Yesterday, the US senate passed a resolution by 56 votes to 41 to end US military support for the Saudi Arabian regime in it’s brutal war in the Yemen. The ‘Council On Foreign Relations’ reports that this is the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, and that is exactly why we should be up in arms at the fact that between 2013 and 2017, Saudi Arabia made up 49% of UK Arms deals negotiated under this Conservative government.
Even more horrific is the knowledge that these sales have increased by two thirds since 2016 despite the clear and overwhelming body of evidence pointing towards the sheer scale of its devastating impact in the Yemen: 22.2 million people in need of serious assistance, 14 million on the brink of starvation, 2 million people displaced, more than 17,000 adult civilian causalities and 85,000 children already dead due to famine.
This is not a war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. This is a British proxy slaughter in the Yemen. We can no longer sit back and allow this Tory government to wash its hands of the blood of the Yemeni people, for the gain of both the British State and British Arms dealers.
It is merely a modern metamorphosis of a formula that has transcended the dissolution of Empire. British state provides the political, diplomatic and economic willpower – Private British companies provide the firepower, and collect the economic fruits of the destruction of an entire country, and the ceaseless and meaningless slaughter of potentially millions of people.
Whilst much of the British Right decry the 0.7% commitment of UK overseas aid spending, it is important to note that 50% of this development fund (roughly £13.4 billion) is spent on conflict-afflicted states and regions. However, when you look at UK arms sales in the whole, 50% of them are spent in the very same regions – which includes the Yemen. So, whilst the UK is spending 50% of it’s overseas’s aid on countries in conflict, it is also selling 50% of its arms to parties involved in those conflicts. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a totally self-defeating waste of both British taxpayers money, and innocent Yemeni lives.
However, unlike many on the Right I am not in any way advocating a reduction in UK overseas aid spending. Actually the complete opposite is true – I think we should be boosting this spending to at least 1% of GDP and immediately halting UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, regardless of the economic consequences.
Since the Saudi operations in the Yemen have begun, it is reported that the UK economy has benefited by £4.6 billion, according to the Christian Aid report published today. That is blood money. There is no other way of putting it. Blood money made from arms sales that are in “direct violation of the Arms Trade Treaty and standards such as the EU’s consolidated criteria”.
It is amoral, inhumane and illegal – yet where is the outrage?
Like it would with Putin in Russia or Assad in Syria, the UK government should be being bombarded with UN sanctions for flagrant and consistent violations of these international treaties and standards. They are complicit in one of, if not the, greatest threat to peace and stability in the region – a threat that obviously has huge repercussions for the rest of the world.
As noted earlier, 2 million people have already been displaced by the conflict and now live as refugees scattered across the globe, many being at the borders of Europe. This continues to drive an anti-migration and anti-asylum narrative which has seen the rise in extreme, right-wing populist authoritarianism which looks set to once again become the dominant ideological insurgency not only in the 27 nations of the European Union, but across the democratic world.
Actions have consequences, and the culpability of this callous Tory government in the perpetuation of this destructive human catastrophe, should make us hold our heads in shame. It symbolises the very worst incarnation of a neo-imperialist and capitalist ideology that puts profit before people, and we must be vigilant in our opposition to it.
I must give praise to the Labour Party, and especially to Jeremy Corbyn and the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry who have devoted so much of their time in Parliament to ramping up pressure on the government, who have committed to suspending UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia whilst spearheading a UN inquiry into the barbarity, and targeting Saudi blood money laundered through the City of London.
If we are a country that believes in a ‘rules based international order’ and true justice, then we must hold this government and the Saudi dictatorship to the same legal and moral standards we would set for ourselves, and would have imposed upon us by the judicial system in the UK.
It might be hard. It might take time. But Peace, reconciliation and global security is possible, but to achieve it you must elect a government that will fight to make it happen, and as it stands that is a Socialist and most importantly, an internationalist Labour government led by people that have spent their entire lives fighting for that dream.
State-sponsored murder IS murder. We must stand up in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Yemen, be counted and say ‘not in our name’.