The Bay State’s war in Yemen
On Aug 20, more than 75 veterans and peace activists assembled on Concord Avenue outside the Cambridge offices of the fourth largest military contractor in the world, Raytheon. I was one of them. We gathered to respond to a war crime committed 7,000 miles away in Yemen, and to demand that the company end its complicit role in such crimes. On Aug 9, coalition forces led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bombed a school bus in the village of Dahyan, killing at least 51 people, including 40 children as young as 6 years old. Yemen is half a world away and in a region plagued by unrest, and it has been obscured from the American public. A war has been raging there since a group called the Houthis took power in 2014 and subsequently Saudi Arabia intervened in April of 2015 to overthrow them. Their attack and blockade of Yemen has killed tens of thousands, threatened millions with famine, and created a major cholera epidemic. The United Nations calls it “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.” Even so, the war seems distant and removed from Massachusetts. But this is not the case.
The bombs and aircraft killing innocent civilians in Yemen come from America. Raytheon, headquartered in Waltham and maintaining several facilities in the Commonwealth, has sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia in the last decade. It is currently in the process of selling 60,000 more bombs to the Saudis and their coalition partners, the United Arab Emirates. The coalition has received direct support from the United States government in the form of intelligence and mid-air refueling. If this recent strike on civilians was a drive-by shooting, then America provided the car, the gun, the bullets, and a map to the house, then filled the gas tank on its way to the crime scene.
The people of Yemen know it, too. Fragments of missiles and bombs made in the United States, by companies like Raytheon, have been repeatedly discovered in the aftermath of airstrikes on schools, hospitals, markets, wells, and houses. They bear incriminating labels. Sifting through the wreckage Yemenis find among the mutilated bodies of their countrymen, and yes, even their children, shards of bombs that say “Made in the USA.”
I was reminded of a question we were all asking after Sept 11, 2001: “Why do they hate us?” It was such a burning question for millions of Americans that President George W. Bush addressed it during a joint session of Congress. His answer may be the most destructive lie of our new century, “They hate us for our freedoms.”
The truth is much simpler. For over 40 years now Democratic and Republican administrations alike have been arming, bombing, invading, and overthrowing governments in the Middle East. So it is in Yemen. We’ve been led to believe that the enmity between us and the Islamic world is a question of ideology or of cruelly manipulated religious beliefs. It isn’t so. If a man from Mars were to observe us, with no knowledge of our beliefs or intentions, he would see a large, powerful, and wealthy nation preying on weaker, poorer countries thousands of miles from its shores. It is that simple. They hate us because we’ve killed their children. We are actively fomenting the next generation of hatred in Yemen.
So what can be done? The biggest problem may be that most people simply don’t know about any of this. We can change that. I do not believe that the people of Massachusetts support this war, but unfortunately they weren’t given a say in the matter. We can change that too. America is currently caught in a chain reaction of violence that has become self-perpetuating. The closest link in that chain, Raytheon, is headquartered less than 10 miles from where I sit. They are supporting an absolute monarchy with an atrocious human rights record—Saudi Arabia. We must use every form of nonviolent protest and action to strike at that link in the chain. Yemen is Massachusetts’ war. It is our responsibility to stop it.
Brian Garvey is a handyman who works with senior citizens. Garvey volunteers works with Mass Peace Action on Middle East issues and is a member of the Raytheon anti-war campaign.