Editorial: Yemen as world’s future?

March 13, 2017

The Jan. 29 raid on Yemen, cavalierly approved by new U.S. President Donald Trump over dinner with his lead adviser, fascist ideologue Steve Bannon, is emblematic of the devastating situation in the whole of Yemen. U.S. commandos, along with soldiers from the United Arab Emirates, swooped down at dawn onto the impoverished village of Yakla.

The plan was to surprise Al-Qaeda operatives. Instead, the Navy Seals, one of whom was killed, were immediately engaged. They then unleashed a reign of terror against the entire village. Twenty-five civilians, including eight children, ages three months to 11 years old, were killed. When the Seals were through, much of the village was destroyed, including the school, clinic and mosque.


Ordinary Yemenis, struggling to live free and just survive in a world that has forsaken them, are in the crossfire of terror from internal reactionaries and multiple competing regional and global powers who have no regard for human life.

This February marks the sixth anniversary of the Arab Spring movement coming to Yemen, when in 2011 youthful demonstrators in Change Square in the capital city of Sana’a took on the 32-year-old dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh’s murderous response to the demonstrations, which grew to include other layers of the population, brought opposition not only from political opponents but former allies and even within his own clan.

The monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiated a power-transfer plan in what became hailed as a “Peaceful Revolution.” Saleh, who warned of a coming bloody civil war, was given immunity. But the spirit of unity and new passions for freedom that emerged in Change Square were never reflected in the unity government led by Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi was put into power in an “election” in which he was the only candidate. The astute Yemeni journalist Afrah Nasser, a participant in the 2011 uprising, points to the crucial moment in the unfolding political process as the “National Dialogue Conference,” created as part of the power transfer plan. Houthi rebels opposed the plan’s federalism and held on to their vision of politicized religion that would rule Yemen. (“Yemen War: Between Internal and External Interests,” Huffington Post, Feb. 25, 2017.) Saleh got his bloody civil war when Houthis allied with him and ousted Hadi in 2015.

Hadi ended up in Saudi Arabia, a reactionary state supplied with a vast arsenal of U.S. weapons paid for with oil dollars. A Saudi-led coalition then started a massive bombing campaign on civilian areas with U.S. logistical help, which continues unabated. Tribal and sectarian differences were amplified by the raging war between Houthi forces supplied with arms by Iran and a Saudi-led coalition. Both sides show a total disregard for civilian life and are out to kill the very idea of human solidarity that was so much a part of the Arab Spring and Occupy movements.

To date over 10,000 Yemenis have been killed. Doctors Without Borders reports that in cities like Taiz, which at 200,000 people is a third of its original size, the civilian population is under constant heavy artillery shelling and daily airstrikes. The capacity to provide medical help has been wrecked as every single medical facility has been damaged in violation of international law.

Yemen, a country of 27 million, which was already desperately poor before the war, is now a humanitarian catastrophe. According to UN reports, last year 63,000 children died of preventable causes, often linked to malnutrition. Now 12 million, including 2.1 million children, are acutely malnourished. Saudi bombing of infrastructure, markets and fishing vessels has shut down whole villages.


The little humanitarian relief coming in entered via the port of Hodeidah on Yemen’s west coast. Though the Obama administration armed the Saudis and assisted their daily bombing that made life a living hell for millions, it did demand the Saudis not bomb the port in Hodeidah. But now aid ships are avoiding Hodeidah, fearing that Trump’s administration will not hold the Saudis to even that minimal restraint. The war strategy of wealthy, reactionary Arab Gulf States is to bomb and starve the country into oblivion.

Yemenis declare to the few reporters who get to Sana’a, like Nawal al-Maghafi: “Tell the world. We are being slaughtered.” (“Yemen is becoming the new Syria—and Britain is directly to blame,” Telegraph, Feb. 24, 2017.) The perpetrators of the genocidal onslaught of the whole civilian population—especially the Saudi-led coalition with backing from Britain and the U.S.—are committing war crimes on a par with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 

But for the millions of Yemenis who have been forced to flee their homes there is no escape from the carnage. Exit ports are blockaded and nearby countries like Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon no longer accept them.

In a global capitalist world whose states are devolving into fascism, scapegoating the “Other” and making mass murder acceptable, Yemenis cannot be forgotten. Their fate awaits all of us in a global collapse in capital accumulation, out of which has spewed vile nationalism and permanent war. More than ever the survival of humanity depends on the idea of human solidarity. 

Afrah Nasser, reflecting on the anniversary of the 2011 Yemeni uprising, cites Hannah Arendt: “revolutions are the only political events which confront us directly and inevitably with the problem of beginning.” Revolutionary new beginnings can bring to life new human relationships. Revolution in permanence is the arena to realize a new universal of human solidarity and freedom.

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