25 Sep 2018

Normal American Life Continues As Our Government Carries Out A Genocide In Yemen

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The biggest atrocity in decades is happening at the hands of the U.S./NATO empire.

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It has never been a mystery to me how ordinary Germans could ignore what was going on around them. They did it the same way we ignore all of the pain that millions of strangers are going through at any given moment. As long as other people’s terror isn’t in the room with you, as long as it’s off behind barbed wire a few miles away, it’s not just easy to ignore but almost impossible to notice.-Nathan J. Robinson

Like most of the other crises the world is facing, the situation in Yemen isn’t inevitable. It’s the result of decisions that our own country is making, and as Americans we have the power to put an end to it. As Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute recently assessed: “If the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman that this war [on Yemen] has to end, it would end tomorrow because the Royal Saudi Air force cannot operate without American & British Support.”

All we have to do is take action against this, which I suggest people do by avoiding paying taxes for the military, joining anti-war organizations like World Beyond War, and participating in events like Cindy Sheehan’s upcoming Women’s March on the Pentagon. If enough people do these things, the slaughter in Yemen will end, along with most of the world’s wars. And the global plutocracy that relies on these perpetual wars would lose its control in the process of this upheaval.

So when it’s come to Yemen, our government and media have successfully tried to keep Americans in the same detached mindset that the Germans were in. We sometimes hear about how the U.S. and Britain have directly supplied Saudi Arabia with the weapons that have been used to kill many thousands of people. We see how the U.S. is supporting the Saudi blockade of goods to Yemen that’s making over 100 children die every day from starvation and disease. But even people who know about these things can very easily separate themselves from it, think of it as just another detail in the news, and go on with their daily lives.

Otherwise, people either ignore the situation in Yemen or they believe the pro-Saudi talking points that are often put out by the media. For instance, neoconservative pundits characterize the Yemen conflict as “Iran’s war” even though Iran has played a very small role in it for the last three years; they also claim that the Houthis are behind the main Yemen blockade, despite the Houthis neither controlling enough territory nor having the motivation to do this; Saudi Arabia’s defenders also say that the Saudis were “forced” to impose their own blockade, despite this blockade having been completely unprovoked; and the Saudis say that their 2015 blockade is only about preventing weapon smuggling, but it’s directly prevented the shipment of food and medicine to Yemen and put eight million people in danger of starvation.

Also, the Saudis’ actions are not defensive. They’ve attacked infrastructure, homes, schools, factories, busses, gas stations, farms, government buildings, water treatment facilities, and other property without any provocation, meaning that they kill civilians only for the crime of being Yemeni. They’re also using famine and disease as a weapon, causing psychological harm, and destroying culture and heritage. All of these acts fit the criteria for genocide. But this fact is whitewashed in a lot of discussions about Yemen, and the U.S.’ massive role in the genocide is deflected from.

American imperialism has always protected itself with these kinds of distortions of the truth. And a lot of the time, it’s been easiest to simply keep Americans away from any news about the wars that their government is involved in. For instance, even while Obama was bombing seven countries and keeping America at war longer than any other president, cheery headlines from the mainstream media about Obama’s partial troop withdrawals created a popular perception that the U.S. had ended its wars.

This view has continued throughout the Trump presidency, with the media’s general reluctance to report on America’s unprecedentedly vast global military operations making most Americans not give war very much thought. Between the constant distractions in our political situation, along with the stresses that people are always navigating during the era of neoliberal capitalism, it can be hard to focus on something so seemingly far away. But every person’s fight for justice is interconnected, and the powers that be are hoping we stay away from the fight.