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Boardman writes: "The American-backed genocidal war on Yemen is in its fifth month, making it one of the hotter issues in the 2016 Presidential campaign, right? Wrong."

President Obama. (photo: AP)
President Obama. (photo: AP)

Do War Crimes in Yemen Matter to an American President?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

08 August 15


The US added Yemen to its 14 years of continuous war somewhere

he American-backed genocidal war on Yemen is in its fifth month, making it one of the hotter issues in the 2016 Presidential campaign, right? Wrong. 

If ANY announced candidate has said anything about Yemen, it’s hard to find. None of our would-be leaders of the free world are calling for a halt to the war of aggression that violates international law, none are demanding a stop to the war crimes and crimes against humanity that flow from the terror-bombing carried out by Saudi Arabia and its allies, with US tactical and intelligence support. None of our White House aspirants are demanding a halt to this criminal war or demanding justice against its war-criminal perpetrators

Of course, neither is the present president, whose administration seems to have adopted a policy variant on the way we won the west (“the only good injun is a dead injun”). Now the American mantra amounts to “the only good Houthi is a dead Houthi.” The slogan may change, but the genocide remains the same

The good news here, in its way, is that there’s no cheerleading section for multi-state savagery against largely defenseless people. Little reported, even less discussed, the US-Saudi terror bombing of Houthi rebels in Yemen goes relentlessly on, like the fascist intervention in the Spanish Civil War, causing a Yemenicide of displaced, starving, and dead civilians, along with a few dead fighters whose enemies include not only the US and Saudi coalition, but also Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIL) in Yemen as well.

In other words, President Obama’s policy amounts to a declaration that the enemies of our enemies are also our enemies. Why? Who knows? Because the Saudi Sunnis say so? Because the US thinks killing Shi’ites en masse is a good thing? Is it pure, homicidal cynicism for the sake of Saudi oil? Is it just a continuation of the recent American proclivity to get in on the wrong side of stupid wars, as the president said of Iraq?

Is American foreign policy built on institutional stupidity?

There’s plenty of evidence for a prima facie case that American policy on war and peace has been rooted in stupidity at least since Viet-Nam. The underlying question is whether stupidity is a product or a cause of capitalism or imperialism. And a related question is whether it’s really stupidity, since it’s the consistent policy of a tiny minority, the bipartisan American elite that continues to benefit from being consistently wrong from a moral or humanitarian perspective. That’s another reason a healthy country needs war crimes trials for people above the rank of lieutenant. 

One of the major stupidities still raging through American political discourse, such as it is, is that Iran is all bad. This is an article of faith for which the evidence is very thin. Any honest indictment of Iran would be far briefer than an indictment of Saudi Arabia, Israel, or the United States. Clearly, no honest indictments are in the offing. 

Caught in this web of Iran inanity as he tries to establish a sane relationship with Iran (a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, unlike Israel), President Obama recently undermined the prime Saudi rationale for reducing Yemen to rubble. The Saudis are Iranaphobic, blaming Iran for the Houthi rebellion against decades of repression by the Yemeni government. Now President Obama has quietly said that actually Iran tried to restrain the Houthis when they started to take over Yemen:

“When the Houthis started moving, that wasn’t on orders from [the head if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qasim] Soleimani, that wasn’t on an order from the IRGC [Iranian Guard]. That was an expression of the traditional Houthi antagonism towards [the Yemeni capitol] Sanaa, and some of the machinations of the former president, [Ali Abdullah] Saleh, who was making common cause out of expediency with the Houthis…. 

“We watched as this proceeded. There were moments where Iran was actually urging potential restraint. Now, once the Houthis march in and there’s no there there [the government fled] are they interested in getting arms to the Houthis and causing problems for the Saudis? Yes. But they weren’t proceeding on the basis of, come hell or high water, we’re moving on a holy war here.”

