Saudi war on Yemen means more terrorism, more refugees


This video from London, England says about itself:

Stop the bloodshed in Yemen is theme of protest in London

25 April 2015

Hundreds of Yemenis marched to the Saudi Embassy to protest against Saudi Arabia and US imperialism, and to stop the bloodshed in Yemen. Yemenis [should] choose their own government, not the Saudis or the West.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 26 April 2015

Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe’s problem

World View: Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign

Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns ($150) and AK-47s ($150) has increased eightfold. Whatever else happens, the war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry.

Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26 March, is irrelevant to the rest of the world. Already the turmoil there is a breeding ground for al-Qaeda type attacks such as that on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The collapse of the country into a permanent state of warfare will send waves of boat-people towards Western Europe or anywhere else they can find refuge. It is absurd for European leaders to pretend that they are doing something about “terrorism” or the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean when they ignore the wars that are the root causes of these events.

Yemen war has been left to the Saudis and the Gulf monarchies, with the US ineffectually trying to end it. The reality of what is happening is very different from the way it is presented. The Saudis allege that they are crushing a takeover of Yemen by the Houthi Shia militia backed by Iran and intend to return the legitimate president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to power. In fact, the Houthis’ seizure of so much of Yemen over the past year has little to do with Iran. It has much more to do with their alliance with their old enemy, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who still controls much of the Yemeni army. This enabled the Houthis, whose strongholds are in the north of the country, to capture Sanaa easily last September, though UN experts note that the capital “was guarded by no less than 100,000 Republican Guards and Reserve Forces, most of them loyal to the former president”.

The Saudi air campaign is geared more to inflicting severe damage on the units of the Yemeni army loyal to Saleh than it is to weakening the Houthis. The Houthi militiamen are experienced fighters, their military skills and ability to withstand air attack honed between 2004 and 2010, when they fought off six offensives launched by Saleh, who was then in power and closely allied to Saudi Arabia. It was only after he was ousted from office in 2012 that he reconciled with the Houthis.

The Saudi war aim is to break this alliance between the Houthis and the Saleh-controlled military units by destroying the army’s bases and heavy weapons. The more lightly armed Houthis are less likely to be hard-hit by air strikes, but without the support or neutrality of the regular army they will be over-stretched in the provinces south of Sanaa. In Aden, they are fighting not so much Hadi-supporters, but southern separatists who want to reverse the unification agreed in 1990.

The problem with the Saudi strategy is the same as that with most military plans. The 19th-century German chief of staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, said that in war “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. The same warning was pithily restated more recently by the American boxer Mike Tyson, who said that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.

The danger for Saudi Arabia is that wars build up an uncontrollable momentum that transforms the political landscape in which they are conceived. Had the Saudis not intervened in Yemen, it is unlikely that in the long term the Houthis would have been able to dominate the country because they are opposed by so many regions, parties and tribes. Yemen is too divided for any single faction to win an outright victory. But the air war has been justified by Saudi Arabia to their own citizens and the Sunni world as a counterattack against Iranian and Shia aggression. It will not be easy for Riyadh to back off from these exaggerated claims to reach the sort of compromises required if Yemen is to return to peace. A further danger is that demonising the Houthis as Iranian puppets may well prove self-fulfilling, if the Houthis are compelled to look for allies wherever they can find them.

Yemenis insist that their society has not traditionally been divided along sectarian lines between the Zaidi Shia, a third of the population, and the two-thirds of Yemenis who are Sunni. But this could change very quickly as the Yemen conflict gets plugged into the wider and increasingly warlike regional confrontation between a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia and a Shia counterpart led by Iran.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been one of the main beneficiaries of the militarisation of Yemeni politics, because it can present itself as the shock troops of the Sunni community and its fighters are no longer under pressure from the regular army. As many Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans have discovered to their cost, Sunni-Shia sectarian hatred and fear is often only one massacre away.

The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies worry so much about Yemen because it is very much their backyard. But there is every reason for the rest of the world to worry too, because Yemen is joining Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia as places where warlords rule in conditions of anarchy. They are places where life has become unlivable for much of the population, who will take any risk to escape.

This is the sort of national calamity that is filling the boats and rafts crowded with desperate emigrants that are heading across the Mediterranean for Europe.

