The November 19th 60 Minutes program attempted to shed some light on the humanitarian crisis being played out in Yemen. Their broadcast found me nostalgic for Paul Harvey.
Paul Harvey was synonymous with ABC’s radio show called “The Rest of the Story”. The program had its beginning during World War 2 and premiered on the ABC Radio Network in the 1970’s.
The Rest of the Story consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with Harvey completing his narrative with: “And now you know the rest of the story.”
A year ago, I wrote two blogs about Yemen, #012 Oh Yemen! – Man, It’s Hard Just to Live and #013 Part 2 “America is killing the Yemeni people.” Since those blogs appeared, the crisis in Yemen has gotten worse. On November 19th, 60 Minutes attempted to expose the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Their effort should be applauded but it failed to provide a complete picture and may have even mislead the public.
The 60 Minutes report fell short of telling the rest of the story. They refused to call the blockade what it is, a weapon of genocide and they conviently omitted the names of those countries, that David Beasley of the World Food Program, referred to as “all of those involved”.
The Rest of the Story
Enforcement of sanctions and blockades, by States on other States is a criminal act against humanity. States throughout history have encumbering and prohibited trade. Seldom, however, can the consequences of such an effort, have been as devastating as in the case of the British naval blockade of Germany in the First World War. This hunger blockade belongs to the category of forgotten state atrocities of the twentieth century. The Saudi blockade on Yemen is this century’s atrocity.
In 1914, at the outset of World War 1, Great Britain under the direction of the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, implemented a blockade against Germany. Churchill described his aim as, to “starve the whole population—men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound—into submission”.
At that time, Americans denounced this action as inhumane. Yet when the US went to war in 1917, the US supported the British’s effort to “starve the whole population”. This starvation blockade was responsible for at least 762,106 civilian deaths. One hundred years have pasted and the U.S. is again supporting a “Hunger Blockade”.
War has a “funny” way of changing the perspective of participating nations. Upon entering World War 1, a U.S. admiral explained our changing position to then British Prime Minister Lloyd George, “you will find that it will take us only two months to become as great criminals as you are.” The only thing that has changed in 100 years is that we no longer need two months of training.
U.S. Entry into World War 1
In 1915 Germany responded to the British “Hunger Blockade” when it launched a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare. Germany declared the area around the British Isles a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, would be attacked by the German navy. This retaliatory action culminating in the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat.
After the Lusitania incident, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson demanded that the German government end its attacks against unarmed merchant ships. By September 1915, the German government imposed stricter constraints on the operation of its submarines. The German navy would later suspend U-boat warfare altogether. This action had no effect on the British “Hunger Blockade”.
Then on January 31, 1917, the German Reichstag government announced that unrestricted submarine warfare would resume the next day. In April, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean as one of the main reason for his declaration.
Selective and incomplete reporting appears to be the narrative for the mainstream media, they have become too complicit with the noise being generated in Washington D.C. by our political and military leaders. The media never directs the viewers to the actual role that the United States government plays in global crisis.
“Hunger Blockade” on Yemen – Famine or Genocide?
The 60 Minutes production focused almost entirely on Yemen’s hunger crisis, David Beasley of the World Food Program told 60 Minutes that if his organization doesn’t get substantially more international assistance in the next few months, 125,000 children could starve to death. The starvation issue in Yemen is only one of the many crisis facing the Yemeni people.
60 Minutes does report that Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies had placed an almost total blockade on Yemen. The fact that 60 Minutes falls short of calling the Yemen’s starvation crisis a genocide caused by Saudi actions is under reporting. The viewer should walk away from the 60 Minute piece clearly understanding that Saudi Arabia is the direct cause and their coalition members are conspirators
This humanitarian crisis is not due to natural occurring conditions such as weather, crop failure, drought or even population shifts. It is caused by a concerted effort by the Saudi coalition to punish and murder the Yemeni population living in the Houthi controlled areas of Yemen. Based upon David Beasley’s input, one would conclude that the humanitarian atrocity taking place in Yemen, the Saudi’s two and one half year bombing campaign and the Saudi led blockade of Yemen ports and airfields are apparently coincidental.
The Houthi vs The Saudi
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been waging a brutal military operation in Yemen in response to the Houthis seizing control of the capital, Saana and ousting the Saudi backed President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia to beg the royals for support to get his prize back.
