THE ABSURD TIMES
Not much time or energy for this, but it should get out. 1) Isreal voted to make Hebrew the only offical language ande designate certain areas, previously Palestinian, Jewish. Officially a Jewish State. 2) Interview on Yemen and what we are doing there. Flag done by a previous illustrator I once tought that illustration was too much and the other just Yemen as it looks now, courtesy of our bombs.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen is incredibly difficult to cover on the ground, with many obstacles for journalists hoping to access the capital Sana'a and other areas affected by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombings. We speak with a reporter who smuggled herself into northern Yemen to report on the widespread famine and devastation there in an exclusive three-part series for "PBSNewsHour." Special correspondent Jane Ferguson is a Beirut-based special correspondent. Her pieces are titled "Yemen's spiraling hunger crisis is a man-made disaster," "American-made bombs in Yemen are killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and fueling anger at the U.S." and "Houthis deny U.S., Saudi claim that they are Iran's puppets."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We spend the rest of the hour in Yemen, where Houthi rebels say they're prepared to hand over the crucial port of Hodeidah to the United Nations, if U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition halt military operations there. Last month, tens of thousands of civilians fled the city when coalition forces launched an all-out offensive there. The U.N. warned the offensive would severely exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is already experiencing the world's worst cholera epidemic, with more than a million people afflicted, and with millions more on the brink of famine. This is U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That's a clip from PBS NewsHour's exclusive three-part series by correspondent Jane Ferguson, who recently smuggled herself into northern Yemen to report on the widespread famine and devastation there.
AMY GOODMAN: We'll speak with PBS correspondent Jane Ferguson, now in Beirut, about what she saw in Yemen. But first we're going to her report. It was part two of her three-part exclusive PBS series. This pieceis called "American-made bombs in Yemen are killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and fueling anger at the U.S."
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jane Ferguson, reporting from Yemen for the PBS NewsHour. When we come back, we'll go to Beirut, Lebanon—Jane has come out of Yemen, which she smuggled herself into—and speak directly with her. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Yemen Blues" by Yemen Blues. This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We're spending the rest of the hour in Yemen. We're joined in Beirut by Jane Ferguson, special correspondent for PBSNewsHour.
AMY GOODMAN: Jane is just back from Yemen, where she spent nearly a month reporting this remarkable three-part series for PBS NewsHouron widespread starvation in Yemen, American financing of the Saudi-backed coalition there, and Houthi rebels. Her recent piece in The New Yorker is headlined "Is Intentional Starvation the Future of War?"
Jane, welcome to Democracy Now! I mean, the bravery of you even going into Yemen, which particularly shows what the Yemeni people face, explain how you got there. And then, this piece we just aired, where you talk about the U.S. support for what's happening, how you found this evidence?
JANE FERGUSON: Getting into Yemen itself is not as complicated, or not even close to as complicated, as getting into northern Yemen. Journalists from some outlets, including American outlets, have been granted visas and allowed to board flights into the south of Yemen. That's the area that the Saudi-led coalition controls, and that's into the capital of the south, which is Aden. And you can fly in there. And I was able to get a visa to get to Aden after a couple of attempts, and board a flight to Aden. And from there, as you would have seen in that report, I basically had to drive north. You can drive north across the front line. Yemenis themselves, civilians, are moving back and forth. But you have to go through dozens of checkpoints. I wasn't able to film them, obviously, for the piece, as I was smuggling my way up. But it took sort of several cars and on various routes to be able to get up there, disguised as a Yemeni woman.
And, you know, once I got there, I had to work with a Yemeni team, because I could only really smuggle myself up. I couldn't bring my cameraman and have him passed off as a believable Yemeni woman. So, I worked with a Yemeni team when I was in Sana'a, journalists and friends that I've known for some time. Now, it's worth pointing out that news organizations all around the world, and particularly American news organizations, have been trying to access Sana'a, and they very much so want to report from Houthi-controlled areas, but journalists are banned. The Saudis control the airspace, and they ban journalists and human rights researchers from boarding the U.N. flights. Only U.N. flights land in Sana'a, in the capital, that is Houthi-controlled. And so, journalists, for a long time, from various news organizations, all the major networks in the U.S., have been trying to access those areas, but they've not been permitted to go. So, you know, it really is a case of whoever can smuggle their way up there. And that's extremely challenging logistically, because then you end up with one staff member up there and not a support team.
So, when I was there, you know, as you've pointed out, a major focus on the reporting is the fact that this is a war that perhaps not so visually on the ground the United States is involved in, but behind the scenes the United States is supporting this war. They are supporting the Saudi-led coalition. And when the Saudi-led coalition formed in 2015, it was Barack Obama then president of the United States, obviously. He brought in support. He supported the coalition's efforts, not with boots on the ground, but certainly with the logistics that was mentioned there. Some of those logistics include things like refueling Saudi jets. In between bombing raids, if they can be refueled midair by United States Air Force jets, that helps them, makes the process much more efficient. Also the sale of weapons, over $100 billion worth of U.S. weapons agreed in sales to the Saudis, often agreed by Obama, but then confirmed by President Trump.
