– Quote by Philippe Le Billon.
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” – Major General Smedley Butler
We last published an action on Yemen on 3/15/18. Back then, Trump had just tweet-fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and proposed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Tea-Party conservative, torture-supporter and relentless anti-Muslim bigot, in his place, and Yemenis were starving and dying of cholera. (Background from that column included at the bottom.) That’s still happening.
This is where we are now:
- Children were targeted: Last Thursday, a U.S.-backed Saudi airstrike killed 44 children. In a school bus. On the way home from field trip.
- Business as usual: This was just one of more than 50 airstrikes THIS YEAR. The Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) has only admitted Saudi error in 2 of 75 incidents involving civilian casualties.
- Hitting civilians is a feature, not a bug…: Strike rates on civilian, non-military targets average 33%.
- Hey, we better go check on this: US Defense secretary, James Matti sent a US 3-star general to inspect the bus bombing because…
- It’s now the law…: The defense spending bill Trump just signed includes a clause that Pompeo must certify that Saudi Arabia and UAE aren’t targeting civilians or lose our help refueling their warplanes. Trump has raised objections to 52 provisions of the new law, including that measure.
- Too late, we’re already complicit in war crimes!: Specifically Article 14 of Additional Protocol II and customary international laws that prohibit warring parties from attacking indispensable civilian resources and/or using starvation as a weapon of war. Also from hindering humanitarian aid and workers.
- Nothing to see here: Trump hasn’t mentioned this attack, nor has Pompeo after talking to the Saudi crown prince.
- Nothing to see here – part 2: Saudi Arabia is the biggest single buyer of arms from the US and the UK. Raytheon is currently lobbying to sell 60,000 precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in a multi-billion dollar deal. Maybe that’ll help them get ALL the kids next time.
- Making new friends everywhere we go!: Said the father of one of the survivors who escaped with a broken leg. “America is the head of evil, as well as the Saudi regime and the mercenaries of the Saudi regime.”
- Update 8/17/18: It is confirmed. It was our bomb, made by Lockheed Martin. It was similar to the one used in the funeral hall bombing in October 2016 that led President Obama to ban selling the Saudis precision-guided military technology. Trump overturned the ban in March 2017.
Action – Do what we did before, but LOUDER!
We need to do more than refuse to refuel their planes. We need to stop supporting the Saudi war machine entirely. S.J.Res. 54 – A “joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” was tabled forever on March 20th by a vote of 55-44. But the votes are creeping up – two years ago, only 27 senators would vote against the Saudis. 44 child-size coffins are asking us to try this again.
Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep./Sen. [___] to do what is necessary to end all U.S. assistance for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
More script if you want it: This is an unauthorized war, and in enabling warfare against Yemen’s sick and starving population, we’ve become complicit in war crimes.
Contact your Legislator
Rep. Julia Brownley: email (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Contacts: https://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com
Background – How did we get dragged into this mess?
- Define our terms: The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was designed specifically to fight the terrorist groups responsible for the September 11 attacks, like al-Quada.
- AUMF run-around: However, for 16 years, presidents have been the using AUMF as an executive-branch permission slip to engage in military actions without oversight of Congress.
- The stage is set: Yemen has been involved in a civil war since 2015, instigated by religious differences, unemployment and food insecurity. What got the attention of the Saudis, and then us, was the Houthis, a separatist group from the south, taking over the capital of Sana’a and the Yemeni government.
- A coalition is born: In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and a coalition of predominantly Arab states, convinced that the Houthis were being helped by Iran to get a foothold closer to their borders, launched a military intervention in Yemen in order to drive the Houthi rebels back from the capital of Saana.
- The U.S. joins in: In November 2015, using the AUMF, Obama stepped up to aid our problematic ally, Saudi Arabia and their coalition by supporting the bombing campaign, as well as including providing tanker aircraft to refuel Saudi coalition jets in midair. The Obama Administration notifed Congress of a $1.3 billion sale of precision guided air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia.
- Humanitarian warnings: Several members of Congress, including Sen. Corker (T-TN) and Sen. Cardin (D-MD) questioned the sales, expressing concern both about violations of humanitarian law and the possibility that the Saudi-led campaign was complicating efforts to combat Al-Qaida. They started to require more assurances that civilians were being protected. (pg. 4: B. Shift to Reduced Sales in 2016)
- We partially withdraw: As civilian deaths mounted, Obama scaled back support in May 2016, halting the sale of cluster bombs and also halting a $400 million transfer of precision guided missiles, citing what one U.S. official called “systemic, endemic” problems with how the Saudi military chose targets in Yemen. The administration admitted that the coalition had “no justification” for a strike that hit a funeral home, killing 100 civilians.
- It isn’t that easy: Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the war in Yemen did not have a military solution.
- We need to rethink this: Obama, at the end of his term, cautioned that in the Middle East “no external power is going to be able to force different religious communities or ethnic communities to co-exist for long.” Across the region, “we have to insist that all parties recognize a common humanity and that nations end proxy wars that fuel disorder.”
