Kevin Martin / AntiWar.com & Jonathan Landay / Reuters – 2018-09-14 00:23:56
US Support for the Bombing of Yemen To Continue, for Now
Kevin Martin / AntiWar.com
(September 14, 2018) — On September 12, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially certified [that] Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “. . . are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”
This is required to allow US planes to continue refueling jets for the Saudi/UAE coalition, without which it could not keep dropping bombs on targets in Yemen. Secretary of Defense James Mattis concurred with Pompeo, though congressional legislation required only Pompeo’s say-so.
Anyone who follows international news could be excused for accidentally spitting out their morning coffee at Pompeo’s statement. Among many attacks on civilian targets in Yemen, last month’s bombing of a school bus in a market district, which killed 51 people including 40 children, was among the most horrific, so much so that even Saudi Arabia admitted it was “unjustified.”
Of course, the Saudi regime should not be allowed to merely get away with investigating itself (indeed, Human Rights Watch released a 90-page report which is highly critical of the Saudi-UAE coalition’s investigations into its attacks, particularly on civilians).
That bombing, which shocked the conscience of the global community, was only the latest massacre of civilians in Yemen. In 2016, Saudi attacks on a market and funeral hall killed 252 people. In response, the Obama Administration halted the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, citing human rights concerns, but then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson overturned the ban in March, 2017.
The humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is considered the world’s worst at this moment, with well over 10,000 people having been killed (an estimated 20 percent are children) and 15 million of the total Yemeni population of 23 million considered “food insecure,” according to the United Nations. Add in the planet’s worst outbreak of cholera in some time, affecting over a million people, and one gets a picture of the dire situation since the civil war began in 2015.
The United States is the number-one weapons dealer in the world, and Saudi Arabia is our biggest customer, having purchased more than $100 billion in armaments since 2010.
The bombs in all three attacks cited above were built by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons manufacturer and the largest US government contractor of any kind, with net sales of more than $13 billion in just the second quarter of this year. It’s not hyperbole to state Lockheed makes a killing, in more ways than one.
Earlier this year, the US Senate attempted to intervene to stop US in-air refueling of Saudi jets and other logistical, intelligence and targeting support. The bipartisan measure, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) failed on a procedural vote, 55 to 44.
Similar proposals also fell short in the House of Representatives, but peace- and human rights-minded House leaders, led by Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and others will soon try again to stop US support for the slaughter, thinking the school bus bombing may have shocked some hearts and may change some minds.
Concerned individuals should contact their House member and demand they support this common sense effort to cease US participation in this tragedy, without which the Saudi-led coalition could not continue and would likely be forced to negotiate more seriously with the Houthi-backed government.
Unfortunately, this conflict is depicted as part of a regional Sunni-Shia supremacy struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which supports the Houthis, but the people of Yemen need the nightmare to end, regardless of geostrategic politics.
Another, more long-term action people of conscience can undertake is to ensure one’s investments or other financial instruments do not benefit Lockheed Martin and other weapons contractors profiting from endless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Code Pink, Peace Action, American Friends Service Committee and dozens of organizations support the Divest from the War Machine campaign, where one can find out more about how to divest individual or organizational holdings from the arms merchants.
Another good resource, focused on divestment from nuclear weapons manufacturers, which in general are also the largest weapons makers overall, is Don’t Bank on the Bomb.
Divestment is an important long-term strategy, and a strong moral statement. However, Congress can act now, and must.
Kevin Martin, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is President of Peace Action Education Fund, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization with more than 200,000 supporters nationwide.
Pompeo Says Saudi, UAE
Trying to Avoid Civilian Harm in Yemen
Jonathan Landay / Reuters
WASHINGTON (September 12, 2018) — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he certified to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were working to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen, avoiding a limitation on US help for its ally Saudi Arabia.
Without the certification, US tanker aircraft would have been restricted in the refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducting strikes against Houthi rebels backed by Iran.
Pompeo’s decision drew the derision of critics of the Saudi-led air campaign, which has long been denounced even by Western allies for the number of civilian casualties it has caused and for driving Yemen to the brink of famine.
The three-year-old war in Yemen, widely seen as a proxy battle between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed more than 10,000 people.
Pompeo said in a statement he advised Congress on Tuesday that “the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”
A number of factors underpinned Pompeo’s decision, including the Saudi-led coalition’s admission of blame and agreement to compensate the victims of an Aug. 9 air strike on a bus that killed dozens of people, including 40 children, a State Department official said.
The coalition also has pledged to hold accountable those responsible for the air strike, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE have continued supporting UN efforts to find a political settlement to the conflict, said the official, who requested anonymity.
But some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed back.
“Pompeo’s ‘certification’ is a farce. The Saudis deliberately bombed a bus full of children. There is only one moral answer, and that is to end our support for their intervention in Yemen,” Democratic US Representative Ro Khanna said in a post on Twitter.
Republican Representative Justin Amash said the United States should stop selling weapons and providing military assistance to Saudi Arabia.
“This war in Yemen is unconscionable, and the United States should not be a party to it,” Amash said on Twitter.
US lawmakers, concerned about a growing humanitarian disaster in Yemen, required Pompeo to certify by Wednesday that the Saudis and the UAE were taking meaningful measures to reduce civilian casualties and allow humanitarian aid deliveries.
Without the move by Pompeo, US aircraft would have been barred from refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft in mid-air except when they were striking Yemeni factions of al Qaeda and Islamic State, the Houthis’ use of ballistic missiles, or protecting US military units and international commercial shipping.
Larry Lewis, a former State Department adviser to Saudi Arabia on reducing civilian casualties, called Pompeo’s statement “objectively false.”
“There’s more that can be done,” Lewis, now the director of the Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence at the CNA, a Washington think tank, wrote in an email. “Whether the US government is willing to do more is another matter.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he backed Pompeo’s finding.
Saudi Arabia is leading a Western-backed alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab states to try to restore the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Iran-aligned Houthis in 2015.
An attempt to convene UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva collapsed last weekend after the Houthi delegation failed to show up for three days.
The United States and other Western powers provide arms and intelligence to the alliance. Human rights groups have criticized them over coalition air strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.
The Pentagon believes that its assistance, which includes refueling coalition jets and training in targeting, helps reduce civilian casualties.
Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Idrees Ali
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.