THE BLOG
07/29/2015 01:33 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2016

U.S.-Backed Assault on Yemen Putting Over 20 Million Lives At Risk: Where Is the Outrage?

The unfolding human rights catastrophe in Yemen is but another example of the U.S.'s brutal and equally inexplicable foreign policy, its cynical posture towards human rights, and the main stream media's utter failure to hold the U.S. accountable on such questions.

A recent Amnesty International blog, appropriately named, "Yemen: The Humanitarian Crisis in The Shadows," summarized the situation well:

Despite more than 100 days of heavy fighting, the impoverished country of Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis that you most likely haven't heard of.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are more than 21 million people - 80 percent of the population -- in need of aid throughout the country. All essential supplies, from food to fuel to medical supplies, are in severe shortage.

According to recent UN data, there have been more than 1,400 civilian deaths and 3,400 civilian injuries in three months of the armed conflict. Many civilians have been trapped by the fighting between coalition of Houthi and former president Ali Saleh loyalists and the forces supporting current president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Others have died or lost homes in the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign against the Houthi.

Despite international humanitarian law, which clearly states that all possible steps must be taken to prevent or minimize civilian casualties, Amnesty International's documentation indicates that the Saudi-led military coalition has done little to nothing to prevent such violations.

And, of course, "the Saudi-led coalition" which is violating international law, including the Geneva Conventions, by putting millions of Yemeni civilians at risk, is itself being given crucial logistical and material support for its Yemeni campaign by the United States (as well as the UK). As Human Rights Watch (HRW) has explained, "The United States announced on March 25 that it was providing 'logistical and intelligence support' to the coalition's military operations. Agence France-Presse reported on April 2 that a senior US military official said that the US would provide refueling tankers to assist Saudi warplanes. The US would also provide intelligence to "help[] the Saudis understand what's happening on their border . . . ." In but another report, HRW made it clear that "[p]roviding direct support to military operations, such as information on targets, would make the US and the UK parties to the armed conflict, and bound to apply the laws of war."

Yet, the coalition attacking Yemen is not abiding by the laws of war. To the contrary, in a number of respects, it is flagrantly violating such laws. For example, just two days ago, Human Rights Watch concluded that "Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in the Yemeni port city of Mokha on July 24, 2015, are an apparent war crime." And, in this same report, HRW noted that it "has investigated a number of airstrikes that appeared to be unlawful." Thus,

Coalition airstrikes have struck Houthi targets in the capital, Sanaa, and other cities, including Saada, Hodaida, Taiz, Ibb, Lahj, al-Dale`a, Shabwa, Marib, Hajja, and Aden. Many of these attacks have killed and injured civilians. As of July 21, the fighting in Yemen had resulted in at least 1,693 civilian deaths, the majority from airstrikes, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch, in a but another report, relates that the U.S. has supplied cluster bombs being used by Saudi-led forces against the Yemeni population, despite such bombs being banned by a 2008 treaty adopted by 116 countries. As this report explains,

"Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger," said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. "These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members - and the supplier, the US - are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians."

In short, there is no question that the U.S. is responsible for aiding and abetting coalition forces in gross human rights abuses in Yemen, up to and including the attempted genocide of 20 million civilians. Incredibly, this is happening even as Samantha Power -- most famous for decrying genocide as the great scourge of humanity and for calling for armed intervention to stop it -- is positioned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Of course, the painful truth is that for the U.S., human rights, and even threatened genocide, are only of concern when they can be used to justify U.S. military intervention; not when they are the product of U.S. intervention. And indeed, Samantha Power herself has been rightly criticized for maintaining such double standards. However, there is almost total silence in the U.S. mainstream press about such hypocrisy and Orwellian double-speak, demonstrating the sorry state of our ostensible democratic system.

Update: Just after publishing this piece, I saw that the U.S. State Department has approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of $5.4 billion in additional Patriot missiles built by Lockheed Martin.