The Houthi, native to Yemen, are made up of tribes who have come together to reclaim their role within Yemen’s political society. The name comes from its founder-leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. His following began as a theological movement preaching peace. The Houthi are a Zaidi predominantly Shia-led religious-political group. Their religious belief puts them on the other side of the new Middle East “Cold War”. (Iran versus Saudi Arabia)
The Saudi’s intolerant Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam and its commercial mercenaries act to overthrow and shatter Arab regimes and societies that have independent modern, nationalist and secular leadership or practice multi-ethnic or multi-religious tolerance. They also target republics with Shia-majority governments opposed to Saudi-Wahhabi domination in the Middle East.
Intervention in Presidential Elections? – US Fingerprints
The Houthi movement turned to violent clashes with government going back to the 1990 and through the 2011 Yemeni Revolution, its version of the Arab Spring. The Houthi’s opposition took a more focused attack on the central government after the staged 2012 elections.
The US backed and recognized the corrupt and violent national election that had only one name on the ballot. The only candidate was the Saudi and US backed, Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi. Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated the people of Yemen “on today’s successful presidential election,” calling it “another important step forward in their democratic transition process.”
In a speech, one of the Houthi’s current leaders, Abdulmalek al-Houthi proclaimed that, “this government is a puppet in the hands of influential forces, which are indifferent to the rightful and sincere demands of these people,” referring to the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Fast forward: in the fall of 2014 the Houthi attack and takeover Saana; the US agrees, in concept, to a nuclear treaty with Iran; events upset the Saudi royals; the Saudi’s puppet Hadi forced into exile; Saudi ask and receives permission to bomb Yemen; the Obama administration admits that their approval is to placate the very sad Saudi’s.
The Saudi’s military campaign against Yemen began in March of 2015 with significant US funding, logistical support, and arms the bombing has caused enormous suffering in what was the poorest nation in the Arab world. However, over the past two years, the Saudi Arabia-led operations, have enforced restrictions on Yemen’s airspace and blockades of its seaports thus cutting off food and medical supplies to the Yemeni civilians.
The bombings and blockade has accounted for Yemen’s malnutrition crisis of colossal proportions. Close to 80 percent of Yemen’s population lacks reliable access to food, and the United Nations estimates that 7 million of the country’s population of 28 million people are facing a death sentence handed down by the Saudi regime.
Cholera – The Saudi Weapon of Choice
The U.N. reported that there have been over 2,000 deaths due to cholera since the end of April, most victims being children. 60 Minutes fails to make it clear that, death from cholera, is preventable with the consumption of clean potable water or other hydrating fluid. The 60 Minutes connects the outbreak of cholera with the Saudi and its supporting allies but fails to deliver the knockout blow.
The Saudi’s blockade of fuel to operate sewage and water works facilities and their targeting of these facilities, has created a petri-dish for cholera. The destruction of the Yemeni infrastructure put millions of the Yemeni at risk of contracting and spreading of cholera. Dr Homer Venters, director of programmes for the research group Physicians for Human Rights, says the Saudi coalition hits on clinics and sewage works are a “tactic of war” that amounts to the “weaponisation of disease”. (cholera)
Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, Alexandra Faite, said “we could reach up to 1 million [cases] the end of the year.” CNN reports that an estimated 5,000 people were becoming infected by cholera daily as of September. Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, Tamer Kirolos, told CNN that cholera is “easily treatable if you have access to basic healthcare.”
Really – Blame It On Iran
On November 4, Saudi Arabia shot down a ballistic missile that the Houthis had fired towards Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The Houthi missile caused no casualties but it “shook the Saudi capital”. This attack was the first first-ever missile strike targeting the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Houthi missile launch is a logical response against a country committing “war crimes” against the Yemeni.
Saudi Arabia reacted quickly, and harshly, on November 6, it declared the attack to be “an act of war” by Iran. This is a strange statement considering that the missiles were manufactured in Yemen. The Houthi missile was a counter-attack to the Saudis’ starvation blockade and daily bombing of Yemeni cities. Iran had no role in the launching of the missile.
“All of Those Involved”
The Saudis tightened its blockade of Yemen, rendering it virtually impossible for humanitarian aid to reach Yemen’s air and seaports. The blockade of Yemen’s ports is not new, with the US approval, Saudi Arabia and its allies have been stopping food and medical supplies, to a country that depends almost entirely upon imported food and medical supplies, for the past two years.
