Excerpt of the speech given delivered at the March 26, 2018 public forum organized by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO)
Today March 26, 2018 marks three years since the start of this criminal war against Yemen. The country is not only under daily aggression from the Saudi-led coalition but is also under an illegal air, sea and land blockade imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia.
In one of the first videos we watched, Saudi Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, former spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, spoke about the war on Yemen with such arrogance and such cruelty in his voice, that I thought it is important that I point out the video and start with it because he basically speaks in the name of the government of Saudi Arabia, in the name of the United States imperialism. In the video he claims that Saudi Arabia has only gone to Yemen and started bombing Yemen to bring back stability to the country.
This in itself is contradictory, you don’t bomb a country for 3 years to bring stability! General al-Asiri goes on to say that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is fighting against “countries that have an ideology that takes them out of their borders”. What he described here is what Saudi Arabia is doing, it is out of its borders attacking a neighbouring country and he is giving these absurd pretexts and excuses for why they are doing so in Yemen.
He continues to say that “we need to implement international law, respect sovereignty of countries and that we can’t come from the outside and intervene in the internal affairs of a country”. General al-Asiri is basically describing what Saudi Arabia is doing in Yemen. It is intervening in the internal affairs of the country, it is intervening in the internal disputes between people of Yemen, that are up to the Yemeni people to decide on. It is up to the Yemeni people to decide who their president is, who their prime minister is, what kind of system they want to have.
Another one of their excuses is “bringing back legitimacy” to Yemen. They claim Saudi Arabia is intervening in Yemen to reinstate Yemen's former president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Hadi is unpopular in Yemen, his presidential term had expired, he resigned, fled the country, went to Riyadh, which is the capital of Saudi Arabia, where he still is now hiding and claiming legitimacy from the palaces of his Saudi monarchy masters! Any claims of “legitimacy” are a complete farce.
Another fact, that I think shows the hypocrisy and deceptions of the Saudi government, is at the start of this military campaign in March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition called the operation “Operation Decisive Storm”. They thought they were going to go into Yemen very quickly, “Decisive Storm”, reinstate back their puppet, and that then they could control whatever happens in Yemen. But it wasn’t the case!
The people of Yemen have been resisting them. Their so called “Operation Decisive Storm” was such a failure that, within a month of indiscriminate bombing campaign, the Saudi government claimed success and announced the end of “Operation Decisive Storm” and the start of another operation named “Operation Renewal of Hope”. This is the same operation that has been going on until today. After three years of bombing, after three years of killing they’re still calling this “Renewal of Hope”.
What hope have you seen in all those videos from Yemen? According to the Yemeni Legal Centre for Rights and Development more than 14,000 people have been killed and over 22,000 injured after three years of war and blockade. The situation they are creating in Yemen is the opposite of what hope is. And they are still using those terms, trying to fool the international community.
U.S. Accomplice Since Day One
I want to refer to another video that we watched that I think is very important to talk about, well actually two videos. The first one of them is a CNN video from 2015, that came out right when the Saudi-led bombing started, and it shows how since day one the United States was right there supporting logistically, militarily and politically, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia would not be able to carry out this military campaign without the support of the U.S. government.
Since day one, the U.S. military has been responsible for intelligence gathering and support to determine targets to bomb, they are providing mid-air refueling to coalition fighter jets bombing Yemen. So, all the horrific pictures and videos that you see of schools that are being targeted, of hospitals that are being bombed, all the intelligence for those strikes is gathered by the United States military and given to Saudi Arabia.
Another video that I want to refer to is the video of Trump with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from his recent visit to the White House. That video showed the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of the U.S. government with Trump pulling out those big printed placards, showing pictures and prices of fighter jets, bombs and other military armament that Saudi Arabia is purchasing from the United States. With arrogance in his voice, Trump was bragging about this weapons sale and the hundreds of millions of dollars he was bringing back to the United States. To give a precise number, the weapons deal that Trump signed with Saudi Arabia is worth US$350 billion. It is considered the largest arms deal in American history!
Canada’s Complicity in the War
The U.S. government is not the only one selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, here as people living in Canada, it is important that we hold this government also accountable. We have watched the CBC video reporting on the Canadian government’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. I wanted to highlight some facts that were in the video, but also others that weren’t that I think are important to share to understand how Canada continues to be an ally of Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen.
From the CBC video we learned that this deal by the Canadian government, started under Harper and now continuing under the Liberal Trudeau government, is for a total of 928 modern light armoured vehicles, known as the LAV 6. You saw the pictures of the vehicles, they are not merely “Jeeps” as Justin Trudeau once claimed, they are military armed vehicles and Canada is selling 928 of them for $15 billion to Saudi Arabia.