Whatever. That didn’t keep the Obama administration from joining the Saudis in committing war crimes if there was a holy war. Obama argues, heretically in the present American belief system, that Iran is a rational state actor. What he doesn’t say is that, in recent history, Iran has been a more rational state actor than the US. Having called US anti-terrorist policy in Yemen a success, President Obama has been all but silent about the criminal war that resulted from that “success.” 

If no one talks about a genocide, it’s not really happening, is it?

Like their president, the current candidates’ silence on Yemen is just as deafening. That silence is aided and abetted by a passive press corps that chooses not to ask questions about why the US is aiding the Saudi coalition in trashing international law and destroying one of the poorest countries in the world. That’s similar to the Turkish Rule about Armenians: if you forbid mention of genocide, then it never happened.  

As a former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton might have some insight into what’s happening in and to Yemen. She might even have an opinion. But if she does, she hasn’t shared it much. She has a record of voting for and tolerating criminal wars. Her official website, skimpy on foreign policy generally, doesn’t seem to mention Yemen at all. Surely her reticence has little to do with gifts to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Yemen (the former government, whose president has fled to Saudi Arabia), all of which are among the criminal belligerents in the Saudi coalition.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to have anything to say about war crimes in Yemen, either. But then Bernie Sanders doesn’t have much to say about war and peace issues, defense spending (more than half the US budget), or militarism generally. He’s made a point of supporting wounded American veterans, which is decent and politically easy, but fails to address the pathology that creates wounded veterans in the first place. He’s said the US needs to fight terrorism, but so do Saudi Arabia and Turkey (“Those countries are going to have to get their hands dirty, it cannot just be the United States alone”). This implies that Sanders is OK with Turkish attacks on its Kurds and Saudi depredations against Yemen. He doesn’t actually say. 

Jill Stein of the Green Partyapparently hasn’t said anything about America’s criminal war on Yemen in particular. She has, however, expressed sanity about Iran, called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan illegal, and in 2012 she noted that:  

“It's very clear that there is blowback going on now across the Middle East, not only the unrest directed at the Libyan embassy. 75% of Pakistanis actually identify the US now as their enemy, not as their supporter or their ally. And, you know, in many ways, we're seeing a very ill-conceived, irresponsible and immoral war policy come back to haunt us, where US foreign policies have been based, unfortunately, on brute military force and wars for oil. Under my administration, we will have a foreign policy based on international law and human rights and the use of diplomacy.” [emphasis added]

As for the 17 Republican candidates running for president, that’s a running joke, with a potential punch line that’s not too funny. Given their collective performance on the Fox News “debates,” none of them has a coherent view of the US place in the world beyond doing whatever it pleases. The Fox News reporters didn’t ask any probing questions. 

There were some hilarious responses about foreign policy, as Juan Cole noted. Ted Cruz seemed to praise Egyptian President al-Sisi for killing hundreds of opponents and establishing a military police state. Ben Carson seemed to defend torture and other war crimes. A Fox reported asked Scott Walker, “Which Arab country not already in the U.S. led coalition has potential to be our greatest partner?” Walker’s effectively answered “none” when he said:

“… we need to focus on the ones we have. You look at Egypt, probably the best relationship we’ve had in Israel, at least in my lifetime, incredibly important. You look at the Saudis — in fact, earlier this year, I met with Saudi leaders, and leaders from the United Arab Emirates, and I asked them what’s the greatest challenge in the world today? Set aside the Iran deal. They said it’s the disengagement of America. We are leading from behind under the Obama-Clinton doctrine — America’s a great country. We need to stand up and start leading again, and we need to have allies, not just in Israel, but throughout the Persian Gulf.”

