The first time I went to remote Yemen, this wild, mountainous nation was just creeping into the 7th Century AD. That was 45 years ago.
There was only one hotel in the capital, Sanaa, and it was booked up with European businessmen trying to sell junk to the Yemenis. I had to sleep on a cot in the dining room and be up before breakfast. The ruler back in the day was a despot known to his less than loving subjects as ‘Ahmed the Devil.’ He liked to nail subjects who displeased him to the palace door.
One of Yemen’s frequent civil wars was raging around the walled, medieval capital between royalists and Shia tribesmen. At dusk a ram’s horn would be blown and the city gates barred.
Adding to the exotic flavor of medieval Yemen, just about everyone was seriously stoned on the local, mildly narcotic shrub qat. All activity would stop at lunch and everyone from Ahmed the Devil to the lowliest tribesman would start chewing qat and getting high. A wild and crazy place.
Hardly anyone in Washington knows anything about Yemen except that it’s the southern tip of the remote Arabian Peninsula at the southern end of the Red Sea that the Prophet Moses is said to have parted with the help of his god.
Central casting in Washington, ever in search for new ‘terrorists,’ hit on a barely known Shia religious movement known as Houthis as our new villain de jour. It seems that the Houthis actually had the chutzpah to fire missiles at Red Sea maritime traffic to protest Israel’s savage attacks on the woebegone Gaza Strip. Hardly any other Arab nations had the guts to retaliate against the Israelis, never mind their American and British imperial mentors.
No ships were sunk. But what happened was that the anti-ship missile attacks caused a major ruckus in shipping circles and caused insurance rates to surge. Almost at once Europe and Asian states began demanding that Israel halt its Biblical destructions of the Gaza open air prison in which 30,000 Palestinians, more than two thirds women and children, have been killed so far by US-supplied weapons.
Israel always knows it can get away with extreme violence before US presidential elections. American mega donors are ensuring that the White House gets the message not to mess with Israel and give it carte blanche.
The result is the pathetic sight of the US secretary of state and then president pleading with Israel, which receives untold billions in US money, diplomatic support and almost unlimited arms supplies, to stop the massacre and confect some sort of face-saving end to the current conflict. Israel’s ultra right-wing cabinet has so far refused to stop the bloodbath.
Now, America’s pro-Israel partisans are demanding more intense military action against the far-off Houthis. Their anger will next focus on South Africa, Mexico and Chile who have had the temerity to accuse Israel of genocide.
Of course it’s genocide. The goal of Israel’s far right settler’s movement and its extreme right wing Zionist allies is to depopulate, or at least thin out, the Palestinian population so that Jews will remain the permanent majority between the Jordan River and the sea. For Israel’s zealots each dead Palestinian means less to deal with in the future.
Ever since the days of former Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion, born David Grun in Poland, expanding the Jewish state has been the religious/political goal of Zionists. There is even talk of expanding Zionism to Ukraine – in case Iran gets nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the Houthis are showing more guts than the rest of the Arab world. American ‘experts,’ scoff at the Houthis as mountain primitives. So they were, as I found, being caught in Houthi royalist fighting. The US and Britain have been bombing Houthi tribesmen for seven years. This has only made them angrier. We also dismissed Afghanistan’s ‘backwards’ mountain warrior Pathans (Pashtuns) and look what happened – they whipped us.
President Joe Biden, who never served in the military, should keep this in mind. As Ben Franklin said, ‘no good war, no bad peace.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis. 2024