injured since March 2015, the majority in air strikes by a Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs the president. The conflict and a blockade imposed by the coalition have also triggered a humanitarian disaster, leaving 70% of the population in need of aid. The impact is being borne most heavily by civilians. The destruction of civilian infrastructure and restrictions on food and fuel imports have also pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
- Some 17 million people are considered food insecure and 6.8 million severely food insecure.
- About 3.3 million children and pregnant or breast-feeding women are acutely malnourished, including 462,000 children under five who face severe acute malnutrition
- The UN says 2 million Yemenis are internally displaced and 180,000 others have fled the country.
- Only 45% of the 3,500 health facilities surveyed by the UN in November were fully functioning.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy condemned the arms deal, writing in The Huffington Post, quote, “By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more — not fewer — civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them,” he wrote.
What is the history of Yemen and the context to this conflict? If you really want to take a deep dive into the evolution of Yemen from the birth of Islam to today, complete with maps of the regions of Yemen under control of different factions that have lineage dating back centuries, click here.
Democracy Now and Medea Benjamin Shed Light on This. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink and author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection is interviewed by Amy Goodman in an illuminating conversation that puts all of the above in context.
Lots to oppose, lots of reasons to stay informed. This is the kind of issue that consumes 30 seconds on the evening news, but is killing tens of thousands and imperiling millions….with our dollars. In other words, whether we like it or not: We are doing this.
In solidarity, Paul & Roxanne.