All of this seems to confirm the observation attributed to Ambrose Bierce more than a century ago, that “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+22 # Activista 2015-08-08 12:00
Thank you for factual analysis - The American-backed genocidal war on Yemen - we sell Saudi Arabia billions worth of military hardware - provide direct logistical and technical support in their bombing raids. Lot of $profit$ for US military-indust rial complex.
Carter has one sentence answer why:
The US Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery"
+28 # Dongi 2015-08-08 12:45
Watching the republican candidates the other night was most depressing. They seemed programmed for war and had liitle interest in such exotic countries as Yemen. But, Saudi Arabia had been busy spreading money around US legislators so it has won their support for the war in Yemen. Israel has a good share of republican support also. It too knows how to dispense money. The word is out on how to inluence the US Congress. Pay 'em money. They are up for sale. What an absolute farce the US Congress has become. The republican contribution is memorable, indeed.
+11 # jdd 2015-08-08 17:47
True enough, but the point of the article is that a killer presently occupies the White House. And he is a killer. Thousands killed by drones. And by bombing of Libya, and the prosecution of the ruthless war against the elected government of Syria. Don't forget the near catastrophic plan to bomb Syria two years ago, and now the support for air strikes against Syrian forces.They can't be looked at in isolation. These are proxy wars Obama is fighting against Russia,to try and intimidate Russia. And this president is obsessed with it.By the continuing NATO march eastward, through support for the neo-Nazi dominated Ukraine regime, the continuing deployment of an ABM system in Eastern Europe, to the planned Trident NATO exercises to include a rehearsal of a nuclear strike on Russia, while moving ahead with the deployment of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, B-61-12s, which can be launched from the F-35. ( Bernie's pet project). It's not about oil, it is about domination and this president is playing the most dangerous game one can imagine.
+5 # MidwestTom 2015-08-08 19:34
Dongi, just where are the Republicans involved in the Yemen war? Do you believe that the Democrats don't support war? Our economy depends on war, and both parties understand that, and both parties promote war. The only candidate on either party who has come your against US involvement in the Middle East is Rand Paul, and he doesn't stand a chance.
+25 # danireland46 2015-08-08 17:11
A better question would be, "Does it matter ti the media?"
We've gotten 0 info about Yemen. How can the public weigh in on an issue this important when the Press is owned by the War Lords of America?
+16 # WBoardman 2015-08-08 18:49
danireland46 is right about mainstream media generally,
but there has been significant Yemen coverage here on RSN,
including my four previous articles.

Mother Jones is paying attention now, and so is Rolling Stone.

Clearly there's not enough coverage of Yemen, which
is rather amazing, since we're at war.

How can most of the country not pay attention?
+3 # Radscal 2015-08-09 13:37
Of course, most USians aren't paying attention because there's not much offered by the media to pay attention to.

Yes, you have provided some crucial information about what's really going on in Yemen, and we thank you for that, but you're not reaching a huge audience.

And even here, you neglect to mention why Yemen specifically is the target of US-backed aggression. As you know, Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa form a narrow, 20 mile wide waterway through which all vessels passing through the Suez Canal must pass.

Almost 10% of the world's petroleum exports, enormous amounts of imports to Europe especially, and military vessels pass through there, making control of the "Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb" an important financial/milit ary objective.

Somalia has been rendered into a failed state and Djibouti is essentially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US military. Yemen has had US-friendly regimes, but a substantial independent movement for decades.

"Bab-el-Mandeb" translates as "Gateway of Tears," and as long as hegemonic economic policies are maintained by brutal military, police and covert operations, the name will remain a most fitting description.
+27 # Carol R 2015-08-08 17:39
"Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to have anything to say about war crimes in Yemen, either. But then Bernie Sanders doesn’t have much to say about war and peace issues, defense spending (more than half the US budget), or militarism generally. "

Bernie Sanders has the following to say concerning the wars that never end:

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The United States spends more on the military than the next nine biggest-spendin g countries combined. Today, there are massive cost over-runs with defense contractors and the Pentagon cannot even pass an independent audit.

We are at a moment of truth. We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a mass movement of people to change that reality."
+13 # Thomas Martin 2015-08-08 18:30
Yes, we do need a mass movement working for sanity and peace and justice in our world. But even with a mass movement, who can we vote for to implement our principles? If it's not Bernie for President, then who? And in Congress, even many of the so-called "liberals" are not with us. It seems our system is broken, corrupted by money, and right now money trumps votes.
+3 # MidwestTom 2015-08-08 19:36
The only candidate for pulling completely out of the Middle East is Rand Paul.
+4 # Radscal 2015-08-09 13:49
Yes. Our government is controlled by monied interests, and really almost always has been.

