THE ABSURD TIMESCharles I of England was deposed and finally beheaded by Cromwell as part of a revolution, based mainly on the behavior of a bad King.
Monarchies all over Europe protested and had issued tracts and invectives against the English people for this behavior. Cromwell had the good sense to choose Milton as his Latin Secretary (sort of a Press Secretary as all "important" documents were written in Latin) to defend the actions of the English people and no person came even close to matching Milton's skill.
Of course, his task was made far easier by the fact that Charles I was terrible. We are faced with someone almost as bad, and certainly more stupid.
It was not until the Restoration that the New King, Charles II assumed control that someone was able to defend the monarchy. It amounted to saying that a good king is better than a host of morons. It is by Dryden.
Above are sentiments more closely aligned with the attitudes of most Americans and against Trump.
MSM covered a demonstration against corruption in Moscow making it sound like the police were brutal and aggressive. I swear that it reminded of the show at the N.Y. Republican Convention for Bush II with it's "designated protest areas". Cops went on a riot. It was not close to as violent as the police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Everyone seemed to be watching Sessions. I hate that accent as it reminds me of the racist morons who follow and support Trump. Trump has made bigotry and hate a bit of a fad.
Trump has recently increased attacks in Yemen and here is some information about a cholera epidemic there:
In Yemen, a civilian is dying nearly every hour from a massive cholera outbreak, as the ongoing U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign and naval blockade has devastated the country's health, sanitation and water systems. The World Health Organization says the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has now reached 101,820 and continues to rise, accounting for 859 deaths. Yemen's healthcare system is also on the verge of collapse as many hospitals have shut down because of the ongoing U.S.-backed Saudi war. Only 45 percent of Yemen's hospitals are still operational. We speak to guests Dr. Mariam Aldogani and Anas Shahari of Save the Children Yemen.
TranscriptThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In Yemen, medical groups are warning an outbreak of cholera has infected more than 116,000 people. The World Health Organization says the water-borne illness has claimed the lives of at least 859, and Oxfam estimates cholera is claiming one life every hour in Yemen. Children under the age of 15 account for 46 percent of the cases. The WHO says the number of cases could reach 300,000, as the outbreak has now spread to 20 of Yemen's 22 provinces. Yemen's healthcare system is also on the verge of collapse, as many hospitals have shut down because of the ongoing U.S.-backed Saudi war. Only 45 percent of Yemen's hospitals are still operational. This is Dr. Hussein El Haddad, the director of one of the few hospitals in Sana'a that is still functioning.AMY GOODMAN: The cholera epidemic comes amidst a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and naval blockade that's left Yemen's sanitation, water and health infrastructure in shambles. The United Nations warns some 19 million of Yemen's 28 million people need some form of aid, with many of them at risk of famine. This is U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien addressing the United Nations Security Council late last month.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien addressing the U.N. Security Council last month. President Donald Trump signed a series of arms deals with Saudi Arabia totaling a record $110 billion during a visit to the Saudi capital. The arms deal includes tanks, artillery, ships, helicopters, missile defense systems and cybersecurity technology. United Nations monitors have warned previous Saudi-led attacks on Yemen could constitute crimes against humanity. Over 10,000 people have died since the Saudi bombing campaign began in 2015.AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Sana'a, Yemen, where we're joined by Anas Shahari of Save the Children Yemen. He joins us from the capital.Welcome to Democracy Now! Thanks so much for joining us. Tell us the scope of the problem.ANAS SHAHARI: The problem is very massive—excuse me. The problem is very massive. It's like we are facing a very critical situation here. A lot of people are suffering from cholera. I just received an SMS from one friend in a village just before this interview. He's telling me that the cholera is spreading in Hajjah governorate, and people are struggling to get medications. And you can imagine, every day the numbers are increasing. The upsurge is very scary. We have to deal with all of these cases as Yemenis and humanitarian organizations are struggling to respond to the needs of those people with very short funding. You know that Yemen is facing a hard economic situation. The health system is collapsing. We have a lot of social services that are not available. I can give you examples. For example, just a month or more than a month ago, garbage collectors were on strike because they were not paid their salaries. And it was rainy. And this was one of the reasons that contributed to the cholera outbreak, which is the second outbreak, and it's three times more horrific than the previous one.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how are medical personnel able to function, given the continuing air war of Saudi Arabia as well as the armed conflicts within the country?ANAS SHAHARI: You know, people in cities where armed conflict is now ongoing are suffering the most, because they don't have hospitals to go to. There are no medical staff. And generally, people in Yemen are suffering because salaries have not been paid to the public servants for about nine months. This gives doctors, nurses, everybody a hard time, because they cannot go to hospitals. They cannot afford anything. I can give you an example. For example, now children in Yemen—8.1 million children— cannot afford healthcare services, cannot afford water to drink or sanitation services. This number is very, very large, if we are talking about the health system and the water—the water grip in the country. Every time I go to a hospital, I keep hearing doctors complaining because they haven't received their salaries to