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Philippines

Arms trade is killing thousands of women and children

In Yemen, indiscriminate airstrikes using weapons provided by Western powers are gross violations of human rights law

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Arms trade is killing thousands of women and children

Yemeni pro-government forces parade during a ceremony at Mukalla airport in southwestern Yemen in November 2018. (Photo: AFP)

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The drums of war are beating ever louder as arms traders supply weapons for war in the Middle East while the superpowers line up in confrontational posturing in a show of might and military power.

“Might is right” is the thinking behind the three biggest military powers vying for prestige and power in the world. The United States, Russia and China, despite being in the middle of a pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands and infecting millions, continue to build up their armed forces and supply weapons to nations of the Saudi-led coalition making war on the Houthi in Yemen.

The most devastating war is that in Yemen, where thousands of civilians including many children have been killed and wounded, driven to near starvation by the air attacks of a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations against Houthi rebels that took power in 2015. The indiscriminate airstrikes against hospitals, clinics, schools, markets, mosques, houses and festival occasions are gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

The UN has said that as many as 10,000 people have been killed in the war and two-thirds of them have been civilians. The injured total so far is 55,000 and is increasing daily.

Amnesty International has visited Yemen and carefully documented as many as 42 indiscriminate airstrikes. The rights group confirmed the killing of 518 civilians and the wounding of 433.

The evidence was presented last October. In a successful court case, judges ruled that the UK arms trade to the coalition for the war in Yemen was illegal. Even so, the arms manufacturers find ways to supply weapons by using other countries as intermediaries.

Deadly cluster bombs, banned under international law but still manufactured in the United States, the UK and Brazil, have been found in Yemen. They scatter dozens of smaller bomblets that explode when touched. The exploded remains of missiles supplied by Western countries have been found and documented as evidence of war crimes against the suppliers.

If not killed by bombs and bullets supplied by the arms-manufacturing nations, then cholera, Covid-19, typhoid and starvation have killed thousands more. An estimated 22 million people in Yemen need humanitarian aid. It is a horrific war bringing death and destruction.

A school bus filled with children received a direct hit in Dahyan from a missile fired by a coalition jet fighter. At least 29 children were killed outright and 30 were seriously injured, a terrible war crime among many for which no one has been held accountable. Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was a “grotesque, shameful” attack and showed a “blatant disregard for the rules of war.”

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have the most fighter jets and troops in the fighting, while Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco have given their support. It is a war against their traditional enemy, Iran, which is supporting the rebels. The Houthi rebels are also responsible for many civilian deaths.

Behind the coalition are the suppliers of arms, jet planes, missiles, weapons of all kinds. The Saudi Arabian spending spree is a boon for the arms suppliers who welcome war and weapons sales. A Google search will show that the main US companies in the arms trade selling to Saudi Arabia are: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Honeywell, McDermott International and Jacobs Engineering Group.

The US and the UK are the biggest suppliers of jets and missiles and munitions to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also buy weapons from France, Italy and Spain. Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have announced that they will stop selling weapons to members of the coalition, but if they have done so is not clear since billions of dollars in contracts are on offer or have been signed.

So the war rages on. Money is made by all and the carnage in Yemen continues as the world watches helplessly and too paralyzed to intervene as the arms traders and manufacturers do their dirty, death-dealing business with the approval of their respective governments that issue export licenses for the weapons.

Russia is busy arming and supporting Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who is going after the last remaining opposition rebels in Ilibid. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given support to the rebels holding the province. Assad’s army, armed and backed by Russian planes, advance and allegedly bomb hospitals, mosques and markets. Thousands more civilians are fleeing to the Turkish border where over 1.5 million have taken shelter for the past several years of the nine-year civil war. It is now a stand-off between Syria and Turkey.

In Asia, the United States Navy and the Chinese are escalating from a war of words and consulate closures to near-confrontations in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea. Two US aircraft carriers and support destroyers are patrolling the international waters claimed exclusively by China where it has grabbed and occupied islands belonging to the nations in the region.

The US Navy is planning to return to Subic Bay, Philippines, which it lost in 1991, in a purely commercial deal where US and Australian shipyard companies will buy the former Hanjin ship repair facility and provide repair services to the US Navy. This will deny the port and yards to Chinese investors who were negotiating with the Philippine government to take them over. Washington and the Philippine Navy oppose the Chinese bid. The rivalry will continue for years to come.

Irish missionary Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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