Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Writing these columns, I often worry I’m too quick to call distasteful actors and events “evil.” It’s a powerful word, and writers should reserve it for the worst practices and people (torture, human trafficking, Paul Ryan, etc.). When overused, it conveys mere disapproval rather than true depravity. Calling something evil is like eating a Dorito — the enjoyment is immediate, but emptiness quickly follows.
But, in one small country, events are transpiring that demand the word.
In Yemen, the United States is helping Saudi Arabia starve a population to death. The U.S.-Saudi coalition is targeting Yemen’s energy and water infrastructure, causing the worst cholera outbreak in history. Seven million Yemenis face famine. The coalition recently blocked humanitarian aid from entering the country, leaving vulnerable Yemenis to die as food and aid sit outside Yemen’s ports. More than 50,000 children are expected to die by the end of the year — a tragedy almost 17 times more deadly than 9/11.
The United States is not a passive participant in these travesties. It is fueling the Saudi and UAE planes that conduct airstrikes on civilian targets, and providing intelligence to help coalition actors find bombing targets. An American bomb was used to kill seven children. The U.S. is committing war crimes in Yemen, and it’s pure, unalloyed evil.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution stating that Congress hasn’t authorized military force in Yemen. It isn’t enough. Congress must invoke the War Powers Act to prevent future military activities in Yemen, and end all military aid to the Saudi regime.
And while many Democrats, such as Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), have been strong on this issue, we shouldn’t forget that our Yemen policy is the brainchild of former President Barack Obama. For years, Obama committed atrocities worthy of a trip to the Hague — and few Democrats noticed.
For this reason, I worry that once the Trump era passes, newly activated “Resistance” folks will retreat back into apathy. I worry that, without President Trump as a punching bag, center-left people will once again ignore the everyday evils of the American empire. I worry that the people who write longing Facebook posts about Obama’s poise will continue to ignore his war crimes.
American involvement in Yemen is nothing new for us. In his otherwise admirable floor speech condemning the campaign, Sen. Chris Murphy called it “un-American.” That’s just not true.
When the United States does evil abroad, it’s almost always shrouded in secrecy and deception. Richard Nixon began bombing Cambodia without announcement. The U.S. launched the Vietnam, Iraq and Spanish-American wars under false pretenses. And the New York Times recently reported that the Obama-devised anti-ISIS air campaign has killed 31 times more civilians than government counts suggest.
The sinister privilege of American citizenship is the ability to ignore our government’s monstrosities abroad. Because Trump demands attention, some of us have wisened to evils pre-existing the president. But if that awareness fades with Trump’s political power, American evil will linger.
Max Foley-Keene, opinion editor, is a sophomore government and politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.