Largely forgotten in the West, Yemen faces one of the bloodiest armed conflicts of our time.
And equally forgotten is the role the United States has played in this ongoing tragedy.
The three-year-old civil war pits an Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement in the north against Saudi-supported loyalists to President Hadi’s government-in-exile, according to Reuters.
Local terror outfits, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State, have exploited weak state governance to control vast territories in the arid heartland.
Yemen’s civil war is also a proxy struggle between regional giants, as both Saudi Arabia and Iran are invested in the weaponry, financing and victory of their side.
There is an uncomfortable resemblance between our role in Yemen and Russia’s in Syria.
The U.S. government offers weapons, combat advice, and logistics to fortify a contested government against its people and bankroll a coalition repeatedly implicated in war crimes.
Saudi and UAE forces have used US-supplied cluster munitions and white phosphorus to indiscriminately bomb Yemeni civilian population areas, according to the New York Times.
We continue to literally refuel planes in the air so they can continue bombing without needing to land.
A careful reader can find lurid reports of child soldiers, foreign mercenaries, and a savage Saudi-led bombing campaign that, according to the head of the International Red Cross (IRC), makes Yemen “after five months look like Syria after five years.”
The Saudis and Emiratis have targeted hospitals, schools, holy places and refugee boats, according to Doctors without Boarders and Amnesty International.
The IRC and UN document 2.5 million people having fled their homes and 7.6 million facing starvation, largely from coalition-imposed naval and aerial blockades.
Federal law forbids American military assistance to abusive militaries. In accordance with this sentiment, the Editorial Board supports bipartisan opposition to U.S. weapon sales used in the Yemen conflict.
The other priority of the United States is to dismantle terror networks and assassinate AQAP leadership.
To that end, we have conducted a massive but largely ineffective drone strike program, according to reports from the Department of Defense.
Thankfully, an increasing number of Congressional lawmakers, such as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and our own Todd Young (R-IN), have realized how unwilling or unable the Saudis are to abide by the law of armed conflict.
The recent revelations from the Associated Press of American collusion with Emirati authorities in the enforced disappearances and torture of Yemenis are equally troubling.
According to the report, American interrogators have knowingly collaborated and obtained intelligence from suspects under torture.
Torture, first and foremost, violates the dignity of the human person. It is also beneath American values and against federal law. Our nation’s military leaders, and even former president George W. Bush, agree that U.S.-sanctioned torture offers terrific press for anti-American propaganda mills and has proven to be a supremely unreliable way to extract information.
The Editorial Board asks Senator Todd Young and Joe Donnelly to demand a moratorium on receiving intelligence from the UAE in Yemen until urgent questions of American culpability in their illegal programs are investigated.
Fixing the existing loophole in the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Amendment to cover proxy detention and requiring congressional notification when entering collaboration with foreign partners will also go a long way to increase oversight.
War is war and it will always be a bloody, senseless tragedy, but there is a right and wrong way to use force.
The real question we must ask is whether it’s okay for our government to condone the torture of its enemies.
The Editorial Board doesn’t think so.