This summer, a Saudi-led coalition fighter jet delivered an airstrike on a bus in northern Yemen. The Saudi government claimed there were Houthi rebels aboard the bus.
When rescue workers arrived, they learned who the passengers were. No rebels, just 60 Yemeni children ages 8 to 14 on a summer camp field trip, along with their teachers. In all, 51 people died, 40 of them children. “It’s the people of Yemen, not the warring parties, who are paying the ultimate price,” an official with the aid group Save the Children told The Washington Post.
The scorched-earth tack that the Saudi kingdom takes in its prosecution of the 31/2-year-old war against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen has turned that Arabian Peninsula nation into the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. More than 16,000 civilians have been killed or injured in the conflict, the U.N. says. As many as 14 million people — nearly half of the country’s population — are on the verge of famine. Yemen also is home to the world’s worst cholera epidemic in modern history, with more than a million Yemenis contracting the disease.
What ought to gall Americans is that the Trump administration isn’t making greater efforts to stop the slaughter. The Saudi regime and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have endured fierce blowback from the West following the assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Western denunciation of the Saudis’ role in the upheaval of Yemen should be just as fierce.
The war in Yemen is a proxy conflict pitting two longtime U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, against Iran, which Riyadh accuses of actively helping the Houthi rebels. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has joined British counterparts in calling for a cease-fire in Yemen. “It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction,” Pompeo said.
Missing in his remarks was an admission of American complicity in the Yemeni crisis.
The U.S. provides refueling for Saudi coalition fighter jets waging war in Yemen. It also supplies Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces with arms for the conflict, along with intelligence assistance. Those fighter jets have carried out more than 18,000 airstrikes since the war started, and at least a third of those attacks have struck civilian targets — from hospitals, water treatment facilities and power plants to farm fields and fishing boats.
Pompeo’s call for a cease-fire should be accompanied by an immediate halt to all American military support to the Saudi coalition campaign in Yemen. That would send the Saudis a message that the call for a cessation in fighting is serious. And it would do what should have been done a long time ago — end U.S. involvement in a conflict that is accomplishing nothing more than systematically starving and killing innocent Yemenis.
— The Chicago Tribune