President Obama has taken the past week to push for Syrian refugees to come to the US. Obama plans to let in a first round of 10,000 refugees. Republicans have opposed this, but Obama has fired back by trying to make a moral appeal to the Americans for taking in refugees. Obama tells us that we need “American leadership” to set an example for the rest of the world. However, our president does not deserve the moral soap box he is preaching from.
Yemen is located on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, directly south of Saudi Arabia. Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Yemen does not have oil reserves or any other substantial sources of natural wealth. Yemen has a population of around 26 million.
Yemen has also been host to an American Drone war since 2004. The drone strikes have increased since Obama took office. Almost 2,500 have died in drone strikes under Obama; many of those are civilians. The target for the drone strikes is Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda is growing stronger and taking more territory. Recent leaks have also raised questions on the legality of the drone war.
Over a decade of the drone war has also taken a massive psychological toll on the people of Yemen. Research has found that 92% of Yemenis are suffering from PTSD. Children are the most heavily effected demographic. Some of the children are afraid of small electronic devices that sound similar to the drones. Women are even experiencing miscarriages, because of the fear and anxiety caused by drones.
In early 2015, the leader of Yemen fled after fighting rebellions for years. This caused the country to fracture with the Shi’ite Houthis, Sunni loyalist to the old government, and Sunni Al Qaeda all holding some territory in the country. The Saudis began a war against the Houthis and have been supporting their Sunni enemies. The Saudi war has been brutal on the civilian population of Yemen. The Saudis have bombed weddings and hospitals. There are reports of the Saudis using illegal cluster bombs. The Saudis have also blockaded Yemen, which means that there are many starving in a country that imports 90% of its food.
Without the US, it would not be possible for the Saudis to have this war. The US provided 90 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2015. The US is providing Saudi Arabia with logistical support and intelligence. The US is also refueling Saudi planes while they conduct bombing runs over Yemen.
The Saudis have kept reporters from entering Yemen. One reporter was able to smuggle himself into Yemen. He reported that Yemen “already looks like Syria after 5 years”.
President Obama will continue to stand on his moral soap box and wag his finger at the republicans, but if he really cared about those in the Middle East, who are poor, starving, and fleeing war, then he would end the drone war and stop US support for the Saudi war against the people of Yemen.