For a year now, a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia has been actively bombing Yemen. They say that the aim is to beat Houthi militants who have been fighting against the Yemen government in a bloody and often brutal civil war. The western media makes little of it, and has hardly reported on any of the strikes. Washington D.C., an ally of Riyadh refuses to condemn the violence.
It is strange that Iran was deprived of weapons systems and spare parts for its F-14 Tomcats following the 1979 revolution, but Saudi Arabia was allowed to have F-15 Eagle air superiority/ground support jets from the United States, and Panavia Tornado multi-role jets from Britain. And that despite Saudi Arabia being implicated in airstrikes that have hit civilian targets, including medical facilities, it still appears okay for Saudi Arabia to service those jets and use them as weapons of war.
Unfortunately little ol’ New Zealand is not entirely clean either, not least because New Zealand sits on the United Nations Security Council and is scheduled to chair the Council twice during its two year period as a temporary member. New Zealand therefore has the loudest loud hailer in global politics. It could easily call out Saudi Arabia for the atrocities it has committed. But unlike the United Nations chief for Human Rights, New Zealand refuses to do so.
The reasons for Wellington’s deafening silence could well include an increasingly chummy economic relationship with the Saudi Arabian regime. Despite Sheep-gate, despite Saudi Arabia showing callous disregard for freedom of speech by bloggers and having one of the worst rates of capital punishment in the world, the New Zealand Government has bent over backwards to accommodate Saudi demands. They could also include the fact that this particular New Zealand Government seems very keen to impress the United States Government, and Prime Minister John Key famously said that being involved on the U.S. side of the “War on Terrorism” is a price we pay for being part of the club.
But is it a price New Zealanders want to pay?
In February I saw something in a TIME Magazine edition that made me very angry. It was a brief article about a Saudi Arabian air strike in Yemen that hit a medical clinic run by Medicins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors without Borders). A medical clinic. A facility that is protected by international law from such incidents. A war crime in other words.
If this is part of the so-called “War on Terrorism”, then that war is being lost because the West is responsible for atrocities just like the miltant groups they claim to be fighting. The emphasis that the West places on the rule of international law is being lost because just like it accuses Russia and China of doing so – which they do on a dreadfully regular basis – the West is complicit in breaches as well. And bombing hospitals – mistake or not – is a very grave offence to be committing.
Could it be a War on Humanity? If so, I want New Zealand to slam the brakes on it as hard as it can at the United Nations Security Council by pointing out the legal and moral wrongs and doing as much as it can to hold the perpetrators to account.