FOR MONTHS, A CALIFORNIA congressman has been trying to get Obama administration officials to reconsider U.S. backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And for months, he has been given the runaround.
Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Los Angeles County, served in the Air Force and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. The brutal bombing of civilian areas with U.S.-supplied planes and weapons has led him to act when most of his colleagues have stayed silent.
“I taught the law of war when I was on active duty,” he told The Intercept. “You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients — those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians,” he said. “So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.”
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented a slew of war crimes committed by the coalition. Both released reports on incidents in which the coalition bombed civilian areas with cluster bombs that were manufactured in the U.S., U.K., and Brazil. Those munitions are banned by an international treaty signed by 119 countries. (The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are not signatories.)
A report released by a U.N. panel of experts in February offered a more detailed glimpse into the sheer horror. It documented “that the coalition had conducted air strikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”
In June, Lieu, who serves on the House’s oversight and budget committee, joined Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., in introducing H.J. Res. 90, a bill that would bar the transfer of air-to-ground munitions from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have also been critical of U.S. support for the bombing, and introduced the Senate companion to the legislation, S.J. Res. 32.
Both of the bills were referred to their respective chambers’ foreign affairs committees, where they still sit.
On Aug. 8, the U.S. State Department announced to Congress that it had approved a $1.15 billion sale of up to 153 tanks, hundreds of machine guns and more to the kingdom – on top of the approximately $110 billion in arms deals the Obama administration has done in the past. Lieu applauded Paul for pressuring fellow lawmakers to vote against the deal.
Lieu plans “to continue working with a bipartisan group of members to raise the alarm in light of continued Saudi airstrikes on civilians and the newly announced U.S. arms sales,” he said. “We should not be selling Saudi Arabia even more weapons as a result of the carnage that is happening in Yemen.”
“The fact that the administration is even proposing another arms sale suggests to me that the administration is, at best, callously indifferent to the mass amount of civilians dying as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing.”
Lieu warned the U.S. support could backfire. “By aiding a coalition that is killing civilians, the U.S. is going to create another generation of people who hate the U.S. and who are going to want to do very bad things to us,” he said.
Indeed, if anyone has benefitted from Yemen being pounded to rubble, it has been extremist groups. Secretary of Defense Carter and other U.S. government officials warned as early as April 2015 that, in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had “seized the opportunity of the disorder there and the collapse of the central government.”
A year later, Reuters released a detailed report showing “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al-Qaeda stronger — and richer.” The Pentagon even sent a small number of U.S. ground troops into Yemen in April and May, it says to help fight AQAP.
ISIS has also exploited the chaos in Yemen (as it has in Libya, in the wake of the 2011 NATO regime change). Extreme violence, grinding poverty and increasing desperation has pushed Yemenis into the arms of extremists.
Lieu said he worries that the adverse effects of this conflict could be felt for years to come. “It’s actually creating more terrorists by killing all these civilians,” he said.
Northern Yemen: MSF evacuates staff following indiscriminate bombings, unreliable assurances by Saudi-led coalition
Following the August 15 aerial bombing of Abs Hospital in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate, which killed 19 people and injured 24, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has decided to evacuate its staff from the hospitals it supports in Saada and Hajjah governorates in Northern Yemen, concretely Haydan, Razeh, Al Gamouri, Yasnim hospitals in Saada and Abs and Al Gamouri hospitals in Hajjah. The attack on the Abs hospital is the fourth and deadliest on any MSF-supported facility during this war and here have been countless attacks on other health facilities and services all over Yemen.
Since the suspension of the peace talks between the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) and the Houthi forces in Kuwait 11 days ago, the SLC has resumed an intensified campaign in Northern Yemen.
Over the last 8 months, MSF has met with high ranking SLC officials on two occasions in Riyadh to secure humanitarian and medical assistance for Yeminis, as well as to seek assurances that attacks on hospitals would end. Aerial bombings have however continued, despite the fact that MSF has systematically shared the GPS coordinates of hospitals in which we work with the parties involved in the conflict. Coalition officials repeatedly state that they honor international humanitarian law, yet this attack shows a failure to control the use of force and to avoid attacks on hospitals full of patients. MSF is neither satisfied nor reassured by the Saudi-led coalition's statement that this attack was a mistake.
Edited by cade, 23 August 2016 - 01:32 AM.