Little children should not be drawing missiles and corpses. When I met Yemeni girls and boys in a sandy, sun-scorched refugee camp in the horn of Africa, the pictures they had drawn chilled me. One depicted aeroplanes raining missiles down on houses; there were frowning corpses in crudely drawn puddles of blood, a weeping child beside them. These were horrors they had suffered – and they suffered them, in part, because of the role of Britain’s government.
Yemen is in the midst of a civil war that has lasted two years, taken the lives of 10,000 civilians and plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis. There are multiple parties involved, all unsavoury, all accused of war crimes. But, as the UN reported last year, it is a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths. Some of those civilians are being killed by British-made bombs, sold to the Saudi dictatorship by our government. Since the Saudis began pummelling Yemen, the government has granted licences for £3.3bn worth of arms. It is a cause for national shame.
The government cannot plead ignorance. When I met Alan Duncan, the Tory special envoy on Yemen, last April, he denied that Saudi Arabia was a dictatorship. When I put it to him that the Saudi regime was dropping British-made cluster bombs – for which there was overwhelming evidence – he refused to accept…