If we are to establish the democratic republic we've long pretended to be, we MUST ban and prosecute ALL forms of bribery and make elections open and honest.

The problem has always been how to convince legislators who got into office through bribery to pass laws banning it.

Since Senator Sanders has always refused "campaign donations" from corporate interests, and has been a voice for the people (not perfect by any means, but he's been with us far more than against us), he could use the "bully pulpit" of the Presidency to rouse a mass, public movement to elect ONLY representatives who pledge to end ALL the various forms of bribery.
+10 # kgrad 2015-08-08 19:55
Thank you, Carol, for writing to set the record straight on Sanders' views.
+2 # Helen Marshall 2015-08-09 09:35
Bernie Sanders may have said that about Iraq and Afghanistan, but he has been a long-time supporter of Israel and has never to my knowledge criticized anything that it does. He cannot possibly have an even-handed policy in the Middle East.
+4 # Radscal 2015-08-09 13:56
Sanders has long called for Israel to abandon the "settlements" and recognize a sovereign state of Palestine based on the pre-1967 armistice line.

Yes, he is completely invested in Israel's "right to exist" and he seems to believe that much of Israel's aggression is really "defense," but he does seem to genuinely seek the ephemeral "Two State Solution" that has only gotten lip service by most other Presidents.

It could well be that, as the first Jewish President, he'd actually have the standing to make policy decisions that will lead to establishment of a State of Palestine.
+4 # jdd 2015-08-09 12:20
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are easy targets. The real questions of war and peace revolve around Obama's escalating interventions against the elected governments of Syria, and more importantly, Ukraine. These are the key flashpoints for a US/NATO confrontation with Russia, and a sane policy needs to be addressed by the Democratic candidates. Hillary need not apply.
0 # angryspittle 2015-08-08 19:10
+3 # James Marcus 2015-08-08 19:13
I nominate Obama as THE War Crimes President of all times. Bush was disqualified due to Innate Ignorance and obvious disingenuousity .
Obama is no such dummy
+2 # Helen Marshall 2015-08-09 09:33
Ah, but then we have Harry Truman and a couple of bombs...
+4 # Radscal 2015-08-09 14:03
And then there was James Polk who invaded and annexed more than half of Mexico.

And William McKinley who waged our first truly Imperialistic, global war to take land not contiguous to the Northern Hemisphere.

So many "War Presidents," so few "Presidents of the people."
+14 # futhark 2015-08-08 19:28
If the goal is to exploit the natural resources of the Middle East and exert an unending and absolute control over this and other parts of the Earth deemed critical to American hegemony, the foreign policy of the United States is, in the short run,anything but stupid. In the long run, and from an ethical standpoint, it is the epitome of stupidity. History has shown time and again that violence and threats of violence does not produce true or sustained amity.

As things are, ethics have been shoved aside and truth and justice sacrificed for cheap gas and profits for weapons manufacturers.

Another quote from Ambrose Bierce, his poem


"OURS is a Christian army"; so he said
A regiment of bangomen who led.
"And ours a Christian navy," added he
Who sailed a thunder-junk upon the sea.
Better they know than men unwarlike do
What is an army, and a navy too.
Pray God there may be sent them by-and-by
The knowledge what a Christian is, and why.
For somewhat lamely the conception runs
Of a brass-buttoned Jesus firing guns.
+10 # DaveM 2015-08-08 21:26
I wish to propose an alternative policy which will be far more stable and sustainable than America's current handling of All Things Middle Eastern.

1. We stop buying and selling anything to or from any Middle Eastern nation.

2. We use the money currently being spent to further a war which has been going on since at least the Middle Ages to develop sustainable energy and agricultural practices in the United States.

3. We forget about the Middle East.

Lest we forget, take note of what attempting to have matters "their way" in the Middle East did to the British Empire. I, for one, would prefer that history not repeat itself.