come to the hospital. And you can imagine a doctor can barely afford transportation to go to a hospital to save lives. And recently, when I was in a hospital, I saw a lot of people lying on the ground, because the outbreak happened suddenly. And people went to a hospital here in Sana'a, and they were lying on the ground. They were staying in tents in an isolation unit in a civilian hospital here. It was a very horrific situation. And everybody was suspecting cholera in their houses. For example, I always—I am always suspicious after I come back from a hospital, like maybe I will eat something that will infect my body with cholera, then I'll need to deal with it just like everybody else. So it's a whole package of hardship that we're facing in Yemen.AMY GOODMAN: Anas Shahari, we have just reached one of your colleagues, Dr. Mariam Aldogani with Save the Children in Yemen. Right now she's joining us in the field from Hudaydah governorate in Yemen, where she's treating cholera patients. The phone connection is not very good, so, folks, listen carefully. Dr. Aldogani, thank you so much for joining us. Explain what you're seeing where you are.DR. MARIAM ALDOGANI: Welcome. Yes, I'm in Hudaydah governorate, one of the affected governorates suffering from cholera.AMY GOODMAN: And what do you see? You're treating people with cholera now?DR. MARIAM ALDOGANI: We [inaudible] treated people of cholera. We see a lot of case—we saw a lot of cases in a diarrhea treatment center, which is—I am in Hudaydah. There is two main hospital centers for treating cholera, a lot of cases there. There's a problem that the [inaudible] and with very hot weather. And even the fuel is very expensive. And because there is no electricity, so imagine, with cholera and the very harsh weather, the situation has become worse. Due to the shortage of medical supply and treatment, we try to do the best. And also, as my colleague Anas mentioned, the health system collapsed. There is no salary, no [inaudible] of the hospitals or health centers. This has made—the situation is very bad.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what are you calling—DR. MARIAM ALDOGANI: And, by the way, most of the cases, they are children. For example, I can give you a data. Since the middle of May to now, [inaudible] hospital received more than 1,700 cases and four death case reported.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We're trying to go back to Anas Shahari. What do you think the world needs to do, or what are you calling for in terms of assistance to the people of Yemen at this time?ANAS SHAHARI: Well, Save the Children and the wider humanitarian community are urgently requiring more funds to expand the response and to manage and mitigate and prevent this outbreak. And we need also the international community to contribute to this crisis, which is considered the biggest crisis in the world, and increase the funding here. We also have a message to the U.N. and to the conflicting parties to facilitate and resume the public-sector salaries, like to put pressures on whoever is concerned and just to resume the public-sector salaries so that people can go back to work in hospitals and other governmental institutions. We also ask all conflicting parties to facilitate our access to the areas where we need to go and save lives.AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused President Trump of double standards, saying his administration turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's bombing of Yemen while claiming to promote human rights around the world.AMY GOODMAN: So, Anas Shahari, can you talk about the connection between war and cholera?ANAS SHAHARI: Well, the war—the war has destroyed all the—like most of the infrastructure we have here in the country. We don't have any sanitation system. The water network is destroyed. We don't have electricity. People who need to boil water before drinking it do not have the cooking gas. Fuel is very expensive, as Dr. Mariam said. The economy of the country is collapsed, has already collapsed. The health system has collapsed. I mean, the war has destroyed everything in this country. And as a Yemeni person, what I am looking for here is to stop this war, to find peaceful solutions between the parties in order for the children, who are paying the heaviest price, to continue their lives and to see brighter futures.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the refugees, people fleeing Yemen to escape the violence and the bombing and the collapse of the—basically, of the total infrastructure of the country, are people continuing to flee the country?ANAS SHAHARI: In the beginning, large numbers of people were fleeing, and about 3 million people fled their houses. But now this number has decreased. But people are moving from place to place, because the conflict sometimes arises in some areas. For example, in an area in Taiz, al-Mokha, there was a conflict that erupted, and people had to leave their homes. And this is also leading to other problems like children dropping classes, not going to school anymore. And now we are left with children that are abandoned behind, and they don't know what their future holds.AMY GOODMAN: Last month, thousands of Yemenis rallied in the capital Sana'a to protest the U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia and President Trump's visit to Riyadh. This is the Yemeni journalist Nasser Al-Rabeey.AMY GOODMAN: Anas, can you respond, as we wrap up?ANAS SHAHARI: Well, I am a Yemeni person, and I can tell you what we need in this country. We need, number one, peace. And then, number two, we need increasing funds to respond to the humanitarian need. We don't need any more weapons to come to this country. We don't need any more war. We need to live in peace. We need to respond to the needs of those outside who are starving, who are dying because of cholera, who do not find the most basic services and needs in life.AMY GOODMAN: Anas Shahari, we thank you for being with us, media officer for Save the Children, speaking to us from Sana'a, Yemen. We wish you the very best yourself, as well, and for your protection.ANAS SHAHARI: Thank you.The original content of this program is licensed under a . Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
A chart of Wahabbi exports from Saudi Arabia, a place where Trump feels much at home and the area where his daughter owns clearly marked buildings. So many you may need to enlarge.
