Adam Johnson / Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting & MoveOn.com & Oxfam – 2016-10-23 00:46:52
Hiding US Role in Yemen Slaughter
So Bombing Can Be Sold as ‘Self-Defense’
Adam Johnson / Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
(October 14, 2016) — To hear US corporate media tell it, the US was dragged into a brand new war on Wednesday.
US destroyers in the Gulf of Aden launched airstrikes against Houthi rebels, a Shia insurgent group currently withstanding a massive bombing campaign from a Saudi-led coalition in a year-and-half conflict between largely Shia rebels and the Saudi-backed Sunni government in Yemen.
The Pentagon insisted that cruise missiles had been fired onto the USS Mason on Sunday and Wednesday from Houthi-controlled territory, and called the airstrikes a “limited self-defense” response.
Needless to say, US media followed the Pentagon’s lead. The fact that the United States has been literally fueling Saudi warplanes for 18 months while selling weapons and providing intelligence support to the Gulf monarchy — acts which even the US State Department believes could expose the US to war crimes prosecution — was either downplayed or ignored.
Nor did media recall the US’s long history of drone warfare in Yemen, where the military and CIA have been carrying out long-range assassinations since 2002, killing more than 500 people, including at least 65 civilians.
So far, most print media reporting has at least bothered to briefly put the attack and counterattack in broader context, noting the US role in the brutal bombing campaign that has left over 4,000 dead, including over 140 bombed at a funeral in Sana’a last week — even as the stories’ framing downplayed the US’s history in the conflict. The New York Times (10/12/16), for example, said in the second paragraph of its report on the airstrikes (emphasis added):
The strikes against the Houthi rebels marked the first time the United States has become involved militarily in the civil war between the Houthis, an indigenous Shiite group with loose connections to Iran, and the Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations.
But the Times story went on to acknowledge, somewhat contradictorily, that the US had been “quietly providing military support to a Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign against the rebels since last year.” The story noted that the US had been
providing intelligence and Air Force tankers to refuel the coalition’s jets and bombers. The American military has refueled more than 5,700 aircraft involved in the bombing campaign . . . . More than 4,000 civilians have been killed since the bombing began, according to the United Nations’ top human rights official.
TV news reports, on the other hand, kept the spin and left out the context. They mostly failed to mention that the US has been assisting the Saudi assault on the Houthi rebels for a year and a half, and framed the incident as a US warship being attacked while simply minding its own business in international waters.
CBS’s David Martin, fresh off his 14-minute Pentagon commercial last month, didn’t mention the Saudi bombing campaign or explain the US’s role in the war for his segment for CBS This Morning (10/13/16). In fact, Martin never uttered the word “Saudi” or named any of the other countries involved in Yemen, only noting that the rebels are “trying to overthrow the government.”
The average viewer would come away thinking the US Navy ship just happened to be in the neighborhood when it was randomly fired upon.
ABC’s Martha Radiate (Good Morning America, 10/13/16) likewise didn’t inform the viewer that the US has been a party to the civil war for 18 months. She also never used the word “Saudi” or referred to the brutal bombing campaign; she barely even alluded to there being a conflict at all.
CNN’s Barbara Starr (CNN, 10/13/16) joined the club, omitting the US and Saudi roles in the conflict entirely. She went one step further and repeatedly speculated about “direct” Iranian involvement in the Mason attack and what that would entail, despite there being zero evidence and no suggestion from the Pentagon of Iranian participation. Starr even conflated Al Qaeda and Iran, despite their being on opposite sides of the conflict:
The Yemeni missiles were fairly old but had been outfitted with highly lethal warheads, the kind Al Qaeda and Iran know how to make.
The implication was that Al Qaeda might have somehow provided Houthi rebels with missiles, but this, of course, is absurd: The Houthis and Al Qaeda are sectarian enemies and have been fighting each other throughout the civil war. Never mind; Starr needed to raise the stakes and throw out as many boogeymen as she could.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (10/13/16) delivered the worst of the batch. Not only did she too omit the Saudi bombing campaign and the US’s role in it (again, leaving the viewer to believe the attack was a total non sequitur), she spun the issue in tedious partisan terms, recalling Trump’s statement he would attack Iranian warships that threatened the US:
You might remember Republican candidate Donald Trump said in an off-handed remark during the campaign that if Iranian ships got too close to American ships and if Iranian sailors made rude gestures towards our American sailors under President Trump, we’d blow those Iranian ships out of the water. Well, Iranian ships and American ships are now in the same waters, off the coast of Yemen in the middle of war, with Tomahawk missiles and cruise missiles already flying. Steady on.
Why are American ships in those waters? Why are Tomahawk missiles “flying”? The conflict is never explained; it’s only brought up so that Maddow can warn that the GOP nominee could make things worse.
Of course, it isn’t Trump who backed the Saudis in an air campaign that’s left thousands dead, but Obama — and it’s Hillary Clinton who as secretary of State enthusiastically pushed to sell warplanes to Riyadh (The Intercept, 2/22/16). But such facts would messy up the election-season narrative.
Maddow, like the other reports, used the loaded modifier “Iran-backed” to describe the Houthis (even though experts and Pentagon officials think Iran’s support is overblown). This is a stark asymmetry, considering that none of the reports referred to the Yemeni government as “US-backed” or “Saudi-backed.”
