Opinion

President Trump, pitiless warmonger

How the president is already enabling war crimes in Yemen

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump occasionally signaled that he wouldn't be the usual bellicose warmonger in the White House. At one point during the Republican primary, for example, he even starkly condemned the immense waste and pointlessness of the Iraq war, and in the process completely reversed the GOP conventional wisdom on the topic.

But Trump says a lot of things and contradicts himself constantly. And now that he is president, his true face is becoming clear.

As Jessica Schulberg and Ryan Grim report in The Huffington Post, not only has he not reversed President Obama's disastrous enabling of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, he shows every sign of pushing for further escalation — this time in reportedly allowing the Saudis to bomb the port of Al Hudaydah, one of the few remaining routes for humanitarian supplies to reach the country's most desperate areas. Yemen is already suffering one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies, and this could easily cause a full-blown famine.

President Trump is every bit the warmonger his critics feared.

Al Hudaydah is a port city on Yemen's western coast, controlled by Houthi rebels fighting Saudi-backed government forces. Since both Yemeni government forces and the Saudi military are rather ineffective, they have settled on a war crimes-based strategy of attacking the civilian population. A Saudi blockade has let through aid ships, but has still drastically restricted the amount of food, water, and medical supplies available to the population. Saudi airstrikes have repeatedly pummeled civilian targets, most notably a double-tap bombing that first hit a large funeral in Sana'a and then the rescuers rushing in to save the wounded. It killed at least 140 and wounded over 600.

The Saudis have been itching to obliterate the Al Hudaydah port for years now, so as to better starve out the Houthis. In a characteristic move, President Obama applied strong pressure to stop them. The overall war was fine by his lights, apparently, but allowing the war crimes to become too blatant couldn't be allowed.

But now Trump is backing away from even that mild restraint, and in response the Saudi blockade is re-routing commercial and aid ships away from the the Al Hudaydah port. As Schulberg and Grim report, this is already causing serious supply disruptions — and shows every sign of being a preparation for attack. And with western Yemen already suffering a severe humanitarian crisis, this could easily tip the region into famine. It might even be considered an act of genocide.

This sort of action is already becoming something of Trump's signature. President Obama has been rather aggressive with the use of military force, but he was still wary compared to George W. Bush. But Trump's very first foreign policy act was to green-light a commando raid that Obama's team had reportedly nixed for being too risky. The result was an epic disaster, with an American soldier and numerous children killed, including an 8-year-old American girl.

During the campaign, some argued that Trump would be less aggressive with the use of military force. Such a view was obviously credulous at the time, given Trump's aggressive personality and need to dominate others. (Recall the time he argued that American forces should attack Iran because some Iranian sailors made rude gestures at the U.S. Navy.)

But now we have concrete proof. Restraining the American imperial machinery takes a cool, competent temperament and a dedication to putting the nation on a more rational, humane foreign policy footing. Barack Obama had the former, but not the latter; Donald Trump has neither, and staggering ignorance and incuriosity to boot.

So instead of the "America first" anti-war ideal of paleoconservatives, we are going to see the usual Republican habit of enacting conservative psychosexual neuroses on distant Arab nations at stupendous expense and waste of life, only this time carried out by an incompetent president with a hair-trigger temper. It's going to be ugly.

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