Britain is behind the slaughter in Yemen. Here’s how you could help end it
David Wearing/The Guardian
British planes and British bombs are spearheading the killings. Politicians and the media must raise their voices in opposition.
Nothing can diminish the threat of a disorderly Brexit, or the significance of Boris Johnson’s recent anti-democratic prorogation of parliament. That those stories lead the news is no surprise. But when our government provides crucial support to a campaign of indiscriminate killing in Yemen that has claimed the lives of thousands of people, and this is treated as a footnote in our politics rather than a national scandal, it is plain that something has gone badly wrong.
This week a report by UN experts warned that Britain could be complicit in war crimes through its arming of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervening in Yemen’s civil conflict. The report is the latest in a long line from the UN and the world’s most respected NGOs documenting a consistent pattern of violations. The experts note that leading arms providers like the UK “have a specific influence” on the belligerents “and may be held responsible for providing aid or assistance for the commission of international law violations”.
About 100,000 people have met violent deaths since March 2015, and the blockade imposed by the Saudi-UAE coalition is the primary cause of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing millions to the brink of famine. Save the Children estimates that 85,000 infants have died from starvation or preventable disease. The UN experts raise the real possibility that starvation is being employed as a war tactic. British complicity in that ought to be unthinkable.
Aerial bombing by the Saudis – frequently indiscriminate – is responsible for most of the civilian deaths, and that bombing is completely dependent on British and American support. The US and UK supply the bombs, the planes that drop the bombs, training for the pilots, and the spare parts and maintenance that keep the planes in the sky. Any idea that these complex weapons systems would simply be replaced by Russia or China were Britain to refuse to provide this support is a myth. The reality is that Washington and London could have stopped the Saudis’ war any time they liked.
This indefensible situation has continued for so long partly because it has not received a level of political attention commensurate with the magnitude of the catastrophe. Our government is to blame for its own policies, but the failure to put sufficient pressure on it to end those policies is something the rest of us are responsible for.
Politicians of the centre, for example, are never shy of flaunting their supposed internationalist credentials, but many of these same figures either support or have nothing to say about British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.