Why Lies About the War on Yemen Matter

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Tony Badran takes another crack at justifyingTrump’s subservience to Saudi Arabia. Inevitably, this means telling lots of lies about Iran and Yemen:

The lead paragraph of Trump’s statement identifies Iran’s destructive regional role, and correctly assigns to it, in the first line, responsibility for the extended war in Yemen. “The country of Iran,” the first paragraph begins, “is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”

Right at the outset, the president sets a tone of strategic clarity.

Strategic clarity appears to have the same relationship to sound strategy that “moral clarity” has to morality. “Moral clarity” usually means whitewashing and excusing the crimes of the governments and people on one’s own “side” while criticizing only adversaries in the harshest terms. Strategic clarity involves letting hostility to one state overwhelm all other considerations and justify supporting any actor or policy, no matter how senseless and bad for U.S. interests it may be, simply because it expresses hostility towards the hated regime. Trump “sets a tone of strategic clarity” because he leads off with a false accusation against Iran to defend a relationship with a reckless client that has involved the US in an indefensible war. The war doesn’t even have much to do with Iran, but the small connection that does exist is blown out of all proportion to distract from the fact that the Saudi relationship is now a huge liability. Take it as a given that these “clarity” phrases have the opposite meaning from what the words usually mean.

Faulting Iran for the war on Yemen is flagrantly dishonest, and it is also a good example of foreign policy malpractice. Letting the Saudis and Emiratis off the hook for creating the disaster in Yemen amounts to giving up any leverage the US has with them, and blaming their regional rival is nothing less than swallowing their propaganda whole. That suits ideological Iran hawks just fine, but it puts the US in a horrible position of being both accomplice and shill for despotic war criminals as they destroy and starve an entire country. That is what Trump has repeatedly chosen to be, but no one should pretend that this is anything other than a disgrace and a major foreign policy failure.

Badran is just getting started with his terrible analysis:

Having led with Iran’s responsibility for the war in Yemen, this second paragraph accurately explains the Saudi campaign against the Iranian-backed forces as defensive in nature: “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave.”

Yes, Trump followed up one lie about Iran’s responsibility for the war with another lie about Saudi Arabia’s peaceable intentions. How remarkable. Badran forgot to mention the next lie about the Saudi desire to help the people of Yemen. Everything the president said about Yemen in his pro-Saudi…

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