Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
How long do you think you could go without food?
For many people in the United States, this is a hypothetical question. Yet, for the people of Yemen, long-term starvation has been a daily reality.
Over the past six years, the United States has supported a deadly Saudi-led blockade of Yemen, which has led to the starvation deaths of at least 85,000 children. This blockade was enacted in response to the Houthi-led overthrow of the Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia. Shipments of food, medical supplies and other essential items have been mostly cut off from a country that imports 85 percent of its food and medicine. By the end of this year, four U.N. agencies predict 400,000 children under the age of five will die of starvation and 2.3 million children under five will suffer acute malnutrition as a result of the blockade. According to aid agencies, Yemen is rapidly approaching the “point of no return.”
Amid this horrific genocide of the Yemeni people are the footprints of American imperialism. Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, the United States has provided Saudi Arabia with intelligence, refueling sites for Saudi warplanes and weapons. In 2018, 40 children on their way to a school field trip were killed by a Saudi airstrike. The bomb used in the airstrike was supplied by military-industrial giant Lockheed Martin. (Terps, think about that next time you see Lockheed at a recruitment fair.)
After two months of basking in the public relations glow of stating he will end U.S. support for this humanitarian catastrophe, President Joe Biden has refused to make millions of starving people a remote priority. Even after a group of protesters — led by Yemeni-American Iman Saleh, general coordinator of the Yemeni Liberation Movement — has been hunger-striking on Biden’s doorstep for over two weeks to demand an end to U.S. support for the blockade, Biden is still failing to take action.
The only action he seems to be taking is ignoring a letter from his own party members in Congress demanding he end the blockade instead of increasing the defense budget to $753 billion. Biden supporters, is mass starvation and a bloated defense budget the harm-reduction you voted for?
While the Biden administration has claimed it will scale back U.S. support for Saudi offensive efforts, they continue to support the Saudi blockade that, through starvation, is torturing and killing Yemeni people. In addition, Congress has received no details from Biden on how this scaling back of U.S. influence will take place. It is clear Biden’s continued failure to end U.S. support for the Saudi blockade of Yemen demonstrates no matter who’s in office, this country will continue both its genocidal support for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as part of its imperialist agenda in the Middle East.
Let’s make one thing clear, no U.S. presidential administration, Democrat or Republican, has had the guts to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal campaign in Yemen. Biden and President Barack Obama supplied bombs that were dropped on civilians in Yemen, and former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also supplied bombs that were dropped on civilians in Yemen. Both administrations failed to end U.S. support for the blockade because to the United States, war crimes are just the daily price of securing our interests abroad.
What interests does the United States have for its continued support for Saudi war crimes? Since the 1940s, Saudi Arabia’s status as an ally of the United States has been over-emphasized by every administration due to the country’s enormous oil reserves. Modern U.S. administrations have continued to support the Saudi dictatorship to not only secure U.S. oil interests, but also because it sees the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a vital ally in its rivalry with Iran.
Not coincidentally at all, a large part of the reasoning behind Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen is due to Iran’s undisclosed backing of the Houthi rebels. If U.S. interests in Saudi oil have remained the same since World War II, it is evident U.S. presidents of all stripes have been willing to overlook and aid Saudi war crimes in Yemen, and presidential calls for humanitarianism in Yemen are performative and baseless.
Biden has the power to quietly support mass murder in Yemen, so let’s not pretend he lacks the power to end the blockade. The millions of people being starved in Yemen, along with the brave hunger strikers in Washington, D.C., don’t deserve to go without food for another day because Biden continues to drag his feet. If ending genocide goes against U.S. foreign policy interests, then it is evident no matter who is in office, the United States will never end its passive and active involvement in war crimes. That is why it is essential for Biden to stop ignoring his promise of ending the blockade and take decisive, meaningful action.
Caterina Ieronimo is a junior government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.