Jake Johnson / Common Dreams & Jon Queally / Common Dreams & ulia Conley / Common Dreams & Daniel Larison / The American Conservative – 2018-09-07 02:34:14
As Saudis Say Bombings of Yemeni Children Just “Mistakes,”
Growing Calls for US to Stop Fueling Atrocities
Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, and his wife, Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump,at the Murabba Palace with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
(September 2, 2018) — After the US-backed Saudi-led coalition issued a statement on Saturday calling its deadly bombing of a Yemeni school bus “unjustified” and claiming it was the result of mere “mistakes,” human rights groups and progressive lawmakers ramped up calls for the US to immediately halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been viciously bombing Yemen for years.
“We must end US support for this disastrous war in Yemen,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared on Twitter Saturday evening. “It is also long past time that we begin to take a very hard look at our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
While the Pentagon and much of the corporate media bought at face value the Saudi-led coalition’s statement expressing “regret” over the school bus bombing last month that killed 40 children, Al-Jazeera‘s Alan Fisher noted that “if you look at the actual wording [of the statement] . . . they are not saying that there was a problem with killing children.”
“What they are saying is that this attack shouldn’t have taken place when it did because they were targeting Houthi leaders,” Fisher added, “and they say . . . their intelligence pointed in that direction but those Houthi leaders at that stage did not present a threat to Saudi-led coalition forces and therefore that operation shouldn’t have happened.”
In an interview with Al-Jazeera on Saturday, Hussain al-Bukhaiti — who is described as a “pro-Houthi activist” — said the Saudi-led coalition’s statement hardly counts as an “apology.”
“It is actually adding insult to injury,” al-Bukhaiti argued. “Since the beginning of this war, they have committed many crimes and they only regret or release such a statement only if that crime has been covered widely on the media.”
The Saudis’ statement — which insists the coalition carried out last month’s strike because it believed the school bus was full of Houthi rebels — comes amid growing international outrage over what one human rights advocate called their “reckless disregard for human life” in Yemen.
Yet even amid these atrocities, the Pentagon is reportedly preparing to train Saudi military pilots on US soil.
In a damning report issued last week, the United Nations echoed the assessment of human rights organizations and concluded that the Saudi-led coalition — often with bombs manufactured in the US — has likely “perpetrated, and continue[s] to perpetrate, violations and crimes under international law.”
Just hours after the Saudi-led coalition released its statement on Saturday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a detailed analysis of the Saudis’ years-long assault on Yemen and called on all nations to cease providing arms to the kingdom.
“The Saudi-led coalition’s attack on a bus full of young boys adds to its already gruesome track record of killing civilians at weddings, funerals, hospitals, and schools in Yemen,” concluded Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at HRW. “Countries with knowledge of this record that are supplying more bombs to the Saudis will be complicit in future deadly attacks on civilians.”
UN Probe Says Repeated Bombing of Yemen Civilians
By US-Backed Saudi Coalition Likely Amounts to War Crimes
Jon Queally / Common Dreams
“Despite the severity of the situation we continue to see a complete disregard for the people in Yemen.”
— co-author of UN’s investigative report
(August 28, 2018) — Evidence presented as part of a wide-ranging investigation sponsored by the United Nations and released Tuesday shows that the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates waging a war in Yemen — armed and with backing from the United States and the United Kingdom — have likely “perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, violations and crimes under international law.”
Conducted by the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, a body of Yemen and regional experts created by the UN Human Rights Council, the report documents how indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition has devastated the Yemeni population and details how civilian targets have repeatedly been struck.
“Despite the severity of the situation we continue to see a complete disregard for the people in Yemen,” said Charles Garraway, one of the authors of the report. “This conflict has reached its peak, with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel. It is indeed, a forgotten crisis.”
According to the report, which documented the situation in Yemen from when the current conflict began in March of 2015 up until June of this year:
Coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties. In the past three years, such air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.
The Group of Experts has investigated 13 such incidents by interviewing victims, witnesses and other credible sources; analysing satellite imagery, photographs and videos; and visiting sites in the Hudaydah, Sa’dah and Sana’a governorates.
“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the group of experts.
In addition to the troubling pattern of targeting and bombing civilian infrastructure, the report condemns the ongoing blockade by the coalition, both by sea and by air, of critical supplies into the war-torn and impoverished country:
The coalition has imposed severe naval and air restrictions in Yemen, to varying degrees, since March 2015. There are reasonable grounds to believe that these restrictions imposed by the coalition constitute a violation of the proportionality rule of international humanitarian law.
Moreover, the effective closure of Sana’a airport is a violation of international humanitarian law protection for the sick and wounded. Such acts, together with the requisite intent, may amount to international crimes.
In what was clearly a reference to both the US and the U.K., the report urges the international community to “refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict.”
An effort in the US Senate to end US support for the Saudi-led assault, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), was defeated by Republicans.
Citing the United Nations Human Rights Office, the report estimated that 6,660 civilians have been killed and 10,563 injured in the war, but noted that the real figures are likely to be significantly higher.
On Monday, ahead of this latest report but in the wake of other rebukes by the UN against the coalition’s tactics in the war, Saudi Arabia lashed out by accusing the world body of “bias” against the monarchy in Riyadh.
Also on Monday, the Pentagon offered a tepid statement regarding the ongoing killing of Yemen civilians, including several recent bombings which resulted in the mass slaughter of children.
