As the campaign circus goes on across the United States, U.S. bombs are killing civilians in Yemen, potentially making the United States complicit in war crimes. Last weekend’s bombing of a funeral is only the latest and most dramatic case. The funeral in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, had been announced in advance. Saudi warplanes hit hard, twice. Then, after first responders arrived on the scene to help victims, the bombers returned to hit them two more times. The bombers killed at least 140 people and wounded 525 more. One rescuer described the scene as “a lake of blood.”
“Multiple bomb fragments at the scene appear to confirm the use of American-produced MK-82 guided bombs. One fragment, posted in a picture on the Facebook page of a prominent Yemeni lawyer, says ‘FOR USE ON MK-82 FIN, GUIDED BOMB.’ …
“The MK-82 is a 500-pound explosive weapon manufactured in the United States. The code ‘96214’ indicates that the bomb was produced by Raytheon, the third-largest defense contractor in the United States.”
The United States has been funding and arming Saudi Arabia, with more than $22 billion in weapons sales since March 2015. The United States provides logistical support and refueling to the Saudi air force that carries out bombing raids, which have killed more than 2,400 civilians. (The total civilian death toll exceeds 4,000.)
The war in Yemen started with conflict between Hadi and Houthi groups inside Yemen. Then, Vox explains:
“[The] Saudis saw the rise of an Iranian-backed militant group in their backyard as a threat — and decided to intervene to stop them. In March 2015, the Saudis announced the formation of a coalition of Sunni-majority Arab countries aimed at reinstalling the Hadi government throughout Yemen.”
(See the Vox article for a detailed background on the war.)
Besides the bombing, Saudi Arabia has blockaded food deliveries, a particularly painful act of war against the region’s poorest country, which imports 90 percent of its food. The United Nations warns that 370,000 children suffer severe malnutrition, a million and a half children are going hungry, and more than half of the 28 million Yemenis lack sufficient food.
Reuters explains why both the bombings of civilians and the blockades could constitute war crimes:
“The Law of Armed Conflict, a group of international laws and treaties, prohibits attacks on civilians and requires combatants to minimize civilian death and damage.”
An attack on a funeral seems to me likely to maximize civilian death and damage. So does a food blockade.
After the funeral attack, missiles were fired toward U.S. warships from Houthi-held territory. Retaliation was swift