When Yemen Does It It’s Terrorism, When The US Does It It’s “The Rules-Based Order”

Caitlin Johnstone
4 min readJan 18, 2024

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

The Biden administration has officially re-designated Ansarallah — the dominant force in Yemen also known as the Houthis — as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.

The White House claims the designation is an appropriate response to the group’s attacks on US military vessels and commercial ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, saying those attacks “fit the textbook definition of terrorism.” Ansarallah claims its actions “adhere to the provisions of Article 1 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” since it is only enforcing a blockade geared toward ceasing the ongoing Israeli destruction of Gaza.

One of the most heinous acts committed by the Trump administration was its designation of Ansarallah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), both of which imposed sanctions that critics warned would plunge Yemen’s aid-dependent population into even greater levels of starvation than they were already experiencing by restricting the aid that would be allowed in. One of the Biden administration’s only decent foreign policy decisions has been the reversal of that sadistic move, and now that reversal is being partially rolled back, though thankfully only with the SDGT listing and not the more deadly and consequential FTO designation.

In a new article for Antiwar about this latest development, Dave Decamp explains that as much as the Biden White House goes to great lengths insisting that it’s going to issue exemptions to ensure that its sanctions don’t harm the already struggling Yemeni people, “history has shown that sanctions scare away international companies and banks from doing business with the targeted nations or entities and cause shortages of medicine, food, and other basic goods.” DeCamp also notes that US and British airstrikes on Yemen have already forced some aid groups to suspend services to the country.

So the US empire is going to be imposing sanctions on a nation that’s still trying to recover from the devastation caused by the US-backed Saudi blockade that contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths between 2015 and 2022. All in response to the de facto government of that very same country imposing its own blockade with the goal of preventing a genocide.

That’s right kids: when Yemen sets up a blockade to try and stop an active genocide, that’s terrorism, but when the US empire imposes a blockade to secure its geostrategic interests in the middle east, why that’s just the rules-based international order in action.

It just says so much about how the US empire sees itself that it can impose blockades and starvation sanctions at will upon nations like Yemen, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea for refusing to bow to its dictates, but when Yemen imposes a blockade for infinitely more worthy and noble reasons it gets branded an act of terrorism. The managers of the globe-spanning empire loosely centralized around Washington literally believe the world is theirs to rule as they will, and that anyone who opposes its rulings is an outlaw.

What this shows us is that the “rules-based international order” the US and its allies claim to uphold is not based on rules at all; it’s based on power, which is the ability to control and impose your will on other people. The “rules” apply only to the enemies of the empire because they are not rules at all: they are narratives used to justify efforts to bend the global population to its will.

We are ruled by murderous tyrants. By nuclear-armed thugs who would rather starve civilians to protect the continuation of an active genocide than allow peace to get a word in edgewise. Our world can never know health as long as these monsters remain in charge.


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