This talks about the Manchester bombings, but it is true for every such incident in the past 3 decades, at least.
While there is absolutely no guilt associated with any of the victims of the bombing in Manchester, all complete innocents, not one seemed to know there was such as thing as "Colonialism," or whatever, each and every one of them was profiled, discussed, lamented, and, frankly, exploited by our western media. Sympathy pours out, and rightly so, for all of them.
All we know about others are some facts about the perpetrators. The father, arrested as a result in Syria, was an Al-Quaeda supporter along with his children. He was one of those who kept opposing Gaddafi in Libya. At the time, we labeled such people as innocent civilians and used the defense of such people as a pretext for a UN Resolution to attack Libya. The result is well-know, along with the immigration problem Europe faces, radical terror, etc.
We do not hear about the civilians we bomb or kill in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. Wedding parties are a prime example. How many names have you heard from bombings of wedding parties in Yemen recently? Nothing. "Collateral Damage," is about the best they come up with.
A recent attack in Syria killed "people who knew Isis fighters." Well, let's think about that fact. Growing up in Chicago, say during Elementary School or Middle School, I often visited the homes of table-tennis partners. Often, the parents were Greek or Italian immigrants who owned Pizza parlors or small restaurants. Several of us were well treated to massive dinners, great hospitality, friendship, and so on. Sometimes the sessions, including looking a photographs, listening to records, etc., would go on until midnight, 12:00 precisely, when a group of guys wearing suits and ties, looking very grim and determined, even evil, came in and the father would say "Get outta here, hurry, no more, tomorrow maybe." And that was it for the evening. In a sense, you could say I "knew" Mafia or whatever members, but I swear that I was not involved in their activities. There would be no excuse to bomb me, however. I was a "civilian".
Anyway, we simply do not humanize any of those innocent civilians we kill, whether or not they would invite us to dinner or want to have anything to do with us. That's the point. We see this going on in Yemen, for example. We wonder why someone would join such a batty organization as ISIS, but we have to consider what the recruiting mechanisms are. Imagine one of your own family, or perhaps a friend, killed during a wedding ceremony. You know it has happened before. You also are not well-off, many of your friends are starving. You know where the bombs were made, who sent them, and so on. Is it inconceivable that you would like to retaliate? Perhaps a nut-job group like ISIS presents you with opportunity to get even. Would you resist or object because their theological positions are out of tune with yours? These are simply things to consider.
Now here is an interview that clarifies some of that. I've managed to reformat the text so that it is more readable:
"In Britain, police are expanding their investigation into Monday's suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 and left dozens injured. Many of those killed were young girls. While the Manchester story has dominated international headlines, far less attention has been paid to other stories this week involving the deaths of civilians. In Syria and Iraq, U.S.-led or backed airstrikes have killed dozens of civilians in the last week alone. Meanwhile, in Yemen, the human rights group Reprieve says U.S. Navy SEALs killed five civilians during a raid Tuesday night on a village in Ma'rib governorate. To talk more about how the media covers civilian casualties, we speak with two of the founders of The Intercept: Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We're broadcasting from the SkyDome, where the Toronto Blue Jays play, in Toronto, Canada. We were here for a journalism conference, along with our guests, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in Britain, police are expanding their investigation into Monday's suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 and left dozens injured. Many of those killed were young girls. While the Manchester story has dominated international headlines, far less attention has been paid to other stories this week involving the deaths of civilians. In Syria and Iraq, U.S.-led or U.S.-backed airstrikes have killed dozens of civilians in the last week alone. The journalistic monitoring group [Airwars] says airstrikes on Sunday and Monday reportedly killed up to 44 civilians in Mosul. One local journalist said, quote, "the bombing caused the deaths of more than 20 civilians who were burned in their homes, mostly women and children," unquote. In Syria, Airwars says the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near Raqqa reportedly killed up to 15 civilians, including two children, on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says U.S.-led airstrikes have killed 225 civilians over the past month, including 44 children.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, in Yemen, the human rights group Reprieve says U.S. Navy SEALs killed five civilians during a raid Tuesday night on a village in Ma'rib governorate. The killings reportedly began after a 70-year-old civilian named Nasser al-Adhal came out of his home to find out what was going on and was gunned down by the SEALs. The Pentagon says the raid targeted al-Qaeda and that seven militants were killed.