Should anyone be concerned about Israel, I submit that with their own weapons-making industry, not to mention the 150-250 nuclear weapons that they "do not have", they will be just fine.
0 # janie1893 2015-08-09 00:33
I do wish writers, journalists and TV
pundits would stop using the word 'genocide'. It is almost always rhetorical hyperbole. It will soon become just another noun to describe killing more than one person.
+3 # WBoardman 2015-08-09 10:17
janie1893 make a reasonable point about
the overuse of the word "genocide."

In the case of the Houthis being targeted, however,
it is hard to see how it is NOT genocide.

So far the US and the Saudi coalition have relied
on bombing and blockade to kill Houthis, with
other Yemeni as collateral damage.

Should the Saudis come in with ground forces,
the Houthis will be lucky to fare as well as the Kurds,
and may suffer as much as the Armenians.

So genocide here is literal and murderous,
not rhetorical hyperbole.

What the US and others are doing in Yemen fits the
definition of genocide in the UN Convention on Genocide,
as well as other definitions:
+1 # indian weaver 2015-08-09 16:36
The problem is not the word. The problem is the action of genocide is now everywhere, all the time, enacted by the USA and many other nation states. The quandary is not over use of the word but over use of the action. No way to stop that. And repetition of the word does de-sensitize all of us to what is really happening, sorry to say. Real genocide is now everywhere. No way around it. Such is the state of affairs - the worst everywhere. But, so what? All this genocidal behavior is being trumped meanwhile by ACD, the elephant in all of the rooms now.
0 # WBoardman 2015-08-09 19:08
+3 # rhgreen 2015-08-09 11:43
I have been following this issue and blogging about it. If I had written a full article about it, I would have written this one. Well, it wouldn't have been exactly the same, but I couldn't have done better.
-3 # ben Noweizer 2015-08-09 14:47
Time unveils lots ambiguities; no wonder those same names turn in circle to log comments that are mainly in favor!
One more time W. Boardman essay prove to be a copy paste according to the masters in Teheran!
Mr. Boardman, believe me it has became too obvious, try to balance your act, include some facts published by international institutions from HR to UNHCR and others about atrocities committed by the Houties against their own, 34 percent of their militia are kids under 14 years of age and so on .
Iranian dream in Yemen is over, as of today the battle of Sanaa the capital has started, the vice president and many ministers are back to Aden .
Save yourself some humiliation.
+1 # WBoardman 2015-08-09 19:05
[quote name="ben Noweizer"]
Re: Houthis: "34 percent of their militia are kids under 14
years of age"

The claim is unsourced. And apparently false
in several aspects.
Here is what the Independent in UK reports Aug 10:

“Schools are closed and children have easy access to weaponry,” he says. “All parties to the conflict have welcomed them with open arms. It’s a mess.”

Hassan is one of millions of Yemeni children whose access to education ended when the Saudi-led coalition began its military campaign to dislodge the Houthi rebels.

An official from the UN warned earlier this month that around 30 per cent of fighters in the armed groups involved in the conflict are under 18. “We are seeing children in battle, at checkpoints and, unfortunately, among [those] killed and injured,” Julien Harneis, Unicef’s representative in Yemen, told the French news agency AFP.
0 # WBoardman 2015-08-09 19:01
ignoring ben Noweizer's ad hominem canards,
one wonders why there are no source
for any assertion of facts..

ben N's argument amounts to holocaust rationale:
if some people do bad things we have a right
to exterminate all of them. Without due process.

ben N's argument is simply might makes right.

ben N ignores the point of the article, preferring
to blame the victims.

Regardless of whether the Houthis are blameless or not, the war on Yemen is undeclared, it is a war of aggression in violation of international law, the US and Saudi coalition forces perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity on an almost daily basis, and none of this is an issue in the US presidential campaign. ben N denies none of this, but seems to imply none of it matters, because.... IRAN! BE AFRAID!

That's not an argument, that's a fear tactic.

