Credit: George Danby

Yemen is being destroyed by war, and America is complicit. The United States has no boots on the ground, but our military is providing arms and logistical support to the Saudi-led military coalition battling Houthi rebels for control of Yemen.

Over the past three years, a growing number of Americans have spoken out against U.S. involvement because the Saudi coalition is accused of horrific human rights violations: targeting hospitals, schools, markets and homes and deliberately inciting famine and epidemic by blockading shipments of food and medicine. Airstrikes have killed thousands, and starvation, cholera and other preventable diseases have killed a vastly greater number. The United Nations reports that 8 million Yemenis are on the edge of famine.

On Feb. 28, a bipartisan group of senators led by Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, submitted Senate Joint Resolution 54 to end American participation in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The resolution cites the War Powers Act, which forbids waging war without congressional approval. No vote was ever taken to authorize military involvement in this conflict.

Mainers must make their voices heard to Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, and tell them to get America out of this atrocity that our elected officials never even voted us into.

Sanders is a democratic socialist, and Lee a libertarian conservative. This interesting left-right coalition bases its opposition to the Yemen war on deep concerns about human rights and constitutional law. But between them on the ideological spectrum there are many senators who look at this conflict exclusively as a proxy war with Iran.

[Opinion: Containing ‘Iranian mischief’ is no excuse for letting Yemen’s humanitarian crisis fester]

The Iranians provide small arms and training to the Houthi rebels, who seized control of the country from its elected president in 2014, and possibly rockets that Houthi rebels fired into Saudi Arabia in late 2017. By supporting the Houthis, Iran has a share of the guilt for their shelling of civilian neighborhoods, obstruction of aid shipments and abduction and execution of their opponents.

By that logic, Washington shares responsibility for the larger civilian deaths from Saudi airstrikes and the deliberate incitement of famine since the Kingdom intervened in Yemen’s civil war to reinstate its deposed president. But our government’s response has been pitiful.

At the end of 2017, the Saudis imposed such a strict blockade on Yemen that the start of a full-out famine seemed inevitable. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson scolded the Saudis, who eased the blockade just enough to stave off mass death. But our leaders have gone back to one-sidedly castigating Iran, even as our allies continue bombing and starving Yemenis in large numbers.

The cynicism of Saudi Arabia and its backers in Washington is profound. After three years of effort to starve Yemenis into submission, the Saudi government announced a $3.5 billion “humanitarian plan” with great fanfare instead of contributing to the desperately underfunded U.N. plan. But the Saudi plan would allow them to direct aid flows to regions under their control while denying food to the most affected rebel-held regions and continuing the blockade of the city’s main port, Hodeidah.

The International Rescue Committee, one of the largest humanitarian assistance organizations in Yemen, called the Saudi plan a “war tactic.”

[Opinion: This is our chance to finally end US complicity in Yemen’s humanitarian crisis]

I have had many small conversations about this problem as moderator of a Facebook group, Maine for Yemen, which tries to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis. A constant refrain I have heard is: “We can’t solve everyone else’s problems. As long as there is one hungry child in Maine we shouldn’t be helping Yemenis.”

But this is not some disconnected crisis that Americans should respond to from the kindness of our hearts. This is a crime we are helping commit. Ending the war in Yemen and drastically increasing aid to that country’s devastated population isn’t charity, it is a moral obligation for the country complicit in their suffering.

Many people reply that U.S. participation in the war is justified because “Yemen supports terrorism. The USS Cole was bombed in Yemen.” This statement is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, the military support America provides for the Saudi war machine is not being used against al-Qaida or the Islamic State group terrorists, but against their bitter enemies, the Houthi rebels. This is certainly playing into the hands of these terrorists groups, which operate most freely in those areas under control of the Saudi-led coalition. In the process of attacking the Houthis, the Saudis are also ruthlessly targeting civilians, generating the kind of rage and nihilism on which terrorism feeds.

And most importantly, the primary victims of al-Qaida or the Islamic State group in Yemen are Yemenis themselves, the vast majority of whom have no sympathy for these monsters. Some Americans choose to equate all Yemeni civilians with the terrorists who murder them in order to justify a close U.S. ally’s merciless air war and starvation campaign against them.

This is a disgusting moral position any American should be ashamed to hold.

[Opinion: US support for Saudi’s war in Yemen reveals our moral hypocrisy]

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East, and this war will set the struggling country back a generation. If the famine that the U.N. warns of takes place, a quarter of the country could starve to death. This serves no American national interest, and only sews more misery in a region our country’s reckless policies have already harmed so much. What harvest will we eventually reap?

Mainers should make their voices heard to King and Collins, and tell them to vote yes on Senate Joint Resolution 54 to get America out of the war in Yemen.

Brian Milakovsky is from Somerville. He presently works in a humanitarian organization in eastern Ukraine. You can learn more at the Maine for Yemen Facebook page.

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