On Saturday, Reuters obtained a report conducted by U.N. experts advising the U.N. Security Council that the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition’s attacks in Yemen “may amount to war crimes.” The report investigated ten coalition air strikes between March and October that killed over 292 civilians, including some 100 women and children.
“In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence that the air strikes had targeted legitimate military objectives,”the experts wrote. “For all 10 investigations, the panel considers it almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack…The panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.”
Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Out of all of these countries wreaking havoc on Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, only Sudan makes Trump’s ban list of refugees. Yemen, the victim of the onslaught, also makes the list.
Even before the start of the Saudi-led war in March 2015, Yemen was already suffering a humanitarian crisis, including widespread hunger and poverty. Over 14 million people are starving, and seven million of them do not know where they will get their next meal.
To date, the Saudi-led coalition has struck over 100 hospitals, including MSF (Doctors without Borders)-run hospitals. The coalition has struck wedding parties; factories; food trucks; funerals; schools; refugee camps; and residential communities.
According to Martha Mundy, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, the Saudi coalition has also been hitting agricultural land. Noting just 2.8 percent of Yemen’s land is cultivated, she argued that “[t]o hit that small amount of agricultural land, you have to target it.”
Further, she pointed out that the Saudi coalition “was and is targeting intentionally food production, not simply agriculture in the fields.” This direct attack on civilian infrastructure comes in tandem with a blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia that has created a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.
The coalition has also been caught using banned munitions, including British-made cluster bombs, meaning that unnecessary losses and excessive suffering have been exacted (another apparent war crime).
As a result, more than three million Yemeni civilians have been displaced, according to the U.N. This is exactly how and why refugee crises happen in the first place — unnecessary war and suffering at the hands of the rich and powerful players on the world stage.
But what does this have to do with the United States? This is Saudi Arabia’s problem, not America’s. Right?
The support the U.S. has given to Saudi Arabia to enable these war crimes is quite extensive. According to the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, U.S. and U.K. officials sit in the command and control center to coordinate air strikes on Yemen. They have access to lists of targets. The Obama administration provided airborne fuel tankers and thousands of advanced munitions.
In addition to regularly drone-striking Yemen, killing countless civilians in the process, the U.S. has also provided intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition that has been gathered from reconnaissance drones flying over Yemen. In arms sales, the U.S. has made an absolute killing – quite literally. So much so that in December 2016 the Obama administration was forced to halt a planned arms sale to Saudi Arabia because of the mounting civilian death toll. It is hard to get an exact figure on the amount of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but as it stands, it was well over $115 billion during just Obama’s eight years as president .
The Obama administration was also well aware of the inexperience of the Saudi-led coalition in conducting wartime operations. As the New York Times reported:
“The first problem was the ability of Saudi pilots, who were inexperienced in flying missions over Yemen and fearful of enemy ground fire. As a result, they flew at high altitudes to avoid the threat below. But flying high also reduced the accuracy of their bombing and increased civilian casualties, American officials said.
“American advisers suggested how the pilots could safely fly lower, among other tactics. But the airstrikes still landed on markets, homes, hospitals, factories and ports, and are responsible for the majority of the 3,000 civilian deaths during the yearlong war, according to the United Nations.”
America has played its part in this war. But what about Iran? They are allegedly arming the rebels in Yemen to provoke Saudi Arabia, so they should face some of the blame — right?
According to the U.N. experts, this highly perpetuated propaganda is not even remotely true.
“The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture,” the experts stated.
Okay, fine. But that was Obama. Donald J. Trump clearly has new and improved plans for foreign policy and immigration and for dealing with refugees across the board. Correct?
Well, not really. Barely hours after his inauguration, the military conducted drone strikes in Yemen. This is in light of the fact that former drone operators wrote an open letter to Barack Obama claiming the drone program is the single most effective recruitment tool for groups like ISIS. Then, on top of these drone strikes, Trump ordered a raid involving Navy SEALs that reportedly killed at least one eight-year-old girl, as well.
Refugees don’t appear out of thin air. While Trump uses refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations as a scapegoat for the inner turmoil facing the United States and other Western nations, his policies will only help exacerbate the refugee crisis, leaving parts of Europe and the wider Middle East to deal with the fallout.
By all means, close your doors to Yemen — but only after you withdraw all your personnel, equipment, aircraft, and material and financial support for war crimes committed in one of the world’s poorest countries. Until then, the least one can do is welcome with open arms those who are fleeing a horrific war conducted by an inexperienced, cowardly, violent coalition to avoid further radicalization of those civilians innocently caught up in geopolitically motivated wars.