A sense of proportionality

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Saudi King Salman

Earlier today the Yemeni rebels (I’ve decided to stop always calling them “Houthis,” because they’re not all Houthis) launched a ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia. The missile was intercepted and destroyed by the Saudis before it reached its target, and the Saudis then counterattacked against the site from which the missile was launched.

Ho-hum, right? Well, the target, according to the Saudis, was Mecca. Not so ho-hum. The rebels, however, insist that they were firing at King Abdulaziz International Airport, in the northern part of Jeddah. Now, Mecca and Jeddah are very close to one another, and depending on the point of origin it is possible that a missile fired from inside Yemen would have to pass very close to Mecca in order to reach the airport. The Saudis say that they intercepted the missile 65 km outside of Mecca, and at that distance it should be possible to determine with more specificity what the missile’s target was. On the other hand, if you believe they only unintentionally massacred a Yemeni funeral a couple of weeks ago, then you must figure that the Saudis aren’t particularly skilled in matters related to targeting.

But OK, let’s assume the rebels fired on Mecca. That would be very bad, probably a war crime. Even striking the airport in Jeddah would be unconscionable, as it is a civilian facility and civilians would be the ones dying in a successful strike. But there’s no reason to target Mecca except to kill civilians and damage a beloved religious site in order to embarrass the Saudis, who after all are supposed to be the custodians of Mecca. Now, this wouldn’t have been the first, or even the most destructive, time that Mecca has been attacked since the advent of Islam back in the 7th century. Nevertheless, a decision to strike the city would be indefensible.

But you know what else is indefensible?

Apart from the thousands of Yemenis killed directly by Saudi airstrikes, millions are at risk of starvation. A few days ago, more than a year and a half after they imposed a blockade on Yemen that has contributed mightily to this humanitarian catastrophe, the Saudis asked the world not to believe its lying eyes and denied having ever imposed a blockade at all. The Saudis are only “controlling” traffic into and out of Yemen, and “control” is different from “blockade,” you see. For example, there’s only one ‘o’ in “blockade,” and two in “control.”

However, and this is an important point, there is not a single ‘o’ in “what a bunch of fucking bullshit.”

I’m not excusing a missile attack on (maybe) Mecca. I’m not telling you not to be mad about that. But I am saying that a single failed missile attack on a city, any city, isn’t equivalent to the deliberate starvation of millions of human beings, of hundreds of thousands of children. Those two things aren’t even in the same ballpark. Bear that in mind when you see Saudi mouthpieces in Washington and elsewhere talk about the horrible attempted attack on Mecca. Put a picture of Saida Ahmad Baghili in your mind and ask yourself who’s committing the greater atrocity.



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