To talk more about how the media covers civilian casualties, we're joined by the co-founders of The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.
Glenn, should the Manchester model be used for other victims of war? The model of—well, I mean, we know about the 22 victims, the horrific attack, the suicide attack in Manchester, as these tweens, these mainly little girls, 10, 12, 11, 13, attended the Ariana Grande concert. We've learned the kids' names, a number of them, their parents. Parents had come to pick up their children. And our hearts grieve because we know who they are. They could be our families. We don't know the names of the children in Yemen who died in a Navy SEAL attack a few days after President Trump became president. A Navy SEAL died, but also at least 30 civilians died, among them, women and children.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, we all do media criticism of various types, and I know, over the years, I've voiced all kinds of critiques of U.S. media coverage. But if I had the power to just, overnight, remedy one of them, this discrepancy is the one that I would choose, because think about how powerful it is, just the effect that it has on us as human beings. Even just randomly when it pops into our Twitter timeline or onto our Facebook page, you see the name and the story and the grieving relatives of someone who was killed at this concert in Manchester. No matter how rational you are, you feel anger, you feel empathy, you feel so emotionally moved by the horror of the violence that was perpetrated.
So, imagine if there was any kind of balance whatsoever, where we knew the names of any of the victims of the indiscriminate violence of our own government, let alone the comprehensive coverage of the victims that is devoted when we are the victims of violence, how much that would affect the perception that we have of the violence that our own government perpetrates. We keep it so abstract. We usually just hear 14 people died. The Pentagon claims that it's militants and terrorists. It's left at that. At best, we hear they finally acknowledge four civilians are killed, but it's kept very ethereal, very distant and abstract. We never learn their names, as you said. We never hear from their families. We never hear their life aspirations extinguished. And if there was just some attention paid to telling the stories of the victims of our own government's violence, I think there would be a radical shift in how we perceive of ourselves, the role we play in the world and who bears blame in this conflict.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, look at how many times we read or hear reports that the United States has bombed a wedding party or a funeral. And there is never a description of, well, who was the bride, who was the groom, you know, who were the people that were killed, and what were their dreams. It's unfathomable to me that if we had a wedding party in the United States that was somehow bombed in a terrorist incident, that we wouldn't know the names of every single person who was killed. We would have heard about where the people were going to go on their honeymoon and, you know, the—what the bride looked like when she was preparing for it. We hear nothing about any of these people that are killed, with our tax dollars, in our name.
Trump just inked this deal with the Saudis for well over $100 billion. It could be as much as $400 billion when it's all said and done. Defense stocks go to record highs. What does that—what are those weapons going to be used for? Well, in the immediate future, they're going to be used for what they're being used for now, which is to utterly destroy Yemen, where the United States and Saudi Arabia are absolutely razing to the ground the poorest country in the Arab world and have caused a catastrophic health crisis in that country, which already was facing a total completion of their water supply. We don't think about victims of war in the same way that we talk about victims of school shootings in this country or victims of terrorism when it's—when ISIS claims responsibility for it. It's a problem.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask you, in the broader context, the refugee crisis now that is engulfing Europe—in the headlines, 6 million people waiting to be able to emigrate into Europe. We don't, in the press, cover what is the basis of this refugee crisis, what the reality is that, when it comes to Iraq, it's been 20 years of warfare in Iraq. In Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, you have this—in Democratic and Republican administrations. So, basically, it's been the interventions and the military actions of the West that have created the refugee crisis, destabilized these countries, made it impossible for the people to stay. I'm surprised that more people haven't left Afghanistan than have already tried to flee to Europe.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, it's much more difficult to get out of Afghanistan. But you're totally right: The U.S. wars did this.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, you know, what's so strange about it is, in our own personal lives, if we have friends or family members who compulsively blame other people and look for fault on other people and never accept responsibility for their own actions and the way that it contributes to problems, we say, "This is a real pathology. You need to start thinking about how it is that your own actions contribute to problems." And yet, the number one rule of U.S. media discourse is that whenever there's violence or attacks, the one thing we don't want to do is think about the role we played in provoking it.
