Challenging U.S.-Saudi War Crimes in Yemen

Cluster bomb protest, Wilmington, MA, July 6, 2016 Massachusetts Peace Action, Cambridge Friends Meeting, and Merrimack Valley People for Peace protested production of cluster bombs and sale to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen at Textron facility in Wilmington, MA, July 6, 2016

Paul Shannon, Somerville.   Published in the Fall 2016 newsletter; adapted from an article in the AFSC Newsletter

While the U.S. media focus on Syria, another disaster is unfolding in Yemen. In Yemen, the U.S. is collaborating with Saudi Arabia to do the killing. Yemen has been wrecked and children are being killed daily – primarily by the Saudi bombing and blockade of supplies needed by the population.  The U.S. provides targeting and mid-air refueling  for the Saudi air attack, and sells the Saudis both the bombs that are killing civilians, and the sophisticated jet bombers which drop these powerful weapons.

For instance, a bomb manufactured by our biggest Massachusetts war contractor, Raytheon, was used in the October massacre in which over 150 Yemeni civilians were killed and 500 wounded as Saudi jets repeatedly attacked a funeral in the heart of Yemen’s capital.

Can you imagine the response if another country did that to Washington, DC? But there’s hardly a peep from the Democratic leadership about the disaster we and the Saudis are creating in Yemen – the poorest country in the Middle East.

To stop U.S. crimes against the people of Yemen, MAPA has launched a campaign to end U.S. weapons sales and collaboration with Saudi Arabia. The campaign focuses on the Yemen war, on Saudi and U.S. support for violent sectarian groups in Syria and throughout the Middle East, on Saudi financing of the spread of intolerant ideology throughout the region, and on Saudi internal repression.

In July MAPA brought 40 protesters (above) to the Textron plant in Wilmington, MA, following demonstrations by Quakers in Wilmington and by activists in Providence, RI. Textron was making cluster bombs and selling them to Saudi Arabia, which used them in civilian areas of Yemen. A July vote in Congress to stop the sales failed, though supported by all 9 Massachusetts House reps. Then, just a few weeks after MAPA’s demonstration in Wilmington, Textron announced that it was ending production of cluster bombs, saying: “The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals” needed to sell such weapons to the Saudis.

Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren supported a measure to block the President’s new $1.15 billion sale of  tanks to the Saudis, which failed in October but received 29 affirmative votes.

Medea Benjamin gave six Boston-area talks on Oct. 19-22 on her new book,  Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, and we followed up with a rally at MIT calling for it to stop its collaboration with a major Saudi technology institute.