Washington Post Editorial Board Slams 'Carnage' of U.S.-Backed War in Yemen

The editorial board described the war in Yemen as a "mess" and "quagmire."

Yemeni men carry a wounded man after a powerful suicide bombing rocked Sanaa, on October 9, 2014

The Washington Post editorial board has condemned the bloody and destructive war the U.S. is backing in Yemen.

Since March 2015, a coalition of Middle Eastern countries led by Saudi Arabia and armed and supported by the U.S. and U.K. has launched thousands of airstrikes in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, in hopes of beating back rebels and restoring a pro-Saudi leader.

The Post's criticisms are tepid and qualified, but it described the Obama administration's policies in Yemen as "muddled" and Saudi Arabia's intervention as "bloody and futile."

The editorial board acknowledged that the Saudi-led coalition has "carried out some of the most brutal attacks in a war-ravaged Middle East with substantial American support." It added that the U.S.-backed coalition has bombed hospitals, schools and other civilian sites, in violation of international law, and has used cluster munitions.

"In response, the Obama administration has withheld some support, but not enough to stop the carnage — a policy that manages to anger all sides while accomplishing next to nothing," the Post wrote.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have lost their lives and more than 10,000 people have been killed. Tens of thousands more have died from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions have been pushed to the brink of famine.

Some muted criticism from the Obama administration aside, the Post noted that the U.S. has "allowed the bombing campaign to go forward" and has conducted more than 1,000 refueling sorties for Saudi-led coalition planes.

Saudi Arabia has also used American and British arms to commit what human rights groups say are apparent war crimes. The Post claims that the U.S. government has sold $58 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia since Obama took office, including $20 billion in 2015 alone. In reality, the U.S. has offered more than $115 billion in arms deals and military support to the Saudi monarchy in that time.

The Post likens the conflict in Yemen to a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and portrays the U.S. motivations for backing the war as confused. But the reality is much more complex. Whistleblowing group WikiLeaks has noted that, "Yemen of significant strategic interest" — the impoverished Middle Eastern controls the narrow passage to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, through which 11 percent of the world's oil passes every day, and has access to the Arabian Sea, through which another 20 percent of the world's oil passes. Likewise, ABC News has pointed out that 3 to 4 million barrels of oil travel daily through the waters off of Yemen's coast.

The editorial board described the war in Yemen as a "mess" and "quagmire." It discouraged the impending administration of President-elect Donald Trump from renewing support for the Saudi-led bombing, although it noted that Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis, a former chief of U.S. Central Command, "is a firm supporter of the U.S. military alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors."

In the meantime, the U.N. has warned that the war has plunged Yemen into one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and a famine monitor created by the U.S. government has said the conflict is responsible for creating the gravest food security crisis on the planet.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet's Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.


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