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It’s 2016: Do You Know Where Your Bombs Are Falling?

Posted on Dec 14, 2016

By Rebecca Gordon / TomDispatch

Steve Jurvetson / CC-BY-2.0

The long national nightmare that was the 2016 presidential election is finally over. Now, we’re facing a worse terror: the reality of a Trump presidency. Donald Trump has already promised to nominate a segregationist attorney general, a national security adviser who is a raging Islamophobe, a secretary of education who doesn’t believe in public schools, and a secretary of defense whose sobriquet is “Mad Dog.” How worried should we be that General James “Mad Dog” Mattis may well be the soberest among them?

Along with a deeply divided country, the worst income inequality since at least the 1920s, and a crumbling infrastructure, Trump will inherit a 15-year-old, apparently never-ending worldwide war. While the named enemy may be a mere emotion (“terror”) or an incendiary strategy (“terrorism”), the victims couldn’t be more real, and as in all modern wars, the majority of them are civilians.

On how many countries is U.S. ordnance falling at the moment? Some put the total at six; others, seven. For the record, those seven would be Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and, oh yes, Yemen.

The United States has been directing drone strikes against what it calls al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since 2002, but our military involvement in that country increased dramatically in 2015 when U.S. ally Saudi Arabia inserted itself into a civil war there. Since then, the United States has been supplying intelligence and mid-air refueling for Saudi bombers (many of them American-made F-15s sold to that country). The State Department has also approved sales to the Saudis of $1.29 billion worth of bombs—“smart” and otherwise—together with $1.15 billion worth of tanks, and half a billion dollars of ammunition. And that, in total, is only a small part of the $115 billion total in military sales the United States has offered Saudi Arabia since President Obama took power in 2009.   

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Why are American bombs being dropped on Yemen by American-trained pilots from American-made planes? I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, a glimpse of the results.

“On the Brink of Abyss”

The photographs are devastating: tiny, large-eyed children with sticks for limbs stare out at the viewer. In some, their mothers touch them gently, tentatively, as if a stronger embrace would snap their bones. These are just a few victims of the famine that war has brought to Yemen, which was already the poorest country in the Arab world before the present civil war and Saudi bombing campaign even began. UNICEF spokesman Mohammed Al-Asaadi told al-Jazeera that, by August 2016, the agency had counted 370,000 children “suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says 14.4 million people in Yemen are “food insecure,” seven million of them—one fifth of the country’s population—“in desperate need of food assistance.” Before the war began, Yemen imported 90% of its food.  Since April 2015, however, Saudi Arabia has blockaded the country’s ports. Today, 80% of Yemenis depend on some kind of U.N. food aid for survival, and the war has made the situation immeasurably worse.


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