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Common Dreams - March 5, 2022

It is a delight that the United States, Britain, and Europe have rediscovered the importance of international law. The test now is to ensure that it is applied consistently across the globe—and not only in response to Russian aggression inside Europe.

Irony does not come darker than last weekend's statement from Richard Oppenheim, British ambassador to Yemen.

"The United Kingdom," announced Oppenheim, "stands with the people of Ukraine in the face of Russia's unprovoked attack on freedom and democracy."

The hypocrisy is grotesque even for those accustomed to the notorious duplicity of the British diplomatic service. Oppenheim may carry the title of British ambassador to Yemen, but he actually is not in Yemen at all.

He's based in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where his main task—judging by his active social media account—is to echo Saudi talking points in its vicious and brutal war on the Yemeni people.

Of course, the British ambassador is right to condemn Russia's illegal and barbaric invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. But it cannot be forgotten that Britain is a core part of Saudi Arabia's illegal and barbaric killing machine in neighbouring Yemen.

Britain has not simply stood aside. More than any other country, the United Kingdom has facilitated Saudi Arabia's war.

We provide Saudi Arabia with arms and military advice, give moral support and, through the UN Security Council (where Britain is penholder) essential diplomatic protection—above all by blocking the establishment of an international independent investigative mechanism to examine war crimes committed in the conflict.

Double standards

Britain has, in short, become Saudi Arabia's proxy on the international stage as it pummels Yemen in a war in which approximately 230,000 have died as a direct result of the Saudi bombardment and thanks to the wider humanitarian consequences of its economic siege of the country.

But Ukraine will make matters worse by driving up food prices, as the UN World Food programme warned on Thursday. WFP executive director David Beasley said in the statement: "We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving and, unless we receive immediate funding, in a few weeks we risk not even being able to feed the starving."

Britain's reaction? None. In fact we've cut aid.

Two standards have been applied. Rush to help Ukraine against the foreign invader. Leave Yemenis to rot.

Of course the situation in Ukraine is grotesque. But the horror and the suffering cannot be compared to Yemen, defined by the United Nations as the greatest humanitarian calamity of the 21st century.

It's not just diplomats who have applied these double standards. Ever since Vladimir Putin made his move almost a week ago media commentators have been making it explicitly clear that white Europeans in Ukraine matter while others don't. Hence the reporter from the legendary United States CBS news service who explained that: "This is not Iraq or Syria, this is a civilized and European country." 

The West's hypocrisy

On Monday, Samantha Power, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development ( USAID), descended on the Polish border on a mission to help Ukrainian refugees.

Writer Sarah Lazare has noted that "when Power in her role as a UN ambassador actually had the power to help stop the war on Yemen, by publicly breaking with her boss and encouraging meaningful action at the United Nations, she did nothing. Instead she embraced a policy of silence —and shielded the US-Saudi coalition from meaningful international scrutiny as it dropped bombs on homes, schools, hospitals and funerals."

Power was US ambassador to the United Nations when the Yemen war flared up in 2015. I don't recall any mercy missions from Power to Yemen. Or to Gaza, or Syria, or Myanmar for that matter. ...
Read full report at Common Dreams