“Recent events dictated to US military leaders that the situation required special mention and official emphasis during his visit,” Lt Cmdr Rebecca Rebarich, a DOD spokeswoman, told CNN. “Lt. Gen. Garrett delivered a message of concern regarding the recent civilian casualty incident, and on behalf of the US government continued to urge for a thorough and expedited investigation as well as continued emphasis on the reduction of civilian casualties in the Yemeni campaign.”
But as Win Without War responded:
Tough messages are great, but actions speak louder than words. ‘US warns Saudi Arabia it may withdraw support over civilian casualties in Yemen.’
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‘Your Bombs Are Killing Victims Here’:
US-Made Bomb Hit School Bus in
Attack That Killed 40 Yemeni Children
Julia Conley / Common Dreams
(August 18, 2018) — The United States carries direct responsibility for the school bus bombing that killed 40 children in Yemen last week, according to munitions experts who found that the bomb used was sold to Saudi Arabia by the State Department.
CNN reported late Friday that experts and Yemeni journalists had found that the bus exploded after being hit by a Lockheed Martin-produced laser-guided MK 82 bomb.
“This American-made bomb killed them, killed the innocent children,” journalist Ahmad Algohbary said this week, even before CNN verified the report. “Most of these victims were children. Your bombs are killing victims here, are killing children.”
The Trump administration reinstated sales of laser-guided missiles to the Saudis soon after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, months after a bombing by the Saudi coalition of a funeral hall killed 155 Yemenis and led to the Obama administration’s suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
A total of 51 people were killed in the attack, and 79 were wounded.
The bombing was denounced by outspoken critics of the United States’ support of the Saudi-led coalition that has led an airstrike campaign in Yemen since 2015, in support of the government’s war against the Houthis. The US has provided fuel and tactical support to the coalition as well as weapons.
The report confirms what many Yemeni civilians already knew, as evidenced by mourners at the victims’ funeral carrying signs that read “America kills Yemeni children,” according to the Middle East Eye.
On social media, critics doubled down on their condemnation of the United States’ support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen’s civil war, in which 15,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed and injured.
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Treat Saudi Leader as the War Criminal He Is
Daniel Larison / The American Conservative
(September 5, 2018) — Almost ten months after he wrote his gushing love letter to Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Tom Friedman has this to say about the crown prince:
And then there’s Saudi Arabia. I have little doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the only one in his family who would have initiated the vital social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do all at once — and that he is also the only one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do all at once.
These are two halves of the same M.B.S. package, and, as I’ve argued, our job is to help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones. But Trump — who still doesn’t even have an ambassador in Saudi Arabia — is AWOL.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Friedman that one half of the “package” he describes undermines and destroys the other. Suppose for the sake of argument that the de facto Saudi ruler truly wants to pursue these “vital social, religious, and economic reforms.”
Even if that’s true, his intensifying repression, incompetent diplomacy, and reckless belligerence are wrecking or discrediting the few modest changes he has made so far. He has scared off foreign investors and his shakedown purge has contributed to massive capital flight, and everything he does confirms that he doesn’t know what he’s doing or how to go about achieving the grandiose goals he has set for his country.
The same overweening ambition that inspires the “reform” agenda can’t be divorced from the power grabs, crackdowns, and pointless wars. Friedman has spent the last year and a half gasping in excitement about all the things Mohammed bin Salman might do in the future while studiously ignoring the horrific and stupid things he is doing in the present, and even now he is still offering only the mildest criticism.
Friedman says that the US should “curb” the crown prince’s “bad impulses,” but he never says what that would mean in practice or why disciplining the reckless despot should continue to be our responsibility.
US indulgence has encouraged and fed Mohammed bin Salman’s worst impulses for the last several years, and yet I have never once heard or read Friedman demanding that the US end military support or arms sales to the kingdom.
Friedman says that Trump is “AWOL,” but that ignores that Trump has closely embraced the Saudi royals and gives them whatever they want. He also mentions the war on Yemen in passing, but all he can manage to say is that “the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen has been so badly botched by incompetents in the Saudi Air Force that they are now being accused of possible war crimes.” That criticism is as weak as it is belated.
There may be incompetent Saudi and Emirati pilots, but to say that they are the ones that “botched” the war presupposes that there was a way for the Saudis and their allies to attack Yemen successfully that didn’t lead to the current disaster.
Friedman can’t acknowledge that the main problem with the war is that it has always been pursuing unrealistic goals with inadequate means in the prosecution of an unjust military intervention in another country’s conflict, and his golden boy has been the one running the Saudi side of the war from the start.
Saudi coalition forces have been committing war crimes on Mohammed bin Salman’s orders for more than three years, and the crown prince is one of the biggest war criminals currently in power. Saudi war crimes in Yemen haven’t just happened because some pilots “botched” their assignments, but have been part of a deliberate campaign to devastate the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Coalition planes systematically target Yemen’s domestic food production and distribution by bombing farms and fishing boats. Coalition pilots aren’t just “botching” things — they’re carrying out the criminal orders of their superiors.
According to one recent report, the crown prince is quoted as saying this:
“Do not care about international criticism,” Bin Salman is alleged to have told his officers, a reference to the international condemnation of military operations against civilians in Yemen, particularly raids that kill women and children. “We want to leave a big impact on the consciousness of Yemeni generations. We want their children, women and even their men to shiver whenever the name of Saudi Arabia is mentioned.”
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