And this calamity is particularly bad in Yemen, because the country was in crisis even before the present conflict. According to UN agencies, malnutrition in Yemen is about the same as in much of sub-Saharan Africa and only half the population has access to clean water. The country imports 90 per cent of the grains used for food, but no ships are coming in because its ports are blockaded by the Saudis or caught up in the fighting. In any case it is difficult to move food supplies because of a chronic shortage of fuel. Lack of electricity means that essential medicines in hospitals cannot be stored.

This is not a short-term problem, Yemen is finally falling apart, but it may take a long time doing so, which means that there will be a vacuum of power. AQAP and other jihadi groups are already taking advantage of this. America’s much vaunted drone war against AQAP has not prevented the organisation taking over whole provinces.

The Sunni-Shia confrontation has a fresh injection of venom. Yemen has endured many wars that the rest of the world has ignored, but this one may well prove uncontainable.

The Saudi royal air force bombed Sanaa, capital of Yemen, again today: here.

SAUDI coalition warplanes launched dozens of air strikes on Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Saturday: here.

Why Pakistan said no to King Salman. Pakistan’s unanimous decision to stay out of the conflict brewing in Yemen, and to push for a political resolution rather than a military one, puts significant strain on bilateral relations, complicating Saudi-Pakistani diplomatic relations: here.

How the U.S. contributed to Yemen’s crisis. Washington’s support for Yemen’s former dictatorship — and of Saudi efforts to sideline the country’s nonviolent pro-democracy movement — helped create the current crisis: here.

Endangered wildlife art exhibition in London


Amur tiger, by Katya Krasnaya

From Wildlife Extra:

International Fund for Animal Welfare supports endangered wildlife art exhibition

An exhibition entitled Exposed by St Petersburg artist Katya Krasnaya, is open to the public at the Erarta Galleries London.

The gallery is dedicated to showcasing the work of Russian contemporary artists, and this exhibition is one of pop art and graffiti-inspired paintings of endangered animals.

The artist has used spray-painting coupled with fine art techniques to create animal portraits include the rare Amur tiger, beluga whale, hawksbill sea turtle, rhino and polar bear.

Krasnaya says: “Almost everything inspires me. I divide my inspiration into types. The first one is natural, when you see all the shapes of our planet, from animals to hurricanes.”

The exhibition is supported by animal welfare charity, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which has projects in more than 40 countries and rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and campaigns for the protection of wildlife and habitats.

As well as a variety of ongoing projects in the UK, IFAW is currently also engaged with a number of important campaigns in Russia.

For example, it has been working with local partners to release six Amur tigers into the wild in forests in the far east of the country.

IFAW also runs the Orphan Bear Rescue Centre and carries out scientific observational research on critically endangered western gray whales and threatened beluga whales.

UK Director of IFAW, Philip Mansbridge, says: “We’re very pleased to be supporting the Exposed exhibition at Erarta Galleries, to raise awareness of endangered animals in Russia and worldwide.

“The pictures are a contemporary interpretation of some of the world’s most recognisable but vulnerable animals.

“I hope visitors will enjoy the striking images, and feel strongly about protecting the real animals in the wild, and their threatened habitats.”

The organisers of Exposed say the exhibition aims to bring particular focus to the ever-narrowing gap between rural and urban landscapes and habitats, and is a contemporary reaction to conservation in a constantly developing world.

The exhibition will run at the Erarta Galleries, Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London until 23 May 2015. For more details visit www.erartagalleries.com.

Stop Saudi war on Yemen now


This video from London, England says about itself:

Hands Off Yemen protest outside Saudi Embassy, London

11 April 2015

A protest arranged by the Stop The War Coalition outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London today attracted large crowds of people who held placards aloft and chanted. Yemeni people want the Saudis to stop attacking their country.

John Rees from the Stop The War Coalition addresses the crowds gathered opposite the Saudia Arabian Embassy in London earlier today.

This video is also about that demonstration in London.

From daily The Independent in England:

Daniel Wickham

Friday 10 April 2015

Britain and America are helping Saudi Arabia push Yemen towards total collapse

As the humanitarian crisis deepens, the UK has said that it will support the bombing campaign ‘in every practical way short of engaging in combat’

As Yemen’s political and economic crisis deepens, the United States and Britain have decided to throw their weight behind a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states currently bombing the Houthi rebel group. …

By providing warplanes and, in the case of the United States, logistical and intelligence support, both countries are playing an important, enabling role in the operation, which in recent weeks has contributed to a sharp escalation of violence in Yemen.