And what's particularly ironic about it is that when it comes to other countries, we're really good at doing that. For example, if ISIS shoots down a Russian plane or someone inspired by ISIS kills a Russian ambassador in Turkey, instantly, overnight, every pundit, every media outlet blames Russian foreign policy. They say, "The reason this happened is because the Russians are bombing in Syria or because the Russians have provoked ISIS around the world." We make that causal connection when it comes to our enemies.
But to make that causal connection when it comes to ourselves—you know, there were warnings that if Iraq—that if the U.K. invaded Iraq or if the U.K. began bombing in Syria, they would have exactly the kind of terrorist attacks that just happened in Manchester. But to talk about the causal connection there becomes instantly taboo. And what that means is that we just don't examine the policies that are invoked in the name of stopping terrorism that are actually doing more to fuel and provoke terrorism than any other single factor.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Can I just add one small part of this? You know, he's—I can't shake this guy from my existence, but Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, who has been serving as a shadow adviser to the Trump administration, he was on Fox News last week in prime time on Tucker Carlson's show. Tucker, of course, took over from Bill O'Reilly. And the two big points that Erik Prince was pushing, one was we need to put mercenaries in charge of the war in Afghanistan. And he likened it to the British campaign in India, which was a murderous campaign, where Churchill boasted about the use of chemical weapons. So it's an interesting analog that Prince is using for his proposal on private companies taking over the war in Afghanistan.
But the second point that he made is, the left is completely nuts in the United States because they loved the Soviet Union when it was a left-wing repressive government, and now they're demonizing Putin just because he's not part of the Soviet Union, but he's the same kind of an authoritarian. And isn't it great that Trump has brought these two countries together? What's interesting about that is that Prince himself is at the tip of the spear of a move to try to monetize the refugee crisis right now. His solution is to get countries and thugs in countries like Libya to get into business with the European Union to actually prevent people from leaving North Africa or parts of the Middle East to come into Europe. And he wants to do it with a privatized maritime force, accompanied by Western military advisers, working with local militias. This whole administration, in a way, is up for sale. And when you have people like Erik Prince who are masterful mercenaries running around the scene, and they're your biggest advocate in the U.S. media when it comes to the Russia issue, it raises a lot of questions.
I do think the Democrats have lost their minds with not seeing some value to having peaceful relations between Russia and the United States. The problem is, I'm not sure that that's what Trump is actually doing. But there's a lot up for sale right now. And I think Democrats are blowing a lot of opportunities by just focusing on a narrow aspect of Trump's buffoonery, because there's a lot of high-stakes stuff going on.
The original content of this program is licensed under a . Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us."
Friday, April 07, 2017
THE ABSURD TIMES
YEMEN IT'S STILL GOING ON?
The recent attack on Syria by the Donald, designed to sidetrack a U.N. investigation into the attack as a similar investigation into the death of 200 civilians in Mosul did not turn out as we wanted, has diverted attention to that issue. Before the strike, Hillary, speaking before a women's group complaining about how misogyny played a role in her defeat put on a horrific display of post menopausal penis envy in ranting about the need to bomb Syria and get tough with Russia. Immediately thereafter, Trump sent 59 missiles into Syria.
However, above we have an illustration of our actions in Yemen carried out by Saudi Arabia. Right or wrong, true or false play no role here and never have. At one point Obama held Yemen up to be his "model" for dealing with terrorism.
Today, the reason the war will continue, despite the starvation of "beautiful little itty bitty babies" (Trump's words on Syria) the war will continue. The only reason is that Saudi Arabia pays a great deal of money to war munitions and equipment manufacturers in the United States. The was is buried in our media and gets little or no attention, so here is an excellent interview with perhaps the most informed and objective source on the subject:
The U.S. is also rapidly expanding military operations in Yemen. The U.S. has reportedly launched more than 49 strikes across the country this month—according to The New York Times, that's more strikes than the U.S. has ever carried out in a single year in Yemen. While the U.S. airstrikes have been targeting suspected al-Qaeda operations in Yemen, The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S. is now offering even more logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led war against Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are accused of being linked to Iran. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen began two years ago this month. Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting today that the Trump administration has approved the resumption of sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. President Obama froze some of these weapons sales last year due to concern about civilian casualties in Saudi Arabia's expanding war in Yemen. We speak to Iona Craig, a journalist who was based in Sana'a from 2010 to 2015 as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to look at Yemen, where the U.S. is also rapidly expanding military operations. The U.S. has reportedly launched more than 49 strikes across the country this month—according to The New York Times, that's more strikes than the U.S. has ever carried out in a single year in Yemen. While the U.S. airstrikes have been targeting suspected al-Qaeda operations in Yemen, The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S. is now offering even more logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led war against Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are accused of being linked to Iran. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen began two years ago this month. Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting today that the Trump administration has approved the resumption of sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. President Obama froze some of these weapons sales last year due to concern about civilian casualties in Saudi Arabia's expanding war in Yemen.
