“Throughout history most humans took war for granted. Whereas peace was a temporary and precarious state. International relations were governed by the law of the jungle, according to which, even if two states were in peace, war remained an option. Whenever politicians, generals, businessmen and ordinary citizens made plans, they always left room for war. From the stone age, to the age of steam; and from the Arctic to the Sahara every person on earth knew that at any moment, their neighbors might invade their territory, defeat their army, slaughter their people and take their land. During the second half of the 20th century, this law of the jungle has been finally broken. In most areas war became rarer than ever. Before the 20th century, war was responsible for 15 % of deaths, during the 20th century for about 5% of deaths and now, in the 21st century war causes 1% of global mortality. War has started to be inconceivable. For the first time in history when governments, corporations and individuals see their future, they don’t count war as a likely event. Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into a mad act of collective suicide and therefore forced the most powerful nations on earth to find more peaceful ways to resolve conflict. In consequence the word ‘peace’ has acquired a new meaning, whereas previous generations thought about peace as the temporary absence of war. Today we think about peace as the implausibility of war. Such peace prevails between almost all countries.” (Yuval Noah Harari – Homo Deus)
(Image found on http://revcom.us/a/404/mass-murder-of-civilians-in-yemen-made-in-usa-en.html)
Warfare has undoubtedly changed drastically over the course of the past 150 years. Whilst during WW2 superpowers were still able to test their inventions (for example atomic bombs in Japan), nowadays, there’s relative peace almost everywhere except the Middle East and certain areas of Africa. This geographical restriction of modern warfare minimises “invention testing”, allowing the wars in Syria and Yemen to become a testing ground on which rich countries are able try out their weaponry and test the gravity of their damage, mostly without fearing prosecution.
In the 21st century it’s drones that bomb targets. Though they are still controlled by drone drivers, these, however are located at 1000 km from the sites separating the soldier from the battlefield. Although soldiers no longer have to be sur le terrain, they have not yet become indifferent to those they kill on a daily basis, which is (fortunately) shown by their ability to be affected with post-traumatic stress disorder. The people of the 21st century have not yet lost their moral compass. Yet our countries call us to lose this sense of humanity and eliminate our instincts: American soldiers no longer learn by shooting at round targets, but those in the form of humans, since, absurdly, it was found that soldiers during combat, do not often enough shoot (and kill) their opponents or deliberately miss the target.
The image the modern battlefield is far from that of a Game of Thrones scene with knights, swords and shields. Rather, what remains are the empty shells of cities that once thrived and the cries of innocent people subject to mass destruction from afar. The head of Russia remains in Russia, the Saudi Arabian mullah in his rich oil paradise, and as for the United States and Great Britain thanks to their lucrative weapon deals, sending so called « help » is in reality fuelling the conflict.
The wars in Syria and Yemen have made front page news repeatedly since their outbreak in 2011 and 2015 respectively. We are shown images of crying families, houses flattened by air strikes and babies dying in incubators. Yet little do we hear about double-tap (barrel) bombings: the military tactics employed by Russia, Syria and Saudi-Arabia in both Civil Wars. A barrel bomb is an improvised explosive device packed with TNT and other material and dropped manually from planes and helicopters. Its inaccuracy has proven it a de facto war crime.
Double-tap (barrel) bombings describes the practice of launching a preliminary strike, then either further bombing the same area when the rescue teams arrive or the nearest hospital once the wounded are transferred for treatment. This outrageously cruel military tactic makes innocent civilians victims twice over. Not only are they wrongfully targeted in the first place yet are attacked again when most vulnerable. Have you ever been in a fight with someone and after beating you up, just when you felt that you can get up again, you’re knocked into the middle of next week as a demonstration of power? No? Then why do we allow such things to happen to fellow humans, living on a planet in which war has started to be considered as inconceivable? The United Nations has called this a “systematic pattern of attacks resulting in violations of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, including carrying out targeted shelling and indiscriminately aimed rocket attacks, destroying homes, damaging hospitals and killing and injuring many civilians”, yet does not sanction those who commit these atrocities.
(Image found on http://www.newsweek.com/double-tap-strike-hits-msf-backed-hospital-syria-400191)
In light of the conflict in Syria, the ferocious war taking place in the Yemen continues to quietly unfold in the shadows. Although thousands of Yemenis have become refugees, very few have reached the soil of Europe to attract the attention of media or politicians.
They have almost no hope of doing so. To escape by land, refugees would have to traverse hundreds of miles of desert controlled by Saudi Arabia, the country bombing them. To escape by sea they must evade the naval blockade, only to land on the unfriendly coast of Eritrea.
This means that, although their situation is almost as desperate as that of the victims of Syria’s war, the Yemenis are invisible to Europe. That is not good enough. A crisis is unfolding in Yemen, and it is time the world wake up to that fact.
This article was written by Hannah Brandt, the Campaigns Coordinator at STAND France. Born in Germany and from US origin, she is currently studying her Bachelor’s en Political Science and Economics at both Sciences Po Paris and at Université de Lorraine.