A long-running war is being waged on the Yemeni people by a Saudi-led coalition that includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Gulf state puppets of western imperialism. This coalition, on 9 August, bombed a bus full of children who were going home from a school trip in the Dahyan area of Sa’ada province in the north of the country.
The bus was believed to have stopped at a market for refreshments after a day out for the children when the airstrike occurred, leaving, according to the Houthi health minister Taha al-Mutawakil, 51 people dead, of whom 40 were children, and 79 wounded, of whom 56 were children. (The proper name for the nationalist Houti movement is Ansar Allah, sometimes written as Ansarullah. They are a zaidi-led [shia islamic sect] resistance group with origins in the mountainous Sa’dah governorate of northwest Yemen.)
The initial reaction from the Saudi-led coalition was to deny that this was an attack on civilians, with army spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki insisting that the airstrike that hit the bus was aimed at a “legitimate target”. He continued without any hint of shame: “No, this is not children in the bus, we do have high standard measures for targeting.”
The experience of the nearly four years of coalition attacks on Yemen give the lie to this breathtaking claim of the Colonel’s. Since the Saudi-led coalition started using military means, in particular airstrikes, to attempt to restore the overthrown US-supported exiled Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015, it is estimated that between 10-15 thousand people have been killed by them in Yemen, including around 5,500 civilians.
During June this year, the Saudi and UAE forces made 258 air raids on Yemen and nearly one-third of them were overtly targeting non-military sites.
Some 40,000 people have been wounded in the attacks, which also target civilian infrastructure, so that 15 million Yemenis are now without access to clean water.
Estimates from aid workers are that more than 50,000 have already died as a result of an ongoing famine caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s insatiable aggression, which has also seen them implement a strict blockade of Yemen’s ports, stopping aid getting into the country and sparking, according to the UN, “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, so that Yemenis now have to contend not only with wholesale famine but also with a massive cholera outbreak.
The United Nations has stated that more than 22 million people, three-quarters of the Yemeni population, are in desperate need of aid and protection, and that the situation is getting worse.
Just a week before the school bus massacre, around 55 civilians were killed and another 170 were wounded during a series of Saudi attacks on the Houthi-controlled Red Sea port of Hudaydah, while a Unicef-supported water station and sanitation centre in Hodeida, providing families with access to clean water to help prevent yet another outbreak of cholera, were attacked and seriously damaged by coalition planes in recent weeks.
There was plenty of genuine condemnation of the Saudi-led coalition following this latest atrocity, but the western imperialist media and bourgeois politicians, with the honourable exception of a few brave individuals, gave only a show of crocodile tears and insincere hand-wringing – and even that was muted.
US defence secretary James Mattis, backing a call from the US State Department for the Saudis to investigate the matter said: “I have dispatched a three-star general into Riyadh to look into what happened here, and if there is anything we can do to preclude this in the future.”
This idea of the Saudis investigating themselves carries little or no hope for any kind of justice. During the last year they have ‘examined’ 15 separate cases of civilian casualties resulting from their air strikes, and, strangely enough, have cleared themselves of any wrongdoing in twelve of these, while giving only minor criticism of their forces in the other three.
Not that being found guilty of the most heinous atrocities would be a problem for the coalition airmen, as Saudi King Salman has already indemnified Saudi pilots from punishment for any possible war crimes in the Yemen war.
The British response came from Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, who tweeted: “Deeply concerned by reports of yesterday’s attack in Sa’ada, Yemen resulting in tragic deaths of so many children … Transparent investigation required. UK calls on all parties to prevent civilian casualties and to cooperate with UN to reach a lasting political solution in Yemen.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an “independent and prompt” probe into the incident, but the UN itself seems to be rather reticent when it comes to actually setting one up.
Of course, that couldn’t be anything to do with three of the permanent members of the security council – the US, Britain and France – all supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s genocidal mission in Yemen, or the fact that Kuwait, one of the coalition members, also has a seat on the security council at the moment. That is surely just coincidence.
The United States continues to provide intelligence and logistical support for the coalition’s campaign of carnage in Yemen, and both France and Britain are providers of weapons to the murderous Saudi regime. According to a statement from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the US was from 2012 to 2016 the world’s top exporter of arms, and Saudi Arabia was its top customer.
Internationally renowned Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee has gone online to show the world remnants of the 500-pound MK-82 bomb that killed the Yemeni children in the 9 August Saudi-led and US-supported war crime. It was manufactured in the United States, and is a type of bomb that is sold in large numbers to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
A lone voice of reason has risen from within the US political pantomime that passes for bourgeois ‘democratic’ government: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy immediately rebuked the US government publicly for its involvement in, and support for, the Saudi killing spree in Yemen after the news broke that the airstrike had hit the schoolchildren’s bus.
Senator Murphy, who also sits on the Senate’s committee on foreign relations, pointed out the US involvement in the conflict saying: “US bombs. US targeting. US mid-air support. And we just bombed a SCHOOL BUS. The Saudi/UAE/US bombing campaign is getting more reckless, killing more civilians, and strengthening terrorists inside Yemen … We need to end this — NOW!”
Geert Cappelaere, the regional director in the middle east and north Africa at Unicef, sent out a tweet asking: “Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?”
From the International Rescue Committee, Frank McManus (director in Yemen) stated: “Today should be the day the world wakes up to the atrocities going on in Yemen. The last two weeks have seen strikes by conflict actors destroying essential civilian infrastructure across Yemen, but a bus full of school children cannot be viewed as mere collateral damage.
“Even wars have rules, but rules without consequences mean nothing. If there is any chance of innocent lives, especially those of children, being lost in an attack, that attack should not take place. Too many civilians have been caught up in this brutal war, and we cannot stand by and let this become the status quo. The international community must demand action – investigations into these attacks must be undertaken and the perpetrators must be held to account.”
One of the reasons given by the seven Gulf state coalition members and their western imperialist backers for waging this war is the claim that the Houthis are puppets of Iran – a claim that they believe gives them all the right to involve themselves in the internal conflict in Yemen; a conflict that would be long-finished without their involvement.
Eritrea has been accused of giving some medical aid to the Houthi government, but, even if this were true, how does that stack up against the thousands of tons of high-tech armaments being sold to the Gulf state coalition from the three major imperialist states?
On top of this, in April 2015, the US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan stated: “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen.” Yet the US still supported the Saudi war against Yemen.
Even if Iran were aiding the de facto Houthi government in Yemen, there are no Iranian jets flying in Yemeni skies destroying lives and food supplies to bring the country to starvation and disease. This continues to be the prerogative of the puppets of western imperialism.
For the long-suffering Yemeni people, yearning for peace and bread, each day brings more hunger, more disease, more loved ones blown to pieces and more tragedy piled on bloody tragedy. Western imperialist governments continue to pretend to be outraged by the actions of their puppets while giving the killers of Yemeni children more weapons to carry out their massacres and more protection against the condemnation of the real international community.
Among the ultra-left in the imperialist countries, this is referred to as ‘Trump’s war’, despite the fact that it was launched while Obama was president, with massive arms sales to the Saudis et al; and that the US was even using its drones in Yemen in support of its Saudi puppets.
President Trump is just as culpable as the US presidents who preceded him for the US’s war crimes in Yemen, but let’s not pretend they started with him. Without Trump, the US is still the imperialist beast ready to savage the world for profits and domination.
Our Trotskyite and social-democratic gentry should study Lenin in order to understand imperialism and how it works. They should also learn how to recognise and give support to the forces prepared to help in destroying it.