AMY GOODMAN: This all comes as the United Nations is warning Yemen is on the brink of famine. This is U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the situation in Yemen, we go to London to speak with Iona Craig, a journalist who was based in Sana'a from 2010 to '15 as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London. She was in Yemen again last month, where she reported on January's Navy SEAL raid that left 25 civilians and one U.S. Navy SEAL dead.
Iona, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the situation on the ground in Yemen right now.
IONA CRAIG: Well, as you've already mentioned, the humanitarian situation is certainly getting worse. I went to several of the areas, remote areas, where some of the internally displaced people are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to food and even water. And then, on the military front, there is a stalemate on a lot of the—on the side of the ground war, whilst also a new offensive was actually launched on the Red Sea Coast whilst I was in Yemen in January, that then pushed a lot of the civilian population into these incredibly remote areas where there are no aid agencies to support them and to provide shelter and to provide food. So, across the country, really, it doesn't matter which side of the front line you are, if you're a civilian. People are finding it increasingly difficult to both access food and to be able to afford to pay for food, because many of the government employees have not been paid for more than six, seven months now, and so that reduces people's capacity to even purchase goods, even when they are available, in areas where they're not affected by the conflict.
So, really, there's a massive sense of war weariness amongst the civilian population. People are just really desperate for this war to come to an end, obviously. But certainly, on the political side, there is no indication that is about to happen. And, in fact, the warring parties are not even willing to even engage or speak with the U.N. special envoy who is charged with trying to find a political resolution to the conflict. So, both on the military front, things are shifting slightly or have done, but certainly, on the humanitarian side, things are getting worse, with the prediction now of wheat supplies soon to run out in perhaps the coming weeks, or certainly in the next two months, that that is only going to get worse, as well.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Iona, as this humanitarian situation is worsening, the Trump administration is reportedly planning changes to the U.S. policy in Yemen. Could you tell us a little about the kinds of changes that are being considered and what their impact would be if they're put into place?
IONA CRAIG: So, one thing that appears to have already been changed, from what we've heard, is Yemen now, or parts of Yemen, anyway, being regarded as areas of active hostility. Now, that's quite a technical term, but essentially what it means is those selected areas are put on a war footing the same as Iraq and Afghanistan. So, previously, under the Obama administration, Yemen was considered an area outside of active hostility, so there were different protocols put in place to ensure the prevention of civilian casualties. And it meant that when drone strikes or airstrikes or raids were carried out, that there had to be a near certainty that there were no civilian casualties. Obviously, that didn't always work. I have spent many years covering Yemen, and that included covering incidents of mass civilian casualties under the Obama administration. But now, when that changes to put in parts of the country into areas of active hostility, that near certainty basically gets chucked out of the window, and it means that those civilian casualties are kind of allowed and only have to be proportional. So, that's obviously very concerning for the civilian population in Yemen. We've also seen more military activity, as you've already mentioned, in the form of airstrikes. So that's more military activity, less oversight, because of the way the command structure is now—appears to have been changing, as well, in the sense that the military is going to be allowed to take more decisions on that level without the kind of micromanaging the Obama administration was always accused of, as well as moving these—removing these protocols to—that were supposed to, anyway, protect civilian lives.
In addition to that, now there is talk of the U.S. wanting to become more involved on the side of the Saudi-led coalition, who have, of course, been carrying out this aerial bombing campaign against the Houthi-Saleh forces, who are predominantly in northern Yemen, and have been carrying out this aerial bombing campaign against them, and ground war, since March 2015. Now, the U.S. wants to—has been—has put in a request to become more involved, particularly in an offensive that the Emiratis, the UAE, who are part of the Saudi-led coalition, are looking to launch on the Red Sea Coast, particularly on the port of Hodeidah, which is a vital supply line for northern Yemen, which is the most densely populated part of the country, which relies heavily on that route for the import of food.