So, hard lessons learned. A new Vietnam. So what is Trump doing to help?Embed from Getty Images
- He doubled down: In Jan. 2017, the administration approved a $525 million observation balloon to SA. He then helped sell the Saudis nearly $110 billion in arms on May 19, 2017. Aide Gary Cohn stated that the deals represented “a lot of money. Big dollars. Big dollars.” The weapons sale, one of the largest in history, included tanks, artillery, radar systems, armored personnel carriers, Blackhawk helicopters, ships, patrol boats, Patriot missiles, and THAAD missile defense systems.
- Those pesky laws!: On that same day, the American Bar Association sent the Senate a letter outlining how the U.S. was now in violation of both the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA) and the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) ( 22 U.S.C. § 2151) by selling arms to a country that engages in gross human rights violations domestically and against other countries.
- OK, starving kids is bad: In Dec. 2017, Trump felt enough pressure to ask his friends to remove their blockades of Yemeni ports in order to allow critically needed supplies to reach the besieged population of the country, which has been ravaged by civil war and famine.
- “Did you just say that?”: Todd Young (R-IN) sent Trump a letter stating that, by asking his friends to stop committing human rights violations, Trump had unwittingly triggered a legal prohibition on assistance to Saudi Arabi per 22 U.S. Code §2378–1(a) says, “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”
- The Saudis say “make us”: Meanwhile, the March 1, 2018 Critical Threats Report noted that the Saudi-led coalition Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) is hindering humanitarian efforts by diverting cargo away from al Houthi ports, according to the UN.
So how bad is it in Yemen now? (from 3/18 post)
The Yemen civil war has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. At least 10,000 people have died, with more than 40,000 injured—and most of those killed or wounded are civilians. It has caused a massive famine with more than 8 million on the brink of starvation and has created the conditions necessary for the small country to become home to the largest and fastest-growing cholera crisis ever documented in modern history.
Is America now complicit in war crimes?
- Targeting civilians in airstrikes is a war crime. A recent project to track all Saudi airstrikes estimated that a full third have hit civilian sites that were supposed to be off limits, including schools, hospitals, weddings, markets, and sanitation systems. They have blocked efforts at the UN to establish an independent human-rights investigation and when they were listed on a UN annex for killing children in airstrikes, Riyadh threatened to cut funding to the UN. They have tried to excuse the bombing of civilians in a market in 2016 by offering a humanitarian aid package to Yemen that aid groups, like the Norwegian Refugee Council, have noted is insufficient to undo the damage done by the Saudi-led bombing and blockade of the country.
- Using starvation as a weapon against civilians is a war crime. Saudi-led coalition has sealed off key naval ports in a blockade, preventing desperately-needed food, medicine and other assistance from getting into Yemen. The UN has stated that Saudi Arabia—and by extension the United States—is using starvation as a weapon of war.
Is this all one big Vietnam-size nightmare?
- Terrorists love a power vacuum. Although the U.S has been waging a drone war in Yemen for years, the unrelenting chaos of this civil war has allowed terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, our original targets, to gain more power and land.
- Wait a minute – what team are you on? Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been fighting alongside the government and Saudi-led coalition forces against Houthi rebels, which means that the U.S. is arming, supplying, etc. the same side as al-Qaeda and has essentially become their de-facto ally. Awesome!
- Yemen now has a “war-based” economy of “security” payments, militia checkpoint “taxes”, gun-running and bribery. A Yemeni researcher said “…big money is being made and if the war ends the money stops. So why stop now?’
- Nobody has an exit strategy. (atlantic)(aljazeera)
- We’ve made lots of new enemies who hold us responsible for their country’s devastation.
- How can the US bring an end to the war in Yemen (cnn)
- US moves forward with multibillion dollar “smart bomb” sale to Saudi Arabia and UAE despite civilian deaths in Yemen. (intercept)
- Yemeni Peace Project (YPP)
- Mike Pompeo at State would enable Trump’s worst instincts (Atlantic)
- What’s really at stake for America in Yemen’s Conflict. (Atlantic)
- Watch members of Congress attempt to explain why they won’t vote on war in Yemen (intercept)
- Saudi Arabia’s arms deals are buying the West’s silence over Yemen, activists allege (wapo)
- Yemen, the graveyard of the Obama doctrine (atlantic)
- The New York Times, “Young Yemeni Girl Is Sole Survivor After Airstrike Topples Her Home,” Aug. 26, 2017.
- Bethan McKernan, “Yemen: almost one death per hour as cholera epidemic spreads like wildfire,” Independent, June 9, 2017.
- Robert Naiman, “Rand Paul: Unconstitutional Saudi War In Yemen Is Not In Our Interest, And Congress Should Vote,” HuffPost, Sept. 18, 2017.
- Joost Hiltermann, “The Houthis Are Not Hezbollah,” ForeignPolicy, Feb. 27, 2017.
- Samuel Oakford, “U.S. Doubled Fuel Support for Saudi Bombing Campaign in Yemen After Deadly Strike on Funeral,” The Intercept, July 13, 2017.