The newly obtained records by CBC News and referred to in the video show that the arms deal goes much deeper than just selling the armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, it also involves a 14-year support, training and maintenance program. In the video, CBC interviewed someone from the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs who was kind of defending the arms deal by referring to this support and training clause as "a fairly significant amount of leverage" to pressure Saudi Arabia in the future if the Canadian government thinks there are human rights concerns. This is ridiculous and makes no sense! If the Canadian government ever cared about human rights concerns, it would not go ahead with the sale in the first place! This clause doesn’t help the people of Yemen that are being bombed every day by Saudi Arabia.
The extent of the military relationship between Canada and Saudi Arabia goes beyond this $15 billion arms deal. According to the National Post newspaper:
“Saudi Arabia was the largest non-U.S. importer of Canadian-made military goods in 2016, receiving $142 million in exports — nearly 20 per cent of all Canadian military exports.”
Another important fact to point out is that in 2017 Canada has exported $11.4 million worth of rifles to Saudi Arabia, a 67% increase from 2016 according to iPOLITICS. So, this past year 2017, after two years of Saudi-led crimes in Yemen, the Canadian government more than doubled its sales of rifles to Saudi Arabia.
Actually in this point I will mention it again, and I think Alison mentioned it earlier, that on the back tables if you haven’t signed it yet you will find a petition by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) calling on the Canadian government to end its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, if you haven’t signed it, please do so on your out tonight.
As we continue revealing Canada’s complicity with Saudi Arabia, I want to read this excerpt from a CBC News article titled “Let's not kid ourselves, Canada is in the war business”:
“And so enthusiastic is the Liberal government about its wealthy Arabian partner [Saudi Arabia] that the Canadian military is allowing General Dynamics to use a military base to test the vehicles Canada is shipping, which come equipped with heavy guns and cannon. […]
We do know that Canadian-made vehicles were used in the bloody repression of Bahrain's Shia population a few years ago. Whether they are deployed in Yemen is unclear, and it's a safe bet the Canadian government isn't terribly interested in finding out.
We also know that last summer, Canada quietly rewrote the rules governing the export of arms to other countries. No longer do such exports hinge on whether the recipient nation is a human rights abuser. Instead, the Canadian rules now strive to ‘balance the economic and commercial interests of Canadian business’ with this country's ‘national interest.’ ”
These recent changes by the Canadian government on laws governing the export of arms further shows the hypocrisy of Canada, which goes to the United Nations and pledges millions of dollars to help the UN humanitarian efforts in Yemen while making billions of dollars selling weapons to Saudi Arabia!
I wanted to again point to another video that we watched earlier, which was the last one we watched, it is from brother Firas Al-Najim, an Iraqi human rights activist that has been organizing in Ottawa and Toronto against the Saudi-led war on Yemen. Alison mentioned it at the beginning, but I would like to remind you that earlier today in Ottawa they had a march and rally against the war on Yemen, they started the protest in front of Justin Trudeau’s residence in Ottawa, then marched to the Saudi Embassy and Parliament Hill.
As we mentioned earlier, today was an international day of actions, we are here in Vancouver, we have heard from the action in Ottawa, and I want to share with you names of some of the other cities that had actions today. First, there was the massive protest in Sana’a, Yemen, we can see some pictures from that rally around the room on some of the posters on the wall. Those are pictures of millions of people that took to the streets against the U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s aggression on their country. Those people are millions of brave Yemenis defying Saudi fighter jets and taking to the streets to show their resistance against the foreign intervention on their country. They are the inspiration of all the international people around the world that were out in their respective cities today, including here in Canada, in Vancouver and Ottawa. Other cities are London, Glasgow, Paris, Boston and New York. There have been different other actions against the war on Yemen throughout the U.S. this week, coinciding with the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to different states.
I think it is important for us to think of our work and action in Vancouver here today in the framework of this International Day of Actions. We are part of a worldwide movement that is fighting against the war on Yemen, we are standing in solidarity with the Yemeni people who are fighting daily for their lives and defending their country against the Saudi-led military aggression.
So, it is important that here in Canada we continue our work especially now that we have all these facts and information about the involvement of the Canadian government, not just in selling the $15 billion worth of armoured vehicles, but also in the sale of rifles and all the other military deals that the Canadian government is having and increasing with Saudi Arabia.
As I mentioned earlier if you haven’t signed the petition yet please do, please get involved. This is important. We need everybody on board, us in Vancouver, our friends in Toronto and London, this is an international movement, we need to unite all our voices and join the Yemeni people in their resistance against the U.S./Saudi-led war on their beloved country.
Follow Azza Rojbi on Twitter: @Azza_R14
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