Now, the most troubling part of this request to become more involved with the Saudi-led coalition appears to be because there has been—certainly come out from the White House, from the White House spokesman—this sense of conflating the Houthi rebels, who I mentioned, with Iran. Now, the Houthis have had support from Iran, and that appears to have been increasing, with specific military assistance and weapons to the Houthis over the last nine months. But to call them an Iranian proxy or to conflate them with Iran, it now appears that the—that this almost amounts to the U.S. wanting to start a proxy war with Iran in Yemen. And, of course, that is incredibly dangerous. It's incredibly dangerous for the civilian population, who are already facing famine at the moment, and it's incredibly dangerous because we don't know what the reaction would be from Iran. That reaction may not just be in Yemen. It may be elsewhere in the region, where they're also involved in wars—for example, in Syria. And that's really an unknown quantity. The known quantity is that the civilian population in Yemen will certainly suffer as a consequence of that, if the Americans become more involved in the Saudi-led coalition's efforts in the country.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE LAST ONE? THE HYPOCRASY?
Independent journalist Iona Craig recently traveled to the Yemeni village where the U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a raid in January that left 25 civilians and one Navy SEAL dead. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described the raid as "absolutely a success," but Yemeni villagers who spoke to Craig painted a very different picture.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Iona Craig, I wanted to ask you about the Navy SEAL raid in Yemen in January that you've investigated, the White House warning journalists and lawmakers last month against criticizing the botched raid by U.S. commandos on a Yemeni village that left 25 civilians and one U.S. soldier dead, William Ryan Owens. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports the January 28th assault killed nine children under the age of 13, with five other children wounded. Among those critical of the raid was Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.
AMY GOODMAN: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lashed out at Senator McCain and journalists for criticizing President Trump's decision to order the raid.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Sean Spicer. President Trump, when he addressed a joint session of Congress, brought in the widow of Ryan Owens, but Ryan Owens' father, William Owens, refused to meet with President Trump when his son's body was brought to Dover Air Base, harshly critical of this raid, saying, "Why did he have to do this now, to move so quickly in his administration?" That was one Navy SEAL, and then you have the number of civilian casualties, women and children. What did you find, Iona?
IONA CRAIG: Well, really, the civilians that I spoke to when I went to the village had exactly that same question: Why? Why did the Trump administration choose to carry out this raid? For what reasons? And what are they going to do about it now? Because not only did they put the lives of Navy SEALs at a huge amount of risk, which was highly predictable if you had even a vague understanding of the local politics in that particular area of Yemen at the time, but obviously caused mass civilian casualties. There were 26 people in that village who were killed. As you've already mentioned, many of those were women and children. That village has essentially been abandoned now, because not only—after that raid happened, not only was the entire village strafed and more than 120 livestock were killed, but the U.S. went back a month later, at the beginning of March, and bombed it for four consecutive nights, both with drone strikes and helicopter gunfire, and killed two more children and several more adults. So the last person that I spoke to who was living there, Sheikh Aziz al Ameri, he then left the village and is now living under trees several miles away.
So, the impact on the local population, who were essentially on the same side as U.S. in the civil war in Yemen at the moment—they were fighting against the Houthis, which is exactly what the U.S. has been doing over the last two years—they've not only alienated the entire local population around there, but caused to huge amount of anti-American sentiment. And now tribesmen, who were not al-Qaeda, who are not even al-Qaeda now, but were not before, but are now quite willing and wanting to fight the Americans as a result of this and a result of them killing their children and their wives.
So, I think that what was quite clear before they even went in there was that, and what actually happened was the fact that, all of the local tribesmen in that area came to defend the village when the U.S. Navy SEALs went in there. And that was because they thought the village was being raided by the people they'd been fighting for the last two-and-a-half years, which is the Houthis. They had no notion that it was Americans that were coming in to attack the village when it happened. And that was quite clearly a huge risk when the Americans went in there to carry out this raid, that that would indeed happen. It's the middle of a civil war. That village is right behind the front lines. They had been receiving rocket fire and mortar fire from their opponents in the civil war in the days and weeks before the raid. So, of course it was their assumption that their village was being stormed by the Houthi rebels, whom they've been fighting for so long. So, every man within hearing distance of gunfire came running. I spoke to a man who drove 45 minutes from his neighboring village when he got the call to come and help defend his neighbors' area. And so, I think the risk to the Navy SEALs was massive before they even went in there. It appears that there had been at least some knowledge within the village that they were in fact coming, as well. And so, for all those reasons, the Navy SEALs were being put under a huge amount of risk, and it was highly likely that somebody was going to—one of their team was going to get killed, not to mention then the fact that they inevitably got pinned down by fire, then had to call in air support and basically decimate the entire village in order to be able to extract themselves safely from that situation. And from what I saw, and talking to people, most of that was predictable before they even went in there.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Iona Craig, as you report in the , White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the purpose of the raid was intelligence gathering and not specifically targeting anyone, and that initially the U.S. Central Command posted a video backing Spicer's claim, but that video was subsequently removed when it was proven that it was 10 years old.
