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Condemning Saudi Cruelty in Yemen


We turn now to the crisis in Yemen, where the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has drastically escalated its assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. The Guardian reports there have been at least 200 airstrikes in the past week, killing at least 150 people. One Saudi airstrike destroyed a home in Hodeidah, killing a father and his five children. The increased fighting comes as calls grow for a ceasefire to the 3-year war, which has devastated Yemen. On Thursday, a group of Yemeni and international organizations called for “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Yemen, warning that 14 million people were now “on the brink of famine.” UNICEF has warned that the Saudi assault and blockade on Hodeidah is increasing shortages of food, drinking water and medicine. The group says a Yemeni child now dies from a preventable disease every 10 minutes. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both called for a ceasefire in Yemen. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is considering designating the Houthis a “terrorist organization.” We speak to newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She took part in Thursday’s protest.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn now to Yemen, but also bring in a second guest, a woman who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—I don’t know how many times—Kathy Kelly. But the crisis in Yemen, where the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has drastically escalated its assault on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The Guardian reports there have been at least 200 airstrikes in the past week, killing at least 150 people. One Saudi airstrike destroyed a home in Hodeidah, killing a father and his five children.

The increased attacks come as calls grow for a ceasefire to the 3-year war, which has devastated Yemen. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both called for a ceasefire in Yemen. On Thursday, group of Yemeni and international organizations called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, warning 14 million people are now on the brink of famine. The United Nations calls this the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world.

In addition to Rashida Tlaib—and we want to get your response to this—we’re joined by Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end military and economic warfare.

You helped organize a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in New York yesterday, and you’re protesting today, as well, Kathy. What are you calling for?

KATHY KELLY: Well, we certainly want to see an immediate end to the fighting and an immediate lifting of any of the blockades of ports or or roadways. And we want to see the children focused on as the most important issue right now, not political maneuvering in order, before a ceasefire, to try and make the biggest grabs that any group can. As you say, it’s a very dire situation. And the United Nations people who have sounded the alarm have said that a complete collapse could happen, leading to the famine that could cause starvation of 14 million people.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were outside the Saudi Consulate. What about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia?

KATHY KELLY: Well, two of our people were arrested and held briefly outside of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. You know, what we want to say to people inside those offices who say, “Well, we’re just trying to go to our jobs,” is that if there was human trafficking or if there was some kind of narcotrafficking going on in the office next door to you inside that building, wouldn’t you feel like you had a responsibility to do something? Well, we have a responsibility to end the U.S. complicity in this hideous atrocity that keeps unfolding every day, and certainly to stand up to the Saudis. And I think people who work within those offices join in that responsibility.

AMY GOODMAN: The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2nd by Saudi officials, the dismemberment and murder—still, it’s not clear where his body is—called some attention to what’s happening in Yemen, because it called attention to the murderous policy of the Saudi regime. Do you feel there’s some movement in Congress right now?

KATHY KELLY: I think there is some movement. I think that all would be willing to acknowledge that it’s too little and, for many, many people, too late. You know, the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi was so ghastly, and it made people realize that the Saudis would go to great lengths to cover up, to obfuscate, to delay any kind of action. But certainly the dismemberment of children who have been hit by aerial attacks is just as ghastly. You know, the strangulation of Jamal Khashoggi was also horrible, but, essentially, when children—

AMY GOODMAN: And called attention to what’s happening in Yemen.

KATHY KELLY: And when children die from starvation, it’s basically asphyxiation. So, I think we have to be sure to keep on promoting the possibility that these children’s lives could be spared.

AMY GOODMAN: Rashida Tlaib, what are your plans to—what are your plans when you enter Congress in dealing with Yemen?

REP.-ELECT RASHIDA TLAIB: Well, first of all, Kathy, thank you so much for your incredible leadership. I think you don’t understand—or maybe you truly understand the importance of movement work outside of the halls of Congress and outside of some of the structures that are there. I think you being out there, pushing back against—you know, for me, it’s not movement—I mean, when you say there’s been some sort of movement in Congress, it’s just talk, I think, including our own president. Talk, to me, is not movement. We have to have action.

We send a lot of money—I don’t know, I think it’s in billions—of money to the Saudi government. We have so much tremendous leverage as the United States of America, but we seem to choose to look away when there’s other interests at play. And it really is disturbing to me, because we need to be the leaders out there in pushing back against these kind of starvations and these kinds of, to me, inhumane cruelty towards children, but even just fellow human beings. This is a generation, these children. We can’t get the years back for them. This is really something that’s going to reflect on us and our policy for years to come. That Yemeni child is going to grow up and look to us and say we didn’t do anything.

We are a leader in the nation. And people say, “Well, you know, we can’t save everyone.” But, boy, our public dollars are being sent to a lot of these governments that play a leadership role in some of these actions. And we need to use that as leverage to say, “No, enough. We’re not going to use our public dollars,” taxes that my neighbors pay into a system that does this. It’s very disturbing. And I can tell you, even the Yemeni Americans here, who have done so much work to raise money to try to send there to help, it’s just not enough. And we need people in leadership within the United States Congress to speak up, not to say they’re concerned about the murdering of the journalist, not to say that they’re, you know, looking into it. No, enough is enough. We know exactly what’s happening. Let’s stop pretending, and let’s actually act, by saying to the Saudi government, “No money until you stop doing what you’re doing to the Yemeni community.”

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying cutting off U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia.

REP.-ELECT RASHIDA TLAIB: Use it as leverage. It doesn’t—to me, even the sanctions that we’ve done to other countries, that have done far less than what the Saudi government has done to the Yemeni people, we have done it before with sanctions and with pulling back our support. And we haven’t done an inch of it with the Saudi government. And we absolutely know that they’re having a leadership role here in hurting and, really, the inhumane actions by the government towards the Yemeni community.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you believe what President Trump is saying about Saudi involvement with the killing of Khashoggi, Rashida Tlaib? Or what is your response to the Trump administration, Jared Kushner and President Trump, saying they’re waiting for the Saudis to investigate themselves, and their defense of the crown prince?

REP.-ELECT RASHIDA TLAIB: Look, that’s what they’re saying. It’s fine, but I think we—

AMY GOODMAN: Who also ran the war in Yemen.

REP.-ELECT RASHIDA TLAIB: Yeah. But I know we have our own intelligence. And I know exactly—I mean, I’m not there yet, but I’m sure our own intelligence is confirming exactly what the American people already know.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Rashida Tlaib. Again, congratulations on being a first, you and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim American women to enter Congress. I also want to thank Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Please stay with us so we can also talk about what’s happening in Afghanistan, as you fight for peace around the world.

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