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Mourners on Monday carry the coffin of Abdul Qader Helal, the mayor of the Yemeni capital San’aa, who was killed in an air strike on a funeral blamed by Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Reuters)

Do Western Nations Care about Yemeni Lives or Saudi Blood Money?

Medea Benjamin

How much is the life of a Yemeni worth? Not much, according to the Saudi regime that has been bombing and starving the people of Yemen for since March 2015, or to the Saudi’s western backers, particularly the US and UK, which have been supplying the Saudi regime with weapons, military training, logistical support and diplomatic cover for its dirty interventionist war.

The latest outrage is the October 8 bombing of a packed funeral hall in Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa. This horrendous attack killed more than 140 people and injured about 600 more.

"The time for review and mild statements of condemnation is over. The blood of the Yemeni people is on our hands."

On the heels of this attack comes a blistering report by Reuters showing, through Freedom of Information Act documents, that the Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings from US officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.

What has been the US and UK governments’ response to the funeral bombing? The British government announced UK arms sales to the Saudis is “under careful and continual review”, while the Obama administration issued a statement that US support for Saudis is not a “blank check” and that the US was “prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests.”

The “principles, values and interests” of the Western powers, however, have been to buy cheap Saudi oil and make record profits by selling massive quantities of weapons to one of the most repressive countries in the world.

Ever since the founding of the kingdom in 1932, the West has allied itself with a government that beheads non-violent dissidents, forces women to live under the dictates of male guardians, treats foreign workers like indentured servants, spreads the intolerant Wahhabi version of Islam around the world, funds terrorist groups, crushes democratic uprisings in neighboring countries like Bahrain and now wages a catastrophic war in one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, Yemen.

Yemenis are furious about the latest Saudi massacre, as well as Western complicity and the lack of action on the part of the international community. Thousands marched on the UN headquarters demanding a UN investigation. Others are amassing at the Saudi border, calling for revenge and perhaps sparking an even wider conflict.

In the US, Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut is one of the few representatives expressing outrage. He said the Saudi attack on funeral party follows months of attacks on schools, homes, and hospitals. "If the U.S. is serious when it says our support for Saudi Arabia isn't a blank check, then it's time to prove it—because it's clear the Saudi-led coalition isn't listening. The administration should pull U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen because it's harming America's national security, enabling terrorist groups to thrive, and killing innocent civilians.”

What can we do? Join us in demanding that our government stop arming the Saudi regime.  Support the courageous human rights defenders inside Saudi Arabia who are trying to reform their government through nonviolent means, such as Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, also known as ACPRA, whose eleven membersall prominent human rights defendersare suffering lengthy prison sentences. Call on the United Nations to form an independent international commission to investigate war crimes in Yemen.

The time for review and mild statements of condemnation is over. The blood of the Yemeni people is on our hands. If the Western nations want to show that they value the lives of Yemenis over the profits of their weapons industries, they must immediately stop providing the bombs, the bombers, the armored tanks, the Apache helicopters, the missiles, the howitzers, the training, the refueling, and all other military support to the Saudi criminals.  If Western values do not prioritize making blood money for General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and the other companies that profit from war, let’s prove it.


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