A Treacherous Crossing

Paul Ryan’s recent trip to the Gulf reiterated the U.S. government’s support of the Saudi-led assault on Yemen and a bellicose stance towards Iran, which has created a watershed of human suffering, writes Kathy Kelly.

By Kathy Kelly

On January 23rd an overcrowded smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Aden in Southern Yemen. Smugglers packed 152 passengers from Somalia and Ethiopia in the boat and then, while at sea, reportedly pulled guns on the migrants to extort additional money from them. The boat capsized, according to The Guardian, after the shooting prompted panic. The death toll, currently 30, is expected to rise. Dozens of children were on board.   

The passengers had already risked the perilous journey from African shores to Yemen, a dangerous crossing that leaves people vulnerable to false promises, predatory captors, arbitrary detention and tortuous human rights violations. Sheer desperation for basic needs has driven hundreds of thousands of African migrants to Yemen. Many hope, upon arrival, they can eventually travel to prosperous Gulf countries further north where they might find work and some measure of security. But the desperation and fighting in southern Yemen were horrible enough to convince most migrants that boarded the smuggling boat on January 23rd to try and return to Africa.

Referring to those who drowned when the boat capsized, Amnesty International’s Lynn Maalouf said: “This heart-breaking tragedy underscores, yet again, just how devastating Yemen’s conflict continues to be for civilians. Amid ongoing hostilities and crushing restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, many people who came to Yemen to flee conflict and repression elsewhere are now being forced yet again to flee in search of safety. Some are dying in the process.”

In 2017, more than 55,000 African migrants arrived in Yemen, many of them teenagers from Somalia and Ethiopia where there are few jobs and severe drought is pushing people to the verge of famine. It’s difficult to arrange or afford transit beyond Yemen. Migrants become trapped in the poorest country in the Arab peninsula, which now, along with several drought-stricken North African countries, faces the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II.

In Yemen, eight million people are on the brink of starvation as conflict-driven near-famine conditions leave millions without food and safe drinking water. Over one million people have suffered from cholera over the past year and more recent reports add a diphtheria outbreak to the horror. Civil war has exacerbated and prolonged the misery while, since March of 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, joined and supported by the U.S., has regularly bombed civilians and infrastructure in Yemen while also maintaining a blockade that prevented transport of desperately needed food, fuel and medicines.

Maalouf called on the international community to “halt arms transfers that could be used in the conflict.” To heed Maalouf’s call, the international community must finally thwart the greed of transnational military contractors that profit from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and other countries in the Saudi-led coalition. For instance, a November, 2017 Reuters report said that Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy about $7 billion worth of precision guided munitions from U.S. defense contractors. The UAE also has purchased billions in American armaments.

Raytheon and Boeing are the companies that will primarily benefit from a deal that was part of a $110 billion weapons agreement coinciding with President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May.

Paul Ryan’s Remarks

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin

Another dangerous crossing happened in the region on January 24th. U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrived in Saudi Arabia, along with a congressional delegation, to meet with the monarchy’s King Salman and subsequently with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has orchestrated the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. Following that visit, Ryan and the delegation met with royals from the UAE.

“So rest assured”, said Ryan, speaking to a gathering of young diplomats in the UAE, “we will not stop until ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates are defeated and no longer a threat to the United States and our allies.

“Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we are focused on the Iranian threat to regional stability.”

Beyond the simple well-recorded fact of lavish Saudi financial support for Islamist terrorism, Ryan’s remarks overlook the Saudi-led coalition military assaults and “special operations” in Yemen, which the U.S. supports and joins. The war there is arguably undermining effort to combat jihadist groups, which have flourished in the chaos of the war, particularly in the south which is nominally under the control of the government allied to Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian government Ryan denounced does have allies in Yemen and may be smuggling weapons into Yemen, but no one has accused them of supplying the Houthi rebels with cluster bombs, laser-guided missiles and littoral (near-coastal) combat ships to blockade ports vital to famine relief. Iran does not provide in-air refueling for warplanes used in daily bombing runs over Yemen. The U.S. has sold all of these to countries in the Saudi-led coalition which have, in turn, used these weapons to destroy Yemen’s infrastructure as well as create chaos and exacerbate suffering among civilians in Yemen.

Ryan omitted any mention of the starvation, disease, and displacement afflicting people in Yemen. He neglected to mention documented human rights abuses in a network of clandestine prisons operated by the UAE in Yemen’s south. Ryan and the delegation essentially created a smokescreen of concern for human life that conceals the very real terror into which U.S. policies have thrust the people of Yemen and the surrounding region.

