New York, NY. Donald Trump would love to close the book on his first major military operation, a raid in Yemen that turned into a village-wide massacre, killing over 25 people, including 10 children. But the ACLU has just filed a lawsuit to force the government to open its files.
The residents of al Ghayil village in central Yemen heard gunfire the night of January 29, they returned fire, thinking that they were under attack by a local party in Yemen’s civil war. American forces then strafed the village with helicopter gunfire, killing villagers, damaging a dozen buildings, and wiping out livestock.
The attack, which Trump authorized while eating dinner, also resulted in the death of an American soldier, William “Ryan” Owens, and the destruction of a $70 million Osprey helicopter. The raid did not kill its intended target, a senior Al Qaeda leader and villagers denied that Al Qaeda was even in the village.
The administration has been reluctant to share details about the raid. The Pentagon conducted three internal reviews, looking into the death of Owens, the loss of the Osprey, and civilian causalities. The ACLU filed suit against the Trump administration to try and uncover basic information about the raid, who was killed, how the raid was approved, and its legal basis.
Hina Shamsi director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said that internal documents are essential to understanding the real story behind how the military decided to attack the village, without White House spin.
The White House has been loosening civilian casualty rules put in place by Obama back in 2013, when he adopted guidelines requiring “near certainty non-combatants will not be injured or killed” before conducting drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. This was done after Obama himself mistakenly bombed a wedding procession later that year in Yemen killing 43 people.
The Trump administration has reportedly exempted parts of Yemen from those rules entirely, in an effort to bomb Al Qaeda more aggressively. This move has allowed Trump to dramatically increase the pace of bombing. So far, the Trump administration has conducted drone strikes in Yemen at a rate five times higher than Obama.