Why is the U.S. in Yemen? | NowThis World


On August 9, 2018 — These young boys boarded
a school bus for what was meant to be a daylong field trip filled with excitement. But that day of fun, soon turned into a day
of horror and tragedy. A Saudi Arabian-led military coalition reportedly
dropped a 500 pound laser guided bomb on the bus, killing at least 40 children, 11 bystanders
and injuring about 79 other people. The horrific images that emerged from the
scene of the attack not only drew the world’s attention to this tragedy, but also to the
international partnerships that are supporting Saudi Arabia’s relentless bombardment of
its neighbor to the south. Especially after subsequent reporting revealed
that the bomb used in the attack might have been supplied by the United States. I’m Judah with NowThis World, and in this
episode we’re going to look into this horrific attack and the role that the U.S. continues
to play in Yemen. The conflict in the country has created what
the United Nations has called “the worst humanitarian crisis” in the world today. “We are here, afraid in Yemen. They are targeting bridges. They are targeting schools. They are targeting roads.” Conservative estimates say that this war has
resulted in death of at least 5,000 civilians, created a famine in the country that has claimed
the lives of about 50,000 people, pushed 8.4 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. It also sparked a cholera epidemic that has
affected more than 1 million people. And the United States has supported this Saudi
Arabian-led military campaign since March 2015. This recent conflict began with Yemen’s
civil war, which launched out of the instability that followed a popular uprising in 2011. That uprising, eventually led to the removal
of Yemen’s longserving authoritarian leader, Ali Abdullah saleh. He eventually ceded power, handing over the
presidency to his deputy, Abd-Raabu Mansour Hadi. But he was never able to fully assert his
authority in the divided country, that was dealing with an armed rebellion by a Shiite,
Iranian-backed group called the Houthis. By September 2014, that group gained control
of large parts of Yemen, including its capital Sana’a. And by March of 2015, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia,
where he’s been ever since. And that is when the war got worse. A Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirate-led
military coalition began an airstrike campaign against Houthi targets in the country. Enter the United States, and other western
powers. The U.S. sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, provides
logistical support in the war, and even refuels Coalition fighter jets during flight. To put it all very simply; The Saudi Coalition
is dropping American-made bombs from planes refueled by American soldiers, which kill
innocent civilians, including children. And while this might come as a surprise for
some, it shouldn’t. That’s because globally, the U.S. exports
more than a third of all major weapons – and the biggest beneficiary? You guessed it: Saudi Arabia. The U.S. supplies more than 60% of Saudi Arabia’s
arms imports – billions of dollars worth of weapons including cluster bombs and anti-tank
missiles, as well as armored vehicles, tanks, attack aircrafts, and other equipment. Experts say that though sales of equipment
is easy to track, the Pentagon doesn’t publish when the arms have been delivered or how they’ve
been used. They’ve also claimed numerous times that
U.S. officials don’t track or investigate airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. But, in recent months, exclusive reporting
from outlets like the Intercept and New York Times have challenged that, indicating that
officials may know more than they say they do, and may be more directly involved in Yemen
than they say they are. Some of these weapons are reported to have
ended up in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda militants. To complicate things even further, according
to recent AP reports, the U.S. has conflicting interests on the Peninsula, which include
both counterterrorism efforts to eliminate al-Qaeda, and simultaneously driving out the
Houthis – a fight al-Qaeda has joined. U.S. weapons support ramped up under the Obama
administration, under which, according to the Center for International Policy calculations,
more than $115 billion in military sales were offered to Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2016. Support for Saudi and the UAE further expanded
under the Trump administration, with the state department approving billions of dollars in
arms sales. President Trump has also met with Saudi King
Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on several occasions. His first overseas trip as president, in fact,
was to Riyadh. The Trump administration has argued that selling
precision-guided munitions could result in fewer civilian deaths, because the targeting
is more precise. But experts we’ve spoken to say that’s
not the case. “All that argument about helping them be
more careful is nonsense. And we’ve seen this by the increase in civilian
casualties and the kinds of targets like school busses and weddings and so forth that have
been hit. From my point of view when you’re hitting
those kinds of civilian targets repeatedly, to me that looks like a war crime.” So what actions, if any, are U.S. lawmakers
taking? Senator Elizabeth Warren recently wrote a
letter to the U.S. Central Command asking for answers about an intelligence report uncovered
by The Intercept that appears to contradict the Pentagon’s reported lack of involvement
in the Saudi-led airstrikes. “I think the Pentagon is well aware that
U.S. bombs are being used to hit civilian targets. This fiction that they’re putting forward
that ‘we don’t even track those things,’ first of all is unconscionable. I mean, if you’re selling the weapons, you
should try to track how they’re used. Second of all, as Senator Warren suggests,
doesn’t square with the truth.” Earlier, in March 2018, a group of Senators
led a bipartisan effort to pass a resolution ending U.S. involvement in the war. The resolution was tabled, but it wasn’t
the first time members of Congress tried to pass legislation to get out of Yemen, and
it certainly won’t be the last. “So the responsibility is clearly on our
shoulders, the shoulders of our companies, our government. And the citizens of the United States have
a responsibility to push their government to stop enabling these kinds of crimes.”

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