The Cost of Doing Business

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Human greed never ceases to amaze me. It’s the first principle in determining all causes of evil, especially in the tragic storm of 21st-century proxy-war olympics. While average Joes wonder why Yemeni civilians are greeting the Grim Reaper by the thousands, the CEOs of arms dealers are getting wealthier by the billions. But I guess that’s just the cost of doing business.

The story goes like this. I sell you a gun so you can shoot your poor neighbors. I get rich but not only do your targets die, scores of other people are also murdered in the process. Not only their lives, but their health care, homes, business, and schools are in rubble. Am I to blame for their deaths? Unless your a Chicago Boy preaching the free-market as God, then no humane ethical theory can say that I’m off the hook. The fact that this is even a debate is sickening.

In actuality, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only nation complicit in the destruction in Yemen, a war described by a UN official as “absurd” and “futile,” and that has so far caused over 10,000 civilian deaths, 8 million to be on the brink of famine, and the world’s worst contemporary cholera epidemic.

Despite Saudi airstrikes that have targeted Yemenis indiscriminately and blockades of Yemeni ports that have cut off dire humanitarian assistance, a coalition of governments, including the U.S., the U.K., and Italy all have continued supported to support the Saudi regime in this campaign since 2015. Whether it’s aerial refueling, intelligence sharing, and, perhaps most importantly, the sale of billions of dollars worth of jets and bombs that are pummeling Yemenis, it seems that the coalition has got them covered. Besides verbal condemnations, there’s hardly been any practical action.

Still, let’s not ignore the shooter of the guns. Saudi’s primary reason for going head-to-head with the Houthi rebels in Yemen is because the latter are Shia. If they win, then Iran wins. The conflict at its crux is geopolitical, not religious. Many Muslim leaders, kings or clerics, don’t care one bit about what Islam says they should or shouldn’t do. Saudis and Iranians and their respective allies are caught in such a bitter feud with each other that the ideal of a brotherhood of Muslim nations laid out in the Qur’an is totally irrelevant to them. Muslims are stirring discord among themselves. So to all the Muslims who point all their fingers simply at Western interventionism as the catalyst for violence, realize that this position is false and has consequences.

Many perpetrators of terrorist attacks on Western soil in the past have blamed Western involvement in Muslim lands—specifically civilian casualties from drone strikes—as the motivation for their violence. But it’s not only onlookers from afar who become grieved. Yemenis themselves may become vulnerable to the lure of extremist organizations whose proclaimed missions are basically to right wrongs done to them.  

Addressing Canada’s National Parliament in 2016 on the implications of this disaster, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, warned, “The people of Yemen, whose lives and futures are being destroyed, will not only bear hatred and seek revenge from Saudi Arabia but will also bear hate towards Saudi’s arms suppliers and the West in general…members of their youth will be prone to radicalization.”

If we truly want to see peace in the Middle East, we could start by critically examining the sources for the violence. Alternatively, we can sit idly by as all the distractions of our lives protect us from the horror abroad being facilitated by our own governments. In that case, we also shouldn’t be surprised when we hear the excuse of the next band of terrorists: “We wanted to avenge the deaths of children in Yemen.”

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