President Obama in his last month in office can ease his reputation as a warmonger by ending complicity in airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition against Yemen.
The airstrikes recently devastated a funeral gathering in Yemen, causing a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest countries.
The New York Times editorialized: “Obama has the power to stop the intervention in the Yemen civil war. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies depend on Washington for aircraft, munitions, training and in-flight refueling.”
The Obama administration insists its support for the coalition isn’t a blank check. Yet the only outrage it can muster is stern words. War crimes–attacks on civilians and civilian facilities–demand much more than tough words.
The truth is that the White House will do anything to mollify Saudi Arabia after Washington signed a nuclear agreement with Iran.
“If the Saudis refuse to halt the carnage, Obama should end military support,” the Times editorial continued. “Otherwise, America remains morally complicit.”
The Saudi strikes killed 140 mourners and wounded hundreds gathered for a funeral in Sana, the capital of Yemen. Sana is controlled by Houthi rebels, a Yemeni Shiite group with loose connections to Iran.
The Times editorial concluded: “Saudi Arabia bears the heaviest responsibility for inflaming the conflict. It began the air war in 2015 with the aim of reinstalling Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, ousted by the Houthi rebels. The Saudis fear Yemen is gaining too much influence in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The UN toll from the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen 18 months ago: 4,125 civilians killed and 7,200 injured.
U.S. TREATED CASTRO CRUELLY
The recent death of Fidel Castro reminds this columnist of the many blots on the U.S. escutcheon.
Castro, the fiery apostle of Cuban revolution, declared Cuba—90 miles from Florida–a communist state in 1959. This infuriated the American government, so much so that it launched an abortive invasion of Cuba and established an embargo that shamefully still exists today. It made repeated assassination attempts.
The actions by America were still more disgraces added to its long list of foreign interventions.
The American administration justified the twin strokes with the rationale that Cuba was now allied with Russia, then governed by the Soviet Union, and bringing the Cold War to the West.
It was a phony rationale. Tiny Cuba was no threat to anybody, although Americans became alarmed when Castro allowed the Soviets to build missile-launching sites in Cuba .
The death of Castro, 90, was reported by Anthony DePalma of the New York Times in a fact-crammed obituary.
The dictator Castro, stricken by illness in 2006, turned the presidency over to his younger brother Raul, who rules Cuba today.
Fidel reigned as Maximum Leader. He became a towering international figure whose importance far outstripped the size and population of the Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.
His popular image was personified by green battle fatigues and long Cuban cigars. He was admired by many world leaders but despised by the anti-communist U.S. government.
Raul fought alongside Fidel from the earliest days of the insurrection. Raul was named defense minister and became Fidel’s closest confidant.
Fidel dominated Cuba since the day he triumphantly entered Havana and completed the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista.
On that day in 1959 he gave the first of many five- to eight-hour harangues to the Cuban people. While speaking before tens of thousands of admirers in Havana, a white dove landed on his shoulder. The crowd erupted in a chant of admiration: “Fidel! Fidel!”
As the Times reported: “it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerilla leader was destined to be their savior.”
On arrival in Havana, Castro also declared he was a socialist. “I am a Marxist-Leninist,” he proudly said. Most Cubans probably did not know what that meant but they did know that socialism was much better than the brutal and repressive reign of Batista.
Castro deemed himself the messiah of his fatherland, “an indispensable force with authority from on high to control Cuba and its people,” as the Times phrased it.
“He wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. From atop a tank, he directed his country’s defense of the Bay of Pigs during the defeat of the CIA-led invasion in 1961.
“But it was more than repression and fear that kept him and his totalitarian government in power. He had both admirers and detractors in Cuba. Some saw him as a ruthless depot who trampled freedoms. But many others hailed him as a revolutionary for the ages.”
To me, Castro was a symbol of revolution throughout the world. He inspired imitators like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. His socialism wrought an economic revolution for Cubans as Chavez’s did for Venezuelans.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)