Why should this concern us? Well, for a start, the air campaign is killing large numbers of innocent civilians, and is greatly exacerbating a severe, pre-existing humanitarian crisis.

Secondly, opposition to it is reportedly so “widespread” in Yemen that even opponents of the Houthi rebels have promised to back them against the coalition.

And thirdly, informed observers like Adam Baron and Frederic Wehrey have already warned that the airstrikes could create a vacuum for extremist groups like al-Qai’da in the Arabian Peninsula to take advantage of (something which is apparently already happening). …

The most obvious reason for this is the indiscriminate way it is being fought. In one of the worst attacks of the operation so far, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 29 civilians who were sheltering in a camp for displaced people in the north, burning beyond recognition and tearing apart their bodies in the process. Four children and two women were also burnt to death in a coalition airstrike purportedly targeting a Houthi checkpoint in the governorate of Ibb a day later.

Shocking though they are, reports like these should not come as a surprise. Back in 2009, the Saudi air force killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Yemeni civilians in another misguided bombing campaign against the Houthis. Amnesty International later found that it was “extremely likely” that British-supplied jets were used in the attacks, and called for arms exports to be suspended in response. Sadly, this fell on deaf ears. Today, Saudi Arabia provides the largest market for British-manufactured warplanes and military equipment in the world – arms which may now be helping them to devastate Yemen’s civilian population all over again.

The humanitarian situation is another important, but gravely overlooked factor. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, with 14.7m people in need of aid, 13.1m people without access to safe water and 10.6m people not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Since the bombing began, the crisis has deteriorated, with life-saving aid being blocked – in some cases deliberately by the Saudi-led coalition – and much-needed food imports grinding to a halt.

As the civilian death toll increases, infrastructure is destroyed and tens of thousands of people are forced to flee their homes, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the country is “on the verge of total collapse.”

The West’s role in all of this goes far beyond just public statements of approval for the anti-Houthi campaign. An early statement by the White House confirmed that President Obama has authorised logistical and intelligence support, which officials say includes helping Saudi Arabia to “decide what and where to bomb”. According to the Washington Post, most of the jets used by the Saudi air force are likely to be US-made, as indeed are the warplanes contributed by Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco to the coalition.

Several days in, the US then said that it was also providing additional bombs and aerial refuelling missions for planes carrying out the strikes. This announcement, it should be stressed, came after reports of civilian casualties had begun to surface, including of the killing of six children under the age of ten in a coalition airstrike in Sana’a the day before.

Britain, for its part, has said that it will support the bombing campaign “in every practical way short of engaging in combat”, and has openly acknowledged that British-made jets have been involved. This has led to calls for the British government to investigate whether or not these jets may have been responsible for the killing of civilians, with questions being raised in particular over their possible use in the horrifying attack on a camp for displaced people last week (though, in reality, the use of US-made jets is far more likely).

So what can be done to improve the situation? The short answer is there is no short answer. But steps can be taken, including by the Saudi-led coalition’s Western allies, to reduce the suffering of Yemen’s civilian population and bring the warring parties closer to a resolution.

As the International Crisis Group, an international conflict prevention NGO, explained in a recent briefing, “the slim chance to salvage a political process requires that regional actors immediately cease military action”. The United States and Britain should therefore be doing everything they can to restrain their allies and bring this disastrous operation – which they are both fully complicit in – to an immediate end. If they don’t, it will be the people of Yemen who pay the price.

TURKEY AND SAUDI ARABIA DISCUSSING OUSTER OF ASSAD “Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two nations with a long history of rivalry, are in high-level talks with the goal of forming a military alliance to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to sources familiar with the discussions … As the partnership is currently envisioned, Turkey would provide ground troops, supported by Saudi Arabian airstrikes, to assist moderate Syrian opposition fighters against Assad’s regime, according to one of the sources.” [Ryan Grim, Sophia Jones and Jessica Schulberg, HuffPost]

United States anti-war artist Leon Golub, London exhibition


This video from Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Leon Golub – Figuration and Monsters

15 July 2011

Artists Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh talk about the human figure and artistic process in connection with their work on view in the Smart Museum of Art exhibition Go Figure. Learn more here.

