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Wilful Blindness: US-Saudi War Criminals at the Same Trough in Yemen
It is said for the powerful, war crimes are those that others commit. This time around, though, the rule no longer applies to the War Party in Washington.
Repeating what human rights groups and international aid agencies have been saying and reporting for several months now, US lawmakers have joined the international civil society in warning that the United States may be violating laws of war ‘if US personnel are not aware if targets are civilian or military, or if the operation is even militarily necessary’.
Rep. Ted Lieu is warning the Obama administration that US military personnel could be prosecuted for war crimes for their role in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombings of Yemen.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Lieu says, “American assistance in mid-air refuelling and other military support has enabled the Saudi-led coalition to bomb hospitals, schools, and civilian populations” in broad violation of international law.
There’s a bigger story here, though: The United States has, since March 2015, been actively participating in the ongoing war against Yemen, providing valuable logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing of civilian objects. Given the high number of civilian casualties, further support from the United States for this unnecessary war (emphasis here) is therefore indefensible. After all, this has even galvanised members of Congress, especially Rep. Lieu, to “stop the madness” of US support for the war.
Another argument here, also, is that the US has advanced knowledge of what targets will be struck by jets that are refuelled by its personnel with tankers. Its Air Force is providing drone-fed logistical and intelligence support, including “target selection and review,” for Saudi bombers. So it is rather odd for Rep. Lieu to write that US personnel have no advanced knowledge of the bombing runs!
As has been widely reported and documented by human rights groups and aid agencies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council, the US is directly engaged in military operations with the Saudi-led coalition that directly result in the use of force on civilian targets in Yemen. With its wilful blindness, the US is also violating international standards by engaging in such direct military operations because its personnel are aware that targets are civilian, the loss of life and property are disproportional, and the operation is militarily unnecessary.
Now that this relationship has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of Rep. Lieu’s letter, it is important to also remember that the Obama administration approved a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings that it could implicate the US in war crimes.
The high number of civilian casualties even prompted the US to launch a “review” of its support for the kingdom of terror. The Department of State warned the government that “the United States could be implicated in war crimes” for aiding the criminal campaign.
All this and more opens up the US military to accountability anyhow. The US supports the war, and as maintained by current and former officials, that makes Washington a co-belligerent in the war under international law. They maintain that American officials are actually well aware that airstrikes are killing civilians.
Whether this is about weak intelligence and airstrikes going awry, or are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles, is not the point here. The final point is this:
The War Party’s defence of its involvement in the dirty war has little credibility among the international civil society, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague. All US personnel involved, therefore, should be investigated and prosecuted for committing war crimes. They are guilty of aiding and abetting Saudi war crimes in the poorest country in the Arab world.