She also said that the Navy blamed the attacks on the Houthis, when the Pentagon only claims the missiles came from rebel territory, and could very well be from other allied groups (New York Times, 10/13/16).
Not only is the US’s backing of Saudi Arabia omitted from all these reports, the word “Saudi” isn’t uttered in any of them. The viewer is given the impression that the war, aside from Iranian meddling, is an entirely internal affair — when it actually involves over 15 different countries, mostly Sunni monarchies propping up the Yemeni government — and that the rebels just randomly decided to pick a fight with the largest military in the history of the world.
The Houthis, for their part, vehemently deny having carried out the attack on the Mason, and there is no publicly available evidence it was them or allied forces. It should be noted, however, that Houthi forces took credit for sinking a United Arab Emirates supply ship two weeks earlier.
As is often the case with war, the issue of “first blood” — or who started the fighting — gets muddied. Governments naturally want global audiences and their own citizens to view their actions as defensive — a necessary response to aggression, not aggression itself. US corporate media are aiding this official spin in their reporting on the US bombing of Yemen.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
There is a at MoveOn.org calling on the New York Times to acknowledge that US military involvement in Yemen long predated the recent missile strikes.
Acknowledge Ongoing US Military
Involvement in Yemen’s Civil War
Petition by Robert Naiman
To be delivered to Editor, New York Times and Public Editor, New York Times.
Clearly acknowledge in your reporting that US military involvement in Yemen’s civil war is ongoing and did not begin with recent US missile strikes.
A recent New York Times report claimed that US cruise missile strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen “marked the first time the United States has become involved militarily in the civil war between the Houthis, an indigenous Shiite group with loose connections to Iran, and the Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations.” 
The US was already “involved militarily in the civil war” prior to the missile strikes. Human Rights Watch notes, “The US became a party to the conflict during the first months of fighting by providing specific targeting information and refueling planes during bombing raids.”
HRW identified the munition used in a Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrike on a funeral ceremony in Sanaa on October 8 as a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb. HRW described the attack, which killed at least 100 people and wounded more than 500, including children, as “an apparent war crime.” 
Understanding that the US was and remains “militarily involved” is crucial for understanding US responsibility, for establishing context for the reported missile strike on the US ship, and for understanding Congressional responsibility. Congress has never voted to authorize a US war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. 
If the US is engaged in “hostilities” against Houthi rebels that have not been authorized by Congress, then Congress has an obligation under the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution to either pass an authorization for the use of force, or to vote on the withdrawal of US forces from the conflict.
Urge the New York Times to correct the record concerning ongoing US military involvement in Yemen’s civil war by signing our petition.
ACTION ALERT: President Obama —
Stop US Support for War in Yemen
Petition from Oxfam America
This past Saturday, as Yemeni mourners waited to pay their respects at a funeral home, Saudi warplanes obliterated the hall where they were gathered, killing over 140 people and wounding hundreds.
This is not an isolated incident, but rather the latest tragedy in Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen â€“ enabled by US-manufactured bombs, intelligence sharing with US agencies, and US military help to fuel Saudi aircraft.
The Saudi-led war in Yemen has killed thousands and fueled a humanitarian crisis, with millions homeless and on the verge of starvation. The US is complicit in this human suffering.
Ten days ago, Saudi warplanes obliterated a funeral gathering in Yemen, where hundreds of people representing all sides of the war were gathered to pay their respects to a respected elder.
Over 140 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured in the strike.
Our hearts are broken over this indefensible attack on funeral mourners â€“ and our grief turned to outrage as we learned that US-manufactured bombs were used to carry out this tragedy.
Despite this clear attack on civilians, the US is still providing military support to Saudi Arabia while it “reviews its policy.”
The funeral bombing is just the latest tragedy in the last 18-months of conflict. The war has killed thousands of civilians and plunged Yemen deeper into a humanitarian crisis.
Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East before the start of this conflict â€“ and now it is on the brink of starvation.
More than 19 million people do not have access to clean water. 14 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. And more than 3 million Yemenis have been driven from their homes.
A 72-hour ceasefire is schedule to begin on Thursday. It’s a positive move, but it may not hold or generate the kind of political progress that can help Yemenis recover. We need to keep the pressure up.
We’re in the middle of a critical moment to influence President Obama about pulling all support for the war in Yemen.
News of the funeral attack made the front page, and scrutiny on the US’s support for the Saudi-led war has ratcheted up.
Hospitals, schools, homes, and funerals â€“ there is no safe space in Yemen today. Thank you for standing up against this conflict that has already caused so much suffering.
Now is the time to tell President Obama that we will not stand by as our tax dollars are used to fund the war in Yemen.
Send your letter to President Obama now
Scott Paul is Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor with Oxfam America
Yemen Ceasefire Comes into Effect under UN Plan
(October 19, 2016) — A ceasefire took effect in war-ravaged Yemen late on Wednesday under a United Nations plan. The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had announced on Monday that the cessation of hostilities would take effect “at 23:59 Yemen time (2059 GMT) on 19 October 2016, for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal”.
It is the sixth ceasefire attempt between rebels and pro-government forces since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March last year to support President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.