By Christine Lindey in London, England:

Accusations from an atrocity exhibition

Saturday 11th April 2015

A retrospective of Leon Golub’s work is a disturbing indictment of US war crimes and torture, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

BORN in Chicago in 1922 to Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Leon Golub (1922-2004) grew up in the shadow of WWI and the “great slump.”

His art studies were interrupted by military service in the second world war, from which he emerged to the unimaginable news of Buchenwald and Hiroshima. Whereas the dominant postwar US aesthetic ridiculed socially committed art and retreated into the inner worlds of Abstract Expressionism, Golub confronted the inhumanity of recent atrocities.

His deliberately inelegant provocations to genteel notions of art were underpinned by layered references to antiquity. After resuming his studies on a GI grant he painted monstrous hybrids and mutilated figures which emerge from roughly applied brush marks, an example being the larger than life size Colossal Torso II of 1959, whose shockingly charred and pitted flesh and truncated body evokes Hiroshima victims.

Yet the painting also refers to the fragmented colossuses of the late Roman empire, whose grandiose abuse of power Golub associated with that of 20th-century US imperialism.

The Vietnam war fully politicised him and in 1964 he became active in New York’s Artists and Writers Protest Group. Conflict became his subject and he searched for ways of making politically committed paintings relevant to modern times. Golub confronted the all-pervasive mass media’s visual language by working from published photographs and transforming these source images into unbearably emotive art by physically challenging the traditional processes and mediums of representational painting.

Working on unprimed, unevenly cut and unstretched canvases, Golub suspended the finished works loosely against the wall from grommets, so subverting the revered status of rectangularly framed paintings.

The figures in the large Gigantomachy series of the mid-1960s are based on contemporary sports photographs combined with images of the antique frieze at Pergamon which depicts the mythological battle between the Giants and Olympian Gods.

The unarmed, naked combatants are depicted on a roughly stained and blotched canvas in unpleasant combinations of purplish magenta, pink and white paint which Golub partially scraped off with a meat cleaver to deepen the impact of the combatants’ flayed flesh. The savagery of his processes paralleled his subjects’ indictment of warfare.

The Napalm and Vietnam War series which followed now referred to specific events and Golub attacked his canvases with greater savagery. With large chunks cut out of them, the scorched, scarred and splotched canvases mirror the violence of the depicted US army atrocities whose vileness are conveyed by deliberately awkward drawing, compositions and morose colour.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Golub produced his greatest works. These included the Mercenaries and Interrogators series — gigantic accusatory history paintings exposing US imperialist support of the odious counter-insurgency methods by Latin American dictatorships.

Intimidating, larger than life-size armed and uniformed soldiers and police are captured in acts of torture or military bravado as they loom over us.

Based on magazine photographs of mercenaries, the men in bright blue or green and buff uniforms are painted against flat undifferentiated red oxide or maroon backgrounds, so preventing distractions from the gruesome acts.

The men leer and grin grotesquely in awkward poses, as in a film still’s arrested motion, and their macho body language and callous expressions convey the dehumanising effects of alienation.

These paintings go beyond simple accusations of individual acts of cruelty. Like Goya’s Disasters of War they portray the perpetuators of brutal acts as desensitised products of inhumane governments whose purpose is to retain power for the powerful.

In his late paintings, Golub raged against the dystopia of urban decay, the horrors of ageing and impending death in graffiti influenced works, an example being Fuck Death of 1999.

His work is not for the faint-hearted. The visceral directness of his scenes of war and torture assault our gaze. Yet their rawness of expression is contradicted by the depth of meaning which percolates from his erudite understanding of art history, mass media and politics.

The paintings are intentionally difficult to look at and defy lengthy contemplation. In discussion with the artist Martha Rosler, Golub said: “Film passes through, painting sits on the wall. I take the fact that painting isn’t moving and I make it unendurable — you can’t sit in front of it. I myself have jumped at my own paintings.” Yet they burn with an honesty and directness which resonate long after seeing them because they cut to the core of political and social injustice.

Given the massive scale of Golub’s paintings and prolific output, a larger venue would have better suited this retrospective. The Serpentine Galleries’ exhibition over-represents his late works and omits loans from major public museums. But it does give very welcome exposure to this important artist and its display of four 1980s history paintings in the rotunda do him full justice as does the imaginative and beautifully produced catalogue. Recommended.

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue runs at Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 until May 17, opening times: serpentinegalleries.org. Free.