IONA CRAIG: Yeah, I mean, two things on that front. Certainly, from what I was told and in addition to statements that appear to have come out from the military since then, they were in fact going after the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a man called Qasim al-Raymi. I think it's extremely unlikely that they would have been carrying out such a high-risk mission in order to gather laptops, cellphones or intelligence, as they suggest. He was not in the village and, in fact, released an audio statement mocking both Trump and the raid several days later. Although there were some low-level al-Qaeda militants there in one particular house, because of the situation of how the Navy SEALs came under fire, that house was in fact bombed by an airstrike before the SEALs could even get into it, so whatever intelligence they claim to have gathered from there would have come from other buildings where there were no al-Qaeda militants present.
That video that you mentioned, that was—when it was first posted, was labeled as an AQAP—so that's al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—video of how to make bombs, as you say, was—had turned out was 10 years old, had already been available on the internet. Well, AQAP, as it is now, didn't even exist 10 years ago, so even to label it as an AQAP video was kind of laughable, really. And if that's the best of the intelligence that came out of there, then it seems that that was a very high-risk undertaking for very little gain, if that's the best that they can show for it.
But as I mentioned, certainly, the people I spoke to on the ground, when I asked them about what houses the Navy SEALs got into or perhaps access to the dead bodies, who may have been carrying, let's say, cellphones or electrical equipment, they couldn't even clarify to me that the Navy SEALs had got inside buildings or had actually access to the dead. They couldn't say either way, because of the chaos of the situation, it being extremely dark. They obviously didn't have night vision goggles like the Navy SEALs would have. So it wasn't even clear that they had in fact got into any buildings or not. So I think that's highly disputed, that intelligence. And certainly, some of the claims being made over the last few days, that the whole laptop ban was linked to intelligence gathered from the Yemen raid, do not add up at all, from what I've seen being written in the media on that, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Iona, we have less than a minute to go, but earlier this month Amnesty International urged Trump to block future arms sales, writing, "Arming the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain governments risks complicity with war crimes, and doing so while simultaneously banning travel to the U.S. from Yemen would be even more unconscionable," Amnesty wrote. A front-page story in The New York Times today, "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided to lift all human rights conditions on a major sale of F-16 fighter jets and other arms to Bahrain in an effort to end a rift between the United States and the critical Middle East ally." If you can, very quickly, talk about the role of U.S. weapons in these conflicts?
IONA CRAIG: In Yemen, it's huge. The U.S. is the biggest exporter to Saudi Arabia, and it's big business for the U.S. But, of course, we know that the majority of civilian casualties in the war in Yemen have been caused by Saudi-led airstrikes. And the U.S. has a huge influence over this. They were—those precision-guided weapons were suspended at the end of last year, and now we're looking at a resumption of that, where the U.S. does actually have influence over Saudi Arabia—not just over Saudi Arabia, but also the continuation of this war, for the weapons that it sells to them and to the logistical support it gives to the Saudi-led coalition in the terms of refueling and in the terms of targets, as well.
So, this is—it is, obviously, worrying for those people and campaigners who have been trying to prevent the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, but also the terms of those sales. There are indications now that those weapons may be sold under commercial terms rather than under military, which also then doesn't attach the same end use issues with them, so there isn't so much scrutiny then with the end use of those weapons in a war like Yemen. And that's also deeply concerning. So, I think now, at a stage where really the attempt should be made to de-escalate the conflict, it's—all indications are now that, in fact, the war in Yemen will be escalated by the activities of the U.S. government right now.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one last, very quickly, Iona, that we—as we said in our introduction, there have been more airstrikes carried out since the start of 2017 than there were in all of 2016. But you've pointed out in a recent interview that there were more drone strikes in Yemen over the space of 36 hours than there were in all of 2016.
IONA CRAIG: Yes, absolutely. And even in the last 24 hours, there have been U.S. airstrikes—and not just airstrikes, there's naval bombardments, as well, which, of course, were being done under the Obama administration, but those airstrikes have been carried out in Abyan province, in Shabwah, in Hadhramaut, in Ma'rib—in the last 24 hours in Ma'rib, in Shabwah and in Abyan, and also in Al Bayda, as well, earlier on in March. So, yes, there's definitely—there's not just this surge at the beginning of March, where we saw that 36 hours of airstrikes happening very rapidly, but that's been a continuation, as well, now. And as I say, it's not just drone strikes. It's airstrikes from fighter jets, and it's also coming from the sea.
AMY GOODMAN: Iona Craig, we want to thank you for being with us, freelance journalist who was based in Sana'a for years, has continued to go back and forth reporting on what's happening there. Thanks so much for joining us.
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