America ignored the war in Yemen, now it’s too late

This conflict was allowed to metastasize unchecked by the American people. Moving forward, we must hold our government accountable for the alliances it maintains.


by Margaux Renee, Editor-in-Chief

 It happens every couple of weeks: I’m scrolling through Instagram—my sister at college, my friends at a concert, the score of last night’s game, a starving child in Yemen. I pause for a moment, overcome with grief, but not enough to stop me from scrolling past the image and onto something else, something less unsettling. This is the formula that has enabled me to ignore the war in Yemen. Because of it, I recognize that I have blood on my hands and you probably do too.

    According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 8.4 million Yemenis have no clue where their next meal will come from—400,000 of those citizens are children, who are not only food-insecure but suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition. In Yemen, one child dies from preventable causes every 10 minutes. According to a conservative estimate by Save the Children, this may amount to a total of 85,000 deaths of children under five between 2015 and 2018 due to starvation.

    How is it then, that a crisis of this magnitude has been so easy to ignore? According to a Congressional Research Service report conducted in 2016, the United States arranged $61,900 million in arms transfer agreements to Saudi Arabia between 2008 and 2015. Part of the reason why this war has gone largely unnoticed is because the U.S. is responsible and does not want its citizens to know.

     Saudi Arabia merely heads a coalition of countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and France, that has been accused of committing war crimes by the United Nations. Using American bombs and F-15 fighter planes, coalition airstrikes have hit neighborhoods, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and hospitals. The American military has even helped the Saudis by refueling their bombers to ensure a ruthlessly efficient air-campaign.

    This is reportedly justified by the threat of dangerous, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who according to NPR, have been accused of war crimes too. However, the damage inflicted by the Houthis pales in comparison to the utter ruin created by the coalition. Saudi Arabia is so desperate for control in the region that they have even resulted to weaponizing hunger, closing off ports in an effort to trap the people of Yemen in an air-tight famine.

    As Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times, our “tax dollars help starve children,” making us as American citizens indirectly responsible for a country ravaged by the fury of war. This presents us with a decision, are we as a country going to stand for greed or for the lives of children? Are we as voters going to re-elect politicians that value a relationship with Saudi Arabia or instead support candidates that stand for human dignity?

    We, the people have to be the ones to hold our government accountable. We must demand that America stands for aid and humanitarianism rather than constant military transaction. It should not be on our conscience as a nation that we were complicit in the deaths of thousands, but in reality, it already is. It is too late to undo the suffering experienced by the people of Yemen, and that truth will weigh on both the Obama and Trump administrations for years to come.

    Rumblings of re-evaluating our relationship with Saudi Arabia have become more frequent recently, following the killing of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. This shows that Americans are only moved to empathy when it concerns what is familiar to us. But when it comes to lives of innocent, middle-eastern children, we are unable to look beyond ourselves. Frankly, our involvement in this conflict makes me ashamed to be American but this does not mean I’m not hopeful. I have hope that enough Americans have good consciences and the will to demand action from Washington. I have hope that my generation will grow up with the intent of bettering the lives of humans beings rather than putting America, its interests and any potential weapons sales first.