Google search "Houthi war crimes" and you find
some accusations, but the search produces even more
accusations against the aggressors, not that any of that
is dispositive of questions of aggressive war, etc.
+1 # Aletho 2015-08-10 08:26
Presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee says drone strikes drive the unrest in Yemen

By Mark Reynolds on Sunday, July 26th, 2015 ...
+1 # WBoardman 2015-08-10 09:10
Aletho posts a link to an article titles:
"Presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee says drone strikes drive the unrest in Yemen"

This is clearly not true, although drone strikes
have been a catalyst provoking Yemenis
to fight back.

The article, like Chaffee, is superficial and glib, to no
apparent useful purpose.

The drone strikes were sanctioned by the government
that was overthrown by the Houthis, causing the US
to withdraw forces in country and abandon bases.

Civil strife in Yemen is decades old at least and the
government that fled was imposed by outside powers.

Now Yemen is deeper than ever into civil war between
the Houthis and the gov-in-exile in Riyadh. Two other sides in the war are Al Qaeda and ISIS, the former controlling perhaps more territory (and less population) than the other forces.

The US and Saudi coalition have chosen sides in a civil war
and are waging aggressive war, illegal under international
law, and committing war crimes in the process. Not only
is the bombing killing and displacing civilians, the naval blockade accelerates food shortages toward the point of starvation.

Chaffee misses almost all of this. As does Politifact.

One tipoff about Politifact's mindlessness is it's reflexive use of "destabilizing" only in reference to Iran. Iran has never had as many military forces in Yemen as the US has had in recent years (until the pullout).
-1 # ben Noweizer 2015-08-10 17:08
Those were the exact words W. Boardman uttered over two months ago despite 12 pages on the Yemeni issue full of sources and links for verification. Mr. Boardman preferred to use his diversion skills rather than face the facts.

The importance is to show the independent readers how our last source of presumed independent news have been hijacked by Farsi petrodollars

One little details to refresh the writer memory; during the 2004 Houthis military uprising against the government of their present ally (not for long) former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, Houthis used children under 14-15 of ages to combat government troops, that habit continued in the present conflict at a wider scale. Houthis as per UN and EU observers have clearly committed war crimes and mass killing of their own in Tai’z and Aden principally. We shall not forget that after the military coup last year Houties with the Iranian backing threatened Saudi Arabia with an invasion to reach Mekkah within a year, that was televised and available on youtube.
-1 # ben Noweizer 2015-08-10 17:11
We also need to refresh his memory that the war on the houties that used arms to topple an elected government, was under the approval of the Arabs league with 10 Arabs countries participating; got UN approval under chapter VII and not even Moscow used a veto on the voting.

In 2009 Houties terrorist crossed the Saudi border and occupied several villages before being expelled.

No more free links and sources do the home work and let the readers search for themselves and find out the degree of profanity, distortions used for the furtherance of the paying master.
-2 # ben Noweizer 2015-08-10 17:15
The day Mr. Boardman decides to write about the Palestinian genocide, The US/EU/Iranian conspiracy to divide Iraq, or the Iranian occupation of Arabistan since 1924, that prohibit the habitants from speaking their mother tong, Arabic! or freely conduct their Muslim Sunni faith, or tell us why 3 million Muslim Sunni living in the Iranian capital cannot have a single mosque for their prayers while Jews have half a dozen Synagogues, The terrorist activities of Hezbollah (the Iranian proxy) around the globe in particular in Syria, only then many of the readers will most probably raise their hats in respect.
+1 # WBoardman 2015-08-12 12:29
ben Noweizer prvides more ad hominem calumny,
no more coherent argumens,
and no sources for any of his claims.

It's a shame that someone who
raises important, substantive issues
should choose do so in such
a tendentious and shallow manner.

The link below describes the chaos of 2009 in Yemen,
when the Hoothis wer fighting the government under
then-president Saleh (now a Houthi ally).
The link does not support ben Noweizer's assertions,
but give dimension to the intractability of Yemen's
longstanding conflicts:

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