Chronic human rights violator Saudi Arabia is using American-made weapons against civilians in the fifth-poorest nation in the world, Yemen. And make no mistake: U.S. defense contractors and their lobbyists and supporters in government are getting rich in the process.
“Our role is not to make policy, our role is to comply with it,” John Harris, CEO of defense contractor Raytheon International, said to CNBC in February. But his statement vastly understates the role that defense contractors and lobbyists play in Washington’s halls of power, where their influence on policy directly impacts their bottom lines.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have waged war against Yemen, killing and injuring thousands of Yemeni civilians. An estimated 90,000 people have been killed, according to one international tracker. By December 2017, the number of cholera cases in Yemen had surged past one million, the largest such outbreak in modern history. An estimated 113,000 children have died since April 2018 from war-related starvation and disease. The United Nations calls the situation in Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis on earth, as over 14 million face starvation.
Secret Empires: How th... Best Price: $4.06 Buy New $11.12 (as of 07:25 EDT - Details) The majority of the 6,872 Yemeni civilians killed and 10,768 wounded have been victims of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Nearly 90 coalition airstrikes have hit homes, schools, markets, hospitals, and mosques since 2015, according to Human Rights Watch. In 2018, the coalition bombed a wedding, killing 22 people, including eight children. Another strike hit a bus, killing at least 26 children.
American-origin munitions produced by companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon were identified at the site of over two dozen attacks throughout Yemen. Indeed, the United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
From 2014 to 2018, the United States supplied 68 percent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports, 64 percent of the UAE’s imports, and 65 percent of Qatar’s imports. Some of this weaponry was subsequently stolen or sold to al-Qaeda linked groups in the Arabian Peninsula, where they could be used against the U.S. military, according to reports.
The Saudi use of U.S.-made jets, bombs, and missiles against Yemeni civilian centers constitutes a war crime. It was an American laser-guided MK-82 bomb that killed the children on the bus; Raytheon’s technology killed the 22 people attending the wedding in 2018 as well as a family traveling in their car; and another American-made MK-82 bomb ended the lives of at least 80 men, women, and children in a Yemeni marketplace in March 2016.
Yet American defense contractors continue to spend millions of dollars to lobby Washington to maintain the flow of arms to these countries.