The lack of coverage in the mainstream media of a war in which Britain is so deeply involved is nothing less than disturbing

Mayer Wakefield


People walk past damaged cars at the entrance of Al-Thawra hospital after an air strike in the Red Sea town of Hodeida on August 2, 2018. At least 20 people were killed. (Photo: ABDO HYDER/AFP/Getty Images)

The evidence of just how destructive the UK-backed Saudi war on Yemen has been continues to flood in. Last week, two separate reports outlined the scale of brutality unleashed on the Yemeni people. A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report concluded that nearly one-hundred civilians were killed or injured in Yemen every week in 2018 whilst the preface of the Days of Judgement report from US-based University Network for Human Rights (UNHR) and Yemeni monitoring group Mwatana spells out just how dire the situation is:

“In a country that was already among the poorest and most fragile in the region, 14 million people are now threatened by famine and even more depend on humanitarian assistance. While precise figures are lacking, an estimated 50,000 people have been killed as a direct effect of the war and 85,000 children may have died of hunger and preventable diseases.”

The report goes on to detail how UK weapons, almost £5 billion of which have been sold to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since the war began, are responsible for huge numbers of deaths. In the 27 cases of unlawful airstrikes they investigated it was found that 203 people had been killed, including over 120 children, and 750 had been injured. When you consider that the total number of KSA strikes on Yemen totals over 19,000 the scale of lives lost to UK made weapons is simply unbearable.

Not so for the Tories whose unambiguous support for the war continues unabated following Jeremy Hunt’s ‘PR stunt’ trip to Yemen which has done precisely nothing to bring peace to the country. Less than a month ago, Hunt took it upon himself to write to the German government to plead with them to end their suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia as he is ‘very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defence industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its NATO commitments’. Our Foreign Secretary has now morphed into an arms dealer.

Last week, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster revealed in a written reply to Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP that 282 MoD and civilian staff provide support to BAE Systems which is the largest profiteer from UK-Saudi arms sales. This revelation leaves beyond doubt the fact that this war would be impossible without British support and that this government is directly responsible for civilian casualties in Yemen.

The lack of coverage in the mainstream media of a war in which Britain is so deeply involved is nothing less than disturbing. There was some coverage recently when the Department for International Development and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office announced a new aid budget for Yemen. However, somewhat unsurprisingly many of the reports that covered it, along with Jeremy Hunt’s simultaneous trip, made little or no mention of arms sales.

Since the war began, the total of £887 million of aid which the UK has given to Yemen is dwarfed by the corresponding amount of arms sales licensed to Saudi Arabia (not to mention the UAE and other Gulf partners) but barely a single media outlet in Britain bothered to do their maths. Pathetically, only the Daily Mirror saw fit to report Mark Lancaster’s extraordinary disclosure. It seems the British mainstream media are only willing to cover this war when they are gifted a new Foreign Office press release – not so much journalism as regurgitation.

However, in a sign that the tables may be beginning to turn on the Saudi regime the US Senate voted last Wednesday to suspend US support for the war on Yemen. This may lead to an unprecedented clash with Donald Trump in which he could choose to use his presidential veto for the first time. Bernie Sanders, one of the bill’s sponsors said it provided an “opportunity to take a major step forward in ending the horrific war in Yemen and alleviating that terrible, terrible suffering being experienced by the people in one of the poorest countries in the world”.

In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said “If you truly care about Yemeni lives, you’d support the Saudi-led effort to prevent Yemen from turning into a puppet state”. Behind the unusually emotive rhetoric of Trump’s right-hand man is a twinge of anxiety paradoxically mixed with contempt for Yemeni lives. The Trump regime’s unwavering backing for Mohammad bin Salman and the slaughter he’s inflicted on Yemen may finally start to be proving problematic.

With this in mind, we must step up our efforts to end our government’s support for the bombardment of innocent people, starting with a protest next Tuesday to mark four years of the war. Join us to call for an end to Tory support for the war in Yemen.

20 Mar 2019

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