Saving Hodeideh

Nine Senators have apparently sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador demanding that they not destroy the Yemeni Port City of Hodeideh which is used by the United Nations to bring aid into the country. A campaign has been mounted by US activists to support this effort to save the port of Hodeideh.     On the surface it seems like a compassionate gesture and I’m sure that these Senators must be sincere to have adopted such a hopeless and unpopular cause.   But, I have a message for them.   Wake up! guys.   The people of Yemen are already starving.   Babies are already dying of hunger and thirst, dysentery and all kinds of ordinary childhood diseases that are easily treated in modern medical facilities.    Teenage boys go to war instead of to school.   Men go to war instead of work.   And they are martyred every day in a cruel war of aggression.

For more than 2 years the Saudi airforce, supported by some of their gulf allies and fully backed by US weapons and technical assistance, has been bombing the people and social and civil infrastructure of Yemen.

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A Fact Finding Mission to Yemen

Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri, one of the dead, had previously survived a US strike on his wedding party. Photo via Reprieve

In February, President Trump gave the go-ahead to a Special Ops Mission in Yemen that was originally planned on Obama’s watch.    Numerous civilians were killed including 9 children, one of whom was Anwar Awlaki’s 8 year old daughter.   The event was widely, but not deeply covered in the U.S. MSM.   The focus was on blaming Donald Trump.   The Bureau of Investigative Journalism ran The Full Details of Botched US Raid in Yemen within a couple of days, naming the victims and providing information about them.  Since then, The Intercept ran an even more personalized article with interviews of the local people.   They must have someone inside Yemen.   Meanwhile, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that the number of drone strikes in Yemen has exploded since President Trump came into office.   Apparently the new President is also thinking of waiving a Congressional block on selling certain types of weapons to Saudis for use in Yemen.   It is difficult to imagine appropriate use of any weapon against the defenseless population of Yemen, but even so, Mr. Trump has once again iced the cake of mindless international intervention and destruction.

On one of the list serves I frequent, someone asked the question, who will go to Yemen and tell us their story.   I’ve actually been thinking about this.   Yes.   It seems crazy, but it would be something to go there and show some compassion for the people and bring back their stories.   Of course, The Intercept is already doing that.   But, I was mulling the difference between going to Syria to talk with people and going to Yemen.

I wrote:

I wish I could go to Yemen to document what it is happening there.

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American Presidents enjoy the company of Saudi Royals

Cash Strapped Saudi Arabia and 9/11 Lawsuits

Robert Fisk reports that Saudi Arabia is too broke to pay construction contractors and guest workers.  Despite the impending mulit-billion dollar US-Saudi arms deal, which they are ready to pay for, the Saudi Royals.are not meeting their minimal social obligations.   He references the horrific violence an destruction of the Saudi led war on Yemen and the fact that the Saudis are funding al Nusra, ie. Al Qaeda in Syria to undermine that state as well.   It is easy to judge the House of Saud for these crimes- but they are actually US crimes being carried out by the Saudi regime.   While more and more anti-war folks are sounding the call to stop arms sales to the Saudi government and remove their privileged status among US allies, the US government depends on them to facilitate US wars.   Despite a massive outpouring of sentiment in this country opposing the latest sale of weapons to the Saudi regime, Congress approved it.   The Saudi Royals may be greedy and manipulative and determined to control the Muslim World, but it is the United States rulers who are arrogant and ruthless and committed to rule the entire world.

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At the CodePink Saudi Symposium

On the 5th and 6th of March, I attended the CodePink Saudi Summit at David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington DC.    Saturday was jam packed with interesting speakers.   Sunday we put our heads together to work out ways to address the multiple issues currently swirling around Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud. You can learn more about what is going on at End the US Saudi Alliance.

Rather than attempt to summarize an incredibly complex and nuanced conversation, I am going to post some recordings of the panel discussions.   Rather than post the second rate videos from my Flip, I have posted my audio recordings, for those of you who would like to listen as you go about your day, at the end of this page.

If you have the time and the interest, CodePink has the entire set of recordings on the RealNews website.   RealNews did an outstanding job of livestreaming the entire days worth of panels on Saturday and posting the reasonably high quality recordings on their website:

2016 Saudi Summit: Understanding The Saudi Kingdom and Its Global Role

To go with the audio recordings below, I’ve pulled in the excellent, wonderful, brilliant Keynote by Vijay Prashad:

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Rochester Free Radio and My Interview on the Broken Spear Vision

Rochester Free Radio has been airing the internet at RochesterFreeRadio.com  where they loop  scheduled programming daily.  In a week or two Rochester Free Radio will be going live on the air as WRFZ-LP at 106.3 FM.    This is very exciting!    Rochester will finally have a real community radio station.  In the meantime, George Payne has been interviewing local activists on The Broken Spear Vision, which is a regular component of  WRFZ programming.  I have been interviewed on The Broken Spear Vision a number of times, most recently last Sunday.

