In a piece of cable news history that rivals Madeleine Albright’s infamous words during a 1996 60 Minutes appearance where she calmly and coldly proclaimed of 500,000 dead Iraqi children that “the price is worth it,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer railed against Senator Paul’s opposition to a proposed $1.1 billion US arms sale to Saudi Arabia by arguing that slaughter of Yemeni civilians was worth it so long as it benefits US jobs and defense contractors.
At the time of the 2016 CNN interview, Saudi Arabia with the help of its regional and Western allies — notably the U.S. and Britain — had been bombing Yemen for a year-and-a-half, and as the United Nations noted, the Saudi coalition had been responsible for the majority of the war’s (at that point) 10,000 mostly civilian deaths.
At that time the war was still in its early phases, but now multiple years into the Saudi-led bombing campaign which began in March 2015, the U.N. reports at least “5,000 children dead or hurt and 400,000 malnourished.”
And now as the death toll tragically stands at many tens of thousands, and with a subsequent U.N. report from 2017 documenting in detail“the killing and maiming of children” on a mass scale, Blitzer’s words are even more revealing of the role that CNN and other major American networks play in enabling and excusing U.S. and allied partners’ war crimes abroad.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen.
How is this guy still on the air?! pic.twitter.com/f6Z9Q9gYCY
— IN THE NOW (@IntheNow_tweet) April 27, 2018
There are now millions of displaced people in Yemen. They’re refugees. So we supply the Saudis with arms, they create havoc and refugees in Yemen. Then what’s the answer? Then we’re going to take the Yemeni refugees in the United States? Maybe we ought to quit arming both sides of this war.
Paul then narrowed in on the Pentagon’s role in the crisis: “We are refueling the Saudi bombers that are dropping the bombs. It is said that thousands of civilians have died in Yemen because of this.”
CNN’s Blitzer responded, “So for you this is a moral issue. Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”
Paul countered, “Well not only is it a moral question, its a constitutional question.” And noted that Obama had partnered with the Saudi attack on Yemen without Congressional approval: “Our founding fathers very directly and specifically did not give the president the power to go to war. They gave it to Congress. So Congress needs to step up and this is what I’m doing.”
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For further context of what the world knew at the time the CNN interview took place, we can look no further than the United Nations and other international monitoring groups.
A year after Blitzer’s statements, Foreign Policy published a bombshell report based on possession of a leaked 41-page draft UN document, which found Saudi Arabia and its partner coalition allies in Yemen (among them the United States) of being guilty of horrific war crimes, including the bombing of dozens of schools, hospitals, and civilian infrastructure.
The U.N. study focused on child and civilian deaths during the first two years of the Saudi coalition bombing campaign – precisely the time frame during which the CNN Wolf Blitzer and Rand Paul interview took place.
Foreign Policy reported:
“The killing and maiming of children remained the most prevalent violation” of children’s rights in Yemen, according to the 41-page draft report obtained by Foreign Policy.
The chief author of the confidential draft report, Virginia Gamba, the U.N. chief’s special representative for children abused in war time, informed top U.N. officials Monday, that she intends to recommend the Saudi-led coalition be added to a list a countries and entities that kill and maim children, according to a well-placed source.
The UN report further identified that air attacks “were the cause of over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 children killed and 333 children injured” during the designated period of time studied, and documented that, “the U.N. verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015 — a six-fold increase compared with 2014” – with the majority of these deaths being the result of Saudi and coalition air power.
Also according AP reporting at the time: “It said nearly three-quarters of attacks on schools and hospitals — 38 of 52 — were also carried out by the coalition.”
But again, Wolf Blitzer’s first thought was those poor defense contractors:
…Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States.
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This trip down memory lane elicited suitable responses on Twitter:
Very despicable. To him we need to worry that stopping the shelling in Yemen would lead to a loss of jobs in weapons manufacturing. https://twitter.com/IntheNow_tweet/status/989942263563239425 …
Thank you @wolfblitzer for going on the record confirming to us what we already know that @CNN is nothing but a deep state/military industrial complex tool. https://twitter.com/inthenow_tweet/status/989942263563239425 …
Bassem@BBassem7Once you watched @wolfblitzer confirming how wars are “good for for US “defense” contractors” and jobs, watch @camanpour in 2005 interview confirming US plot for regime change in Syriahttps://twitter.com/afk_10/status/988477696735932416?s=21 …
I guess “War is the Health of the State.” https://twitter.com/IntheNow_tweet/status/989942263563239425 …
Wow! I must say, this is staggering. Rand Paul rightly calls out the US for arming the Saudi slaughter in Yemen and Wolf Blitzer seems to be “shocked” that Paul would favor saving human lives over defense company profits. https://twitter.com/robertwrighter/status/990004042528186369 …
And here’s the full CNN interview segment from 2016:
As Wolf Blitzer is known to pal around with Clinton’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, it appears he’s a quick understudy:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.
—60 Minutes (5/12/96)