Saturday, 25 March 2017

War in Yemen is 2 years old - Who would know?

 26th March marks the beginning of the 3rd year of the war in Yemen - the day on which Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf and African nations, intervened in a civil war in the country between the Iranian backed Houthi rebels (a tribal faction from the North of the country) and the rest (an amalgamation of government troops under President Hadi and young men allied to the Southern Movement).

This war with seemingly no end in sight, has disappeared from view to the outside world.  Out-miseried by the atrocities in Syria and Iraq and of course outranked by events in Europe of late, most recently the attack on Westminster Bridge in London.

But what many don't seem to understand or want to discuss is that these events are all interrelated.  Considering Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, it might be a surprise to know that the UK and US are making a nice tidy sum out of it.

A recent Amnesty International report states "the USA and UK combined have made arms transfers worth more than US$5 billion to Saudi Arabia since 2015" when the war started.  And these weapons have been used to commit human rights abuses in Yemen. The Saudi coalition has killed 494 innocent civilians in seemingly indiscriminate air strikes on civilian homes in Houthi held territory, using these weapons.

Back in London, the wall to wall media coverage of the Westminster attack continues, with regular reference to our British values and way of life and our tolerance and resilience in the face of adversity.   The media used words such as "sick', "depraved", "Westminster carnage" and "attack on the home of democracy in London".

This attack by one individual is branded as a depraved act of terror, while state sponsored co-ordinated attacks on innocent civilians in other countries is what.......   business?  British export? or part of the so called 'war on terror' ?...  or conveniently both?
Photo by Iona Craig
A recent US Navy Seal raid on a tiny village in South Yemen at the end of January made a few headlines but only because one US Navy Seal died.  What was not so widely reported is that 25 innocent people died.  6 of them women and 9 of them children under the age of 13 years.  One of them 8 year old Noor Al Awlaqi (pictured).

There is a bigger picture that it seems so callous to discuss in the immediate aftermath of a horrific attack on home soil.  But if we don't discuss this now, then when?  Lets face it, 24 hour news channels have plenty of time to fill, especially when the facts in these events are so few and far between.  So why not use the time to ask some of these questions?  Or do people prefer the narrative of "why do they hate us so much?"

There is an argument that humans love conflict and division.  It helps us feel a sense of belonging and bonding against a common enemy.  And people love fear.  In fact, people just love to feel something - good or bad, they don't care.  Western society is so doped up on X-Factor and celebrity dancing shows, life passes numbly by while we dumbly go along with whatever gruel we are fed by the media.  We are emotional beings, we are all desperate to feel something but we don't get the chance much because we no longer need to hunt or fight for survival.

We gorge on 24 hour news, but learn very little about what is really going on.  So why don't we know what is really going on?  Because it doesn't serve governments well for us to know.  It doesn't serve the "home of democracy" to have true transparency.  So whats the point in democracy?  If we don't ask questions and don't challenge at these times more than at any other, then when?

Is it because it seems anti-British to ask these questions at such a time?  Does it appear insensitive?  But surely if your loved one was killed, wouldn't you want to know why?

When Navy Seal, William Owens, was killed in the botched raid in Yemen, The White House described the raid as "absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest its not a success does a disservice to the life of Chief Owens" and used this as a reason not to investigate because it seemed insensitive to do so.  They didn't bank on Owen's father demanding a review of what went wrong and accusing Trump of hiding behind his sons death to prevent an investigation.

So we need to be careful that we don't allow the loss of British lives to be used by our Government to neatly paper over their own abuses.  Let us not numbly, dumbly and dutifully fall in behind our leaders just because they tell us we share the same values and they are under attack by 'evil doers.'

Let us instead use our rights as a tolerant democratic society to call our hypocritical government to account and hold it to those values so espoused.  And if we want to continue to claim those values and standards of tolerance, respect, rule of law and democracy, surely we carry them wherever we go and we don't somehow leave them at the border of southern Europe.





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