You can hear my interview on the player below:

If you like what you hear, I am archiving episodes of The Broken Spear Vision.  Click here or click the Broken Spear Vision Tab above.   And tune into Rochester Free Radio for more great shows.

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About the Houthis and the Saudi War on Yemen

The war in Yemen has most often been described to us either as a civil war between the government of Yemen and its supporters, and a Houthi tribal militia. It is also represented as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia backing the Sunni government of Yemen and Iran backing a Shia insurgency led by the Houthis, a Zaydi tribe from northern Yemen.   Neither description is entirely accurate.   To understand what is happening in Yemen, it is useful to understand the factions who are fighting, and specifically, the Houthis.

The ‘correct’ title of the political movement we call the Houthis is Ansarullah.   They are not a tribal organization but rather a revolutionary movement. They are also not a Shia movement.   Zaydi Islam, though referred to by the Saudis as a Shia Islam, is in practice, much closer to Sunnism and in the north of Yemen, Sunni and Zaydi often worship in the same mosque.   In fact, Ansarullah, the group we know as the Houthis, has broad popular support because they espouse populist values.

The reason Ansarullah came to be called Houthis is that in 2004, they informally took the name of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who died while fighting in an insurrection against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.   Al Houthi was so beloved that the members of the organization began to call themselves ‘Houthis’ or ‘the Houthi Movement’.   But you may ask, why was a Houthi leading this movement and in what context did they emerge?

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21 Talking Points on US Backed War in Yemen (Updated with Context and PDF)

I prepared the Fact Sheet below to distribute at a film being shown at the High Falls Film Festival.   ‘Yemeniettes‘, a documentary film made by a Lebanese film company, follows a group of teenage girls who win a regional science contest from their enthusiastic invention to a local contest in Sana’a and then on to Doha, and then through the events that follow their winning this international contest.  It is a delightful scenario with many unspoken contradictions, Though a level of the background violence is reflected in the film it mostly focuses on these very liberal Yemeniettes with their innocent capitalist (as well as nationalist) aspirations.

Sadly, current events have overrun the context of this film and it seems unlikely there will be any more Yemeniettes (or Yemenis of any stripe)  entering,  much less winning, regional science contests any time in the foreseeable future.  This is pertinent because the United States is providing all kinds of support to our Saudi allies in their war effort.   If you enjoy this film, you should understand that.

***

  1. This US backed, Saudi led campaign is an intrusion into the internal politics of Yemen
  2. This US backed, Saudi led campaign has embroiled Yemen in an unnecessary civil war
  3. The US backed, Saudi War against Yemen constitutes a Crime Against Peace and is the site of numerous War Crimes

We in the US are complicit in the Saudi crimes against the People of Yemen!

 

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Storming Yemen

For nearly a decade the United States has used drones to target and kill suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.   Among others, US drones have killed busloads of civilians, guests attending weddings, taxi drivers, diners at a birthday party, people attending funerals and men attempting to reason with AQAP members.   When we complained about these practices, in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other places, one response was that it was better than carpet bombing like we did in World War II.   That always seemed rather odd because World War II was a war, and the cities carpet bombed were ‘enemy’ cities.

I would say that, well, the places where the killer drones are operating are not places where it would be possible or ‘legal’ to carpet bomb.   There would be no way to explain such a serious divergence from humanitarian law, the laws of war.   They’ve made a fine point about targeting a globally dispersed enemy force, a point that I strongly disagree with though many are ready to buy it.   One would think it would be beyond imagination to justify heavy bombing, carpet bombing in the same circumstance.

But Yemen has turned the world of ‘legal’ warfare on it’s head.   Since last March, a Saudi led coalition of Gulf Emirates with US technical and political backing have been ferociously bombing Yemen

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International Red Cross Report on Conditions in Yemen

This is the central city of the Houthi tribes from which the leadership of Ansarullah are are drawn.  The video was posted in early July.  Since then the aerial bombing has continued for nearly two months, and the ground fighting has increased. Yemen: ICRC calls for better access to civilians affected by continuing violence posted by the International Committee of […]

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Yemen Crisis: Trapped American – Freed Hostage

I wasn’t following this story in real time, but when it came to my attention today, the irony was too poignant to ignore.   A friend just sent me the content of an post from  Journalist Casey Coombs on the First Look, Intercept website.on May 4.   It is called “Stuck In Yemen: A Personal History“.  In the article, Coombs describes being stranded in Sana’a during the Saudi bombing campaign because the United States decided not to rescue US nationals in the country.

On April 30, the U.S. State Department posted updated information for Americans in Yemen with this printed in bold: “There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time.  If you wish to depart Yemen, you should stay alert for other opportunities to leave the country.” 

So there he is.  Abandoned in a war zone.  Fortunately, the locals are friendly, including the Houthis guarding a nearby outpost..

A month later, he is an American Hostage of the Houthis, freed by the Sultan of Oman.

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