Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally for decades, but during that it has engaged in numerous violations of human rights including creating what is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. For over three-and-a-half years, Saudi Arabia has been waging a brutal attack on its poorest neighbor, Yemen, causing the killings of as many as 50,000 people and the silent deaths of an estimated 113,000 children who have perished from malnutrition and preventable diseases like cholera. By using starvation as a weapon and causing the collapse of the Yemeni economy, health care and educational systems, Mohammed bin Salman has proven himself to be a ruthless monarch, and not the progressive reformer that many in the Western press have, until very recently, been happy to paint him as.
The crown prince’s actions in Yemen have not drawn nearly as much attention from his U.S. allies. Quite the opposite in fact.
The crown prince’s actions in Yemen have not drawn nearly as much attention from his U.S. allies. Quite the opposite in fact. The administrations of President Barack Obama and Trump have both been quick to support bin Salman’s military via billions of dollars in weapon sales, logistical support and training reportedly totaling around $120 million per month and facilitating midair refueling for Saudi jets in Yemeni skies. And until the brutal killing of 40 Yemeni children on a school bus, the U.S. mainstream media remained largely uncritical of its government’s role in the war on Yemen.
Thus far, Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia seems to be enduring this rare moment of public outcry. Asked whether the U.S. would consider halting arms sales to Saudi if they are found responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump gave a transparent — if unsettling — response. He declared he, “would not be in favor of stopping a country from spending $110 billion” and dismissed Khashoggi as “not a United States citizen.” (The missing journalist is a permanent U.S. resident.) And despite warning that Saudi should expect “severe punishment” if they are found responsible, Trump reiterated in a 60 Minutes interview that halting weapon sales is out of the question.
In stark contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took a much harder line, declaring: “There’s not enough money in the world to buy back our credibility on human rights if we do not move forward and take swift action.” And yet, Rubio’s concern for human rights was absent when, earlier this year, he joined 54 mostly Republican colleagues in killing a bill that called for an end to the U.S. role in Yemen altogether. This concern was also absent when Rubio and colleagues such as Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., backed the continued sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia last year, only to now emerge as leading voices against Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
It is understandable that many within the U.S. government want to remain uncritical of Saudi’s actions in Yemen; after all, they were (and remain) partners in alleged war crimes and so condemnations of Saudi’s brutality in Yemen cannot ignore America’s helping hand in these atrocities.
Still, the hypocritical nature of the recent mainstream change of heart is especially painful for those who have tried for years to bring attention to the suffering of Yemeni men, women and children. How many deaths will it take before investing in Saudi Arabia becomes a problem? Or do human rights only matter when a prominent figure is the subject of such brutality? [Continue reading…]