Saudi Arabia’s newer version the “hunger blockade” is intended to exacerbate what the United Nations has deemed the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Under international pressure the Saudis “modified” the blockade to apply only to Houthi held areas. This area, is where there is a desperate need for humanitarian assistance.
The Saudi decision to “ease” the blockade is meant to make Riyadh seem reasonable. The fact is that it is a meaningless gesture that has done little to really improve the situation in Yemen. Houthi terrain has seen 84 percent of cholera infections – 456,962 out of 542,278 cases. Those infected have more chance of dying in Houthi held areas.
On the 60 Minutes program, David Beasley of the World Food Program made an interesting statement about the usage of food as part of the Saudi’s strategy. “I don’t think there’s any question the Saudi-led coalition, along with the Houthis and all of those involved, are using food as a weapon.”
“All of those involved” aren’t currently blockading Yemen from the air, land, and sea. “All of those involved” aren’t equally responsible for nearly a million Yemenis suffering from cholera without access to proper medical care. And “all of those involved” aren’t regularly conducting airstrikes that hit civilian targets, weddings, schools and funerals, in Houthi-held northern Yemen.
The ambiguity of Beasley’s statement, “all of those involved”, confuses the audience. His attempt to avoid the appearance of being bias is disgraceful, with an estimated seven million Yemenis in or nearing famine conditions, it’s long past the point of trying to protect Riyadh’s delicate feelings.
Damn It – Connect the Dots
The most egregious part of the 60 Minutes coverage was its total failure to completely identify Who “all of those involved” are, namely the role that the United States and Britain have played in arming and sustaining the Saudi war effort. The United States has been intimately involved in the Saudi intervention in Yemen. The Obama and Trump administrations have provided logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi Arabian-led war effort, and approved billions of dollars in American arms shipments.
Saudi airstrikes have targeted civilian areas like marketplaces, hospitals, rehab centers for the blind, and funeral homes. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 16 attacks in which the coalition has used cluster bombs banned under international law. Destruction of the country’s infrastructure has caused the spread of easily preventable diseases like cholera. The economy has been brought to a nearly complete standstill.
al-Monitor has reported that: “the US Department of Defense provided about 480,000 gallons of aviation fuel to the mission at a cost of more than $1 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a 140% increase over the previous year. The disclosure comes as Yemen suffers the world’s worst cholera epidemic and the Saudis face international pressure to lift their blockade of the country’s ports.”
This revelation should be a wake-up call to every American that this country is literally fueling the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history,” said Kate Gould, a lobbyist with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group. “The [United States] is operating these gas stations in the sky to fuel Saudi and UAE bombers as they rain down terror on Yemeni water and other sanitation infrastructure — the last safeguards Yemen has against these disease outbreaks sweeping the country.”
The Saudi operation in Yemen depends on this ongoing logistical support from the U.S. It also depends on arms, like American cluster bombs and British missiles, that U.S. and U.K. arms dealers eagerly sell to the Saudis. Which means that it’s within American and British power to end this atrocity, to end the starvation, to force the Saudis to reopen the entire country to humanitarian aid.
The US and British are very invested in maintaining their toxic but lucrative relationships with the Saudi monarchy. Their cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia has prevented them from stopping their support of the Saudi crimes.
Neither Washington nor London has taken any substantive steps to end or even reduce their involvement in immiserating the Yemeni people. Without a public outcry against this genocide the US and England will continue to promote the Saudi propaganda about Iran level of involvement.
Main-stream Media – You’re not Paul Harvey
60 Minutes, the hard-hitting news magazine, did not utter a single sentence in its Yemen segment to explain how America and Britain are responsible for the many images of starving children that their viewers were seeing on Sunday night.
60 Minutes even went out of their way to muster up a feeble example of how the US attempted to “help” the Yemeni by suppling dock cranes. Their selective reporting, ignoring the US support for the Saudi genocide of the Yemeni people, misleads the audience. The complete American story of the Yemen crisis seems to have escaped the award-winning show.
Stunning omissions of the facts is certainly not a new phenomenon in Western media. It has made a habit of downplaying or outright ignoring American and British involvement in Yemen. The American audience deserves to know that our government has helped to create the atrocities that flashed on the screen. In failing to provide a complete report, 60 Minutes did its viewers, and the people of Yemen, a tremendous disservice.