There's also various logistical and intelligence support. And this is really where, you know, the Yemenis that I spoke to were coming from in terms of why they saw this as a United States war. And when I would put this question to them, even privately, off camera, to people who didn't wish to speak on camera because they were not supporters of the Houthis or the coalition, they would say, you know, "We know, we feel very much so like this is a United States war." And also when you're on the ground there, like I said in my report, the Houthis are able to use this as a very strong propaganda tool, because they're able to couch this war in terms of a jihad, a religious war, against not only foreign invaders like Saudis, but they will say, you know, whenever they're trying to recruit fighters, that this is a war against foreign invaders who are fighting against Islam.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jane, one of the weapons that the U.S. has sold to the Saudis, as you witnessed and discussed in your piece, are cluster bombs. Could you talk about what you learned about the effects of these bombs? I mean, this is a weapon that is banned by 102 countries. Explain what the effects of cluster bombs are.
JANE FERGUSON: Well, a cluster bomb, effectively, when it's dropped, it explodes just before it hits the ground. And it can contain anything from dozens to up to hundreds of smaller bombs. They're around about the size of a baseball, and they are just miniature bombs primed to explode. And they spread out over a wider area. They can be particularly deadly for civilians, especially in countries where people live in, you know, non-brick or non-concrete homes. So, areas where people live in mud homes or wattle homes, straw huts, they can be particularly dangerous in those situations. But they also are—they have a particularly poor fail rate, where, if they land, not all of the small munitions will explode, and so they will remain primed on the ground. And they can be picked up by a child. They can randomly explode much, much later. And that's why cluster bombs are seen as such a deadly weapon, because they can act like mines, as well as an explosive that spreads itself out.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Jane, your piece also ends with a remarkable and horrific statistic, that an estimated 130 Yemeni children died every day in 2017 from extreme hunger and disease. Now, you point out in this piece, as well as your piece in The New Yorker, that this is a man-made disaster, that there is, in fact, food in Yemen. It's just that people no longer have the means to buy that food, because millions of workers have been put out of work or are simply not being paid. Can you talk about that?
JANE FERGUSON: Sure. This is the real toll of the war. Of course, civilians are dying in these airstrikes, but not in anywhere near to the numbers of people who are falling ill and dying from the humanitarian crisis that has been caused by this war. Of course, you know, you'll hear the statistic, "Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian disaster," but that's really just a phrase. And it was—you know, one of the reasons I wanted to go into rebel-held Yemen was because no one really understands what that looks like. What does that mean to a viewer?
And what it means is a third of the country, an entire third, over 8 million people, on the brink of starvation, meaning they're not getting enough nutrients. They cannot afford to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families sufficiently. And, you know, the statistics on the deaths of children are particularly startling, and that's because, of course, as anywhere in the world, children are the most susceptible to falling ill from malnutrition. They can die of starvation. They can also, and more often is the case, die of infectious diseases, because their bodies have become so weak. And so, when I traveled to various hospitals and went to the children's wards, which are very—pretty much now just malnutrition wards, you'll see absolutely terrifyingly thin children. And you'll see a small trickle of them every single day. A lot of parents can't afford to bring their children to clinics or hospitals in rural capitals, because the cost of fuel has gone up, which means a bus ride will be more expensive.
And the reason that this is man-made, and the reason that every NGOand humanitarian organization has pointed out that this is man-made, is that it is caused by the war. There hasn't been a weather pattern or a particular natural disaster. There is plenty of food getting into Yemen. Now, what is happening is that the food prices are higher than they should be. They're higher than they were before. That's partly because of the Saudi-led coalition's blockade on the area. They're allowing food in, but it's restricted, and it's a slow process, and it's an expensive process, because the ships that import the food, they get held up for weeks at a time, they have to be inspected, and so that process is particularly difficult. Yemen imports the vast majority of its food. It has done since long before this war. So those prices going up have also been coupled with the fact that the economy, certainly in the north, but also really all over Yemen, is on its knees, if not has collapsed, essentially. You'll see people have just lost their jobs, and so it doesn't really matter how much food there is in the supermarket, and it doesn't really matter how expensive it has become, because if you have absolutely no money, then you're really—you're not going to be able to buy it anyway. And that's why Yemenis are hungry. They're hungry because of the economic collapse. And the economic collapse is as a direct result of this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Jane Ferguson, I wanted to go back to your third exclusive piece for the PBS NewsHour on Yemen, where you report on the Houthi rebels. This is a clip from your series. This is Salim Moghalis, a member of the Houthis' political wing, who told you they took the missiles from Yemen's military arsenal when they captured the capital Sana'a.
AMY GOODMAN: And Jane Ferguson is with us right now, back in Beirut, special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. The power of what you're saying there, that the people who are losing right now is what counts, the massive hunger, the cholera epidemic. Jane, the fact that journalists rarely go to the north, the way you smuggled yourself in, with the Saudis not allowing that, because you see the effects of their bombing, and you see the actual bombs, and you make that connection to the U.S. Your final comment, in the minute that we have?
JANE FERGUSON: I would point out that, exactly as you say, this is a war which has had a terrible toll on the people of Yemen. And that's a toll that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Nowhere in the world has a statistic like one-third of an entire country's population is on the brink of starvation. There are attempts going on right now to broker more serious peace talks, and there is a way to end this war, if all sides negotiate in good faith and are truly willing to make the compromises necessary. And so it is possible that Yemen could see peace before the end of the year, if there is enough political will there.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Jane Ferguson, speaking to us from Beirut, Lebanon, just returned from Yemen, where she did this remarkable three-part series for the PBS NewsHour. To see the three-part series, you can watch it at pbs.org/newshour.