Column: Yesterday’s News Today

Andrew Gilkey, World News Editor

The strengthening of border security has been the obsession of the Trump administration since its inception. This preoccupation with man made boundaries extends, however, even beyond the border between Mexico and the U.S.

While U.S. politicians bicker over border wall funding, the current administration has built another one in Yemen with material far cheaper than steel or concrete. Children as young as 15 have been conscripted by Saudi Arabia to defend its border from Houthi rebels, according to both the New York Times and Al-Jazeera. The Saudi human trafficking system targets children from destitute areas of the world like South Sudan. Except these children aren’t holding the zip-guns and cheaply made AK-47s that were popular with warlords of the past. These children wield new AUG rifles and M2 heavy machine guns, courtesy of an $8 billion “emergency” arms sale from the U.S. 

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthi rebel group was formed from the Shia minorities amid anti-government protest. A sweeping military campaign followed, seeing the rebels capture the capital of Sana and depose President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. However, these victories were short-lived. A coalition spearheaded by Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of Hadi and dealt crucial blows to the Houthis in 2015. Soon, splinter groups began breaking away from the Houthi, intensifying the brutal conflict. In 2017, the coalition placed a blockade on Yemen, despite it causing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the 21st century. According to the U.N.,  rates of starvation have increased from half a million in 2012 to 3.2 million in 2017.

Despite starting the year with promises of peace, the Houthi claimed an attack on Saudi oil fields. However, it is important to note that many nations, including the U.S., believe that Iran coordinated these attacks. Trump responded by pledging more troops to Saudi Arabia on Sept. 20. Both the House and the Senate have approved resolutions that halt arms deals with Saudi Arabia as well as establishing economic sanctions.

Trump has vetoed these resolutions in favor of supplying $8 billion worth of guided missiles through an “emergency” clause in arms legislation that allows the president to override congressional decision if they deem it necessary.  Assistant Secretary of State R. Clark Cooper supported this move by Trump telling Al-Jazeera that there is “a disturbing pattern of destabilization and terrorism”  within the Houthi Rebels.

To his credit, Cooper is not far off. Houthi rebels are no strangers to war crimes; two thirds of child soldiers are part of the rebel group. However, as Cooper said, these groups are composed of radicals without a state, unlike the industrialized nations they wage war against. It is one thing for rebels to engage in criminal actions, it’s an entirely separate ordeal if 40 children are slaughtered by a U.S.-made smart bomb.

As both the U.S. and the E.U. drag their feet on these war crimes, an unregulated market of death and destruction remains open for business. Following a state visit by Trump, high tech arms manufacturer Raytheon has agreed to contribute to the Saudi military complex. The U.S., U.K. and France are the top contributors to the 192% increase of arms imports to Saudi Arabia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Confidence in the bipartisan effort to end U.S. military funding of Saudi Arabia falters as time progresses. It’s in this chaotic mid zone that arms sellers will mobilize to protect their new windfall. History supports this claim. The American Defense International lobbyist group spent $8.74 million in 2007 when the U.S. increased troop deployment in Afghanistan, according to the Center for Responsive Politics It stands to reason that a military industrial complex as lucrative as the U.S. would repeat this tactic in order to secure profit. Five prominent Ohio legislators receive campaign funding from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all of which supply arms to the Saudi Military.

It is my belief that Reps. Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Michael R. Turner, Steve Stivers and Sen. Rob Portman are accessories to the atrocities committed by the Saudis unto innocents and children. These politicians should not plead ignorance; the actions committed by these groups are known. A person is responsible for the effects of their actions. It’s time for U.S. legisla