Potential starvation of their children terrifies people who can’t acquire food for their families. Those who can’t obtain safe drinking water face nightmarish prospects of dehydration or disease. Persons fleeing bombers, snipers, and armed militias who might arbitrarily detain them shudder in fear as they try to devise escape routes.

Paul Ryan, and the congressional delegation traveling with him, had an extraordinary opportunity to support humanitarian appeals made by UN officials and human rights organizers.

Instead, Ryan implied the only security concerns worth mentioning are those that threaten people in the U.S. He pledged cooperation with brutally repressive dictators known for egregious human rights violations in their own countries, and in beleaguered Yemen. He blamed the government of Iran for meddling in the affairs of other countries and supplying militias with funds and weapons.  U.S. foreign policy is foolishly reduced to “the good guys,” the U.S. and its allies, versus “the bad guy,” – Iran.

The “good guys” shaping and selling U.S. foreign policy and weapon sales exemplify the heartless indifference of the smugglers who gamble human life in exceedingly dangerous crossings.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org).

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17 comments for “A Treacherous Crossing

  1. Joe Tedesky
    February 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

    It’s a terrible thing to watch the MIC Industry profit so dearly, by the reality of the U.S. helping to implement the Oded Yinon Plan, and with that there goes any hope for peace in the war ravaged Middle East. Where food, and warm bedding are needed, we Americans send bombs, and more products of death. Will future generations of America need to face the blowback? I will say this, that my innocent grandchildren I watch growing up, will be the benefactors of what my idiot generation produced. This wasn’t suppose to be the plan.

  2. Zachary Smith
    February 7, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Typo Alert:

    “The Iranian government Ryan denounced does have allies in Yemen and may be smuggling weapons into Iran,….

    On another note, Is it really necessary to display a photograph of that smirking pr**k Ryan? Even in a national capital full of vermin, he stands out as “special” in that regard.

    • David G
      February 7, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      Not a typo. “Yemen” was what was meant in that sentence, as in the original.

  3. Bart Hansen
    February 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    “[Ryan] blamed the government of Iran for meddling in the affairs of other countries and supplying militias with funds and weapons.”

    Projection on his part, or is it that the smirking granny starver is not familiar with the concept of irony?

  4. cmp
    February 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    How do you make a career out of preaching Ayn Rand?

    How do you get elevated to Speaker of the House, when you are speaking clap trap?

    The oldest trick in the book, that’s how.

    U.S. House of Representatives — Wisconsin’s 1st district
    1998 – Paul Ryan (R) 57%…Lydia Spottswood (D) 43%
    2000 – Paul Ryan (R) 67%…Jeffrey Thomas (D) 33%
    2002 – Paul Ryan (R) 67%…Jeffrey Thomas (D) 31%
    2004 – Paul Ryan (R) 65%…Jeffrey Thomas (D) 33%
    2006 – Paul Ryan (R) 63%…Jeffrey Thomas (D) 37%
    2008 – Paul Ryan (R) 64%…Marge Krupp (D) 35%
    2010 – Paul Ryan (R) 68%…John Heckenlively (D) 30%
    2012 – Paul Ryan (R) 55%…Rob Zerban (D) 43%
    2014 – Paul Ryan (R) 63%…Rob Zerban (D) 37%
    2016 – Paul Ryan (R) 65%…Ryan Solen (D) 30%

    .. Let’s hear it for some goode olde two (..cough..One..) Party capitulation in gerrymandering for the benefit of the establishment.

    Someday, the U.S. will have, a Second Party.

  5. Annie
    February 7, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    For me, this article was more about our hypocrisy in world affairs. The author could have simply referred to the horrendous conditions in Yemen, and the African refugees who have been caught up in it, but by referencing Paul Ryan’s Trip to Saudi Arabia, and the genocide we are abetting in Yemen, not only does she confront our hypocrisy in this human tragedy, since we proclaim that our wars and interventionism is all about spreading democracy and stemming the tide of human rights abuses. In introducing Paul Ryan, the former altar boy, who claims his Catholicism informs his political positions is also another example of hypocrisy, where his political positions have been confronted by nuns, Catholic bishops and the Pope himself. We claim to be a Christian nation, but we are anything but Christian in dealing with our fellow humans, at home, and abroad.

