A Tale of Two Wars: Biden Decries Russian Atrocities in Ukraine While Backing Saudi/UAE War in Yemen

Sarah Leah Whitson executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, says the muted criticism of Saudi abuses reveals a double standard when it comes to how Western countries deal with the absolute monarchy, which has been waging a brutal assault on neighboring Yemen for almost seven years with U.S. support.

As the U.S. and U.K. push for Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to offset a rise in global energy prices amid sanctions on Russia, the kingdom on Saturday announced it had executed 81 people — the country’s largest mass execution in decades. Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, says the muted criticism of Saudi abuses reveals a double standard when it comes to how Western countries deal with the absolute monarchy, which has been waging a brutal assault on neighboring Yemen for almost seven years with U.S. support. If the U.S. wants the world to oppose Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, “then it’s got to stop supporting the war in Yemen,” says Whitson, who adds that disparate coverage of the wars in Ukraine and Yemen point to “inherent racism” in Western media.
FROM THE TRANSCRIPT:
CodePink. “Why is there such a disparity between coverage of the war on Ukraine vs. the war on Yemen? Coverage of Yemen reveals the US and UK’s complicity in creating the humanitarian crisis. Coverage of Ukraine constructs the US, the UK, & their allies as the ‘saviors of democracy.’” [as quoted on Democracy Now!]

SARAH LEAH WHITSON: There are three elements to this, Amy. The first is the lack of coverage is not an accident. It is by design. Saudi and the UAE have done everything they can to block international media, block international human rights investigators, including myself, from traveling to Yemen. When the war started, we — when I was at Human Rights Watch, we were on the ground in Yemen. We were able to travel to Yemen to document what was happening, to document the destruction, to interview victims. The Saudis made that increasingly difficult, including banning, forcibly banning, by threatening to withdraw funds from U.N. planes that were still traveling to Yemen and taking in humanitarian organizations. So, the Saudis, they understand the power of the media. They understand the power of the coverage that you described. And that’s why they have done everything they can to make it impossible. It is so difficult for international media to get anywhere near the fighting in Yemen. Aden remains accessible, but you have to take a boat from Djibouti to get there. It’s virtually impossible to fly into the country. So, the restrictions on getting in for international media are tremendous, versus, of course, Ukraine, where anybody can go in freely to document what’s happening.

The second is just the factor of time. The media jumps from one crisis to another. The Ukraine crisis is new. The Yemen crisis is old. It’s been seven years. And we have seen, time and again, how the media loses interest and has to move on to the next thing. So there’s an attention span issue.

And finally, there is the inherent racism that we see and that we’ve seen on such grotesque display by the Western media, talking about the white and blue-eyed, blond-haired Ukrainians who are somehow different. Their refugee status is different. Their suffering is different. They’re civilized people. They’re European people. And so there is an inherent bias in the Western media, in particular, who are the bulk of those present in Ukraine, to sympathize with, to feel compassion and suffering for Ukrainians under bombardment, but not the same suffering, not the same pain for Yemenis under bombardment, for Yemenis who are literally being starved to death. And I think this is a good moment for everyone in the media to check their biases, to really think about why that is and what they can do to fix it. I would hope that the international media uses this as an opportunity to redouble its efforts to travel to Yemen and see for itself. When they have shown up, as the BBC did last year in some unbelievable footage, unbelievable coverage, it did make a difference. And I really think and hope and I wish that the international media spends just a fraction of the effort they’re making now to cover Ukraine to get into Yemen, to show the world what’s happening. This is a good moment to draw out the comparisons, the strong, strong parallels between what’s happening in Yemen and what’s happening in Ukraine.

+++

AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain exactly what is the U.S. role in the attack, the decimation of Yemen?

SARAH LEAH WHITSON: Sure, it’s multifold. Number one, of course, is the provision of American weapons. They are the bulk of the weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and those are the weapons that are landing on the heads of Yemeni children, Yemeni women, Yemeni homes, Yemeni farms, Yemeni schools, Yemeni universities. This is how this country is being destroyed, with American weapons.

+++

And now we have the direct engagement of U.S. forces, as I was mentioning, in the UAE to support Emirati forces to fire missiles back at incoming Houthi missiles. So the United States is directly a party to this conflict again, and its troops are at risk in the UAE as parties to the war. And it’s just remarkable to me that President Biden would endanger Americans this way.

READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE ON DEMOCRACY NOW!

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