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What is it about America and its twenty-first-century wars? They spread continually -- there are now seven of them; they never end; and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, most of the time it would be easy enough to believe that, except for the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, there were no conflicts underway. Take the Afghan War, for an example. Now 15 years old and heating up again as the Taliban takes more territory and U.S. operations there grow, it was missing in action in the 2016 election campaign. Neither presidential candidate debated or discussed that war, despite the close to 10,000 U.S. troops (and more private contractors) still based there, the fact that U.S. air power has again been unleashed in that country, and the way those in the Pentagon are talking about it as a conflict that will extend well into the 2020s. It makes no difference. Here, it's simply the war that time forgot. Similar things might be said, even if on a lesser scale, about expanding American operations in Somalia and ongoing ones in Libya. Nor is the intensity of the air war in Syria or Iraq much emphasized or grasped by the American public.
And then, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, makes clear today, there's the war that couldn't be forgotten because, in essence, just about no one here noticed it in the first place. I'm speaking of the U.S.-backed Saudi war aimed significantly at the civilian population of desperately impoverished Yemen. It's a conflict in which the actual American stake couldn't be foggier and yet the Obama administration has supported it in just about every way imaginable, and it will soon be inherited by Trump and his national security crew. It could hardly be grimmer, more devastating, or more gruesome, and yet most of the time, from an American point of view, it might as well not be happening. There is evidently no good moment to bring up the subject of where American bombs are falling on our planet, so why not now? Tom
It's 2016. Do You Know Where Your Bombs Are Falling?
The Forgotten War in Yemen and the Unchecked War Powers of the Presidency in the Age of Trump
By Rebecca Gordon
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.- Advertisement -
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.
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.
As the WFP reports:- Advertisement -
"The nutrition situation continues to deteriorate. According to WFP market analysis, prices of food items spiked in September as a result of the escalation of the conflict. The national average price of wheat flour last month was 55 percent higher compared to the pre-crisis period."
The rising price of wheat matters, because in many famines, the problem isn't that there's no food, it's that what food there is people can't afford to buy.
And that was before the cholera outbreak. In October, medical workers began to see cases of that water-borne diarrheal disease, which is easily transmitted and kills quickly, especially when people are malnourished. By the end of the month, according to the World Health Organization, there were 1,410 confirmed cases of cholera, and 45 known deaths from it in the country. (Other estimates put the number of cases at more than 2,200.)