  6. KiwiAntz
    February 7, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Is it any wonder why the World hates America? And when I say America I’m referring, not to it’s citizens who are purposely kept in the dark & ignorant but to the US Government with it’s corrupt Politicians; out of control MIC; Intelligence agencies, Mainstream corporate Media & deepstate actors? America is the greatest threat to World peace in the entire history of the World & its murderous divide & conquer mentality is SATANIC in nature? Ironic isn’t it for a Country that claims to be Christian? And what is the point of all the illegal Middle East invasions & Sabre rattling against Russia; China; Iran & Korea with the never ending wars conducted by the US? It’s to maintain the Petrodollar system or Oil for US dollar recycling hegemony advantage that enables the American empire, the most debt ridden, bankrupt nation on earth to endlessly print worthless FIAT paper money to prop up its entire Economy? China, Russia & Iran are creating economic strategies to bypass the US dollar & it’s Petrodollars system hence the reason why they are hated by these American elites. Venezuela is also doing away with the corrupt US oil for US dollars system. You only need the rest of the Worlds oil producers to follow & that’s game over for the American empire? Expect another World War as America will start one, with all those Countries who dare to challenge the US Petrodollar system, however good luck with taking on nuclear armed Russia, China & Korea? The writing is “on the wall”, a saying that has a biblical meaning that heralded the fall of a previous World power & which can be applied to the coming collapse & fall of the American empire once the US Petrodollar system is confined to the scrap heap of history!

    • Annie
      February 7, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      To add to what you’ve written, our war in Libya was of course based on the lie we were protecting civilians from a genocidal rampage by Gaddafi. The truth however was to prevent Gaddafi’s attempt to create a gold-backed African currency to compete with the Western central banking monopoly. The French were driven by a desire to gain access to a greater share of Libyan oil production, and to undermine a long term plan by Gaddafi to supplant France as the dominant power in North Africa. It does have a satanic quality to it, more so because we are so hypocritical when we proclaim our actions are in the service of the better good.

      • February 8, 2018 at 12:52 am

        Yes, and that moron Macron declared yesterday that Hezbollah and Iran must leave Syria. Who is he to decide which forces are welcome in Syria. Who cares what he thinks?

        • Annie
          February 8, 2018 at 1:38 am

          We think we own the world, and because we do, and act like we do, we’re going to wind up destroying it. All the money spent on the military creates a national debt we’re never going to be able to pay off, and leaves everything, including people impoverished. We’re coming to an end, and I really believe that, and everything is becoming depressing as hell.

        • geeyp
          February 8, 2018 at 2:27 am

          Apparently only Netanyahu determines it. I hope Assad continues to shoot down Israeli planes. I am tired of seeing Syria used as a playground for war games.

          • geeyp
            February 8, 2018 at 2:29 am

            My comment was for Judith. Thanks.

    • Sam F
      February 8, 2018 at 9:32 am

      Well said. Indeed “the writing is “on the wall” and as the soothsayer said to the amoral Macbeth in his castle at Dunsinane, he would be secure until the nearby forest “Burnham wood do come to Dunsinane” which seemed impossible. But at last Macbeth had made enough enemies, who disguised themselves with branches from Burnham wood, and sentries saw the forest coming to the tyrant’s castle.

      In the case of the US, the formerly impassive forest of world powers has been alienated by its extremely selfish and foolish acts under the dictatorship of the rich, and will come to depose them or at least isolate and impoverish the nation, never too soon.

    • Sam F
      February 8, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Well said. Indeed “the writing is “on the wall” and as the soothsayer said to the amoral Macbeth in his castle at Dunsinane, he would be secure until the neat by forest “Burnham wood do come to Dunsinane” which seemed impossible. But at last Macbeth had made enough enemies, who disguised themselves with branches from Burnham wood, and sentries saw the forest coming to the tyrant’s castle.

      In the case of the US, the formerly impassive forest of world powers has been alienated by its extremely selfish and foolish acts under the dictatorship of the rich, and will come to depose them or at least isolate and impoverish the nation, never too soon. It is sad that the US middle class allowed money power to seize control of its elections and mass media, the very tools of democracy. Without those we cannot restore sanity and decency to our foreign policy. We cannot restore democracy until our economy is ruined by embargo and isolation, when the poor may at last rise up and depose these selfish tyrant politicians of the rich.

      • Sam F
        February 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

        Typo: “nearby forest”

  7. mike k
    February 8, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    The USA is the number terrorist nation on the planet by far. All other terrorist groups don’t come close to the numbers killed, maimed, and starved by the USA. American is the #1 problem for all life on Earth. Eliminating this threat to Life must be the primary concern of every person of conscience alive today.

  8. exiled off mainstreet
    February 9, 2018 at 2:13 am

    The yankee government is complicit in war crimes and those like Ryan are cheerleaders for it. I am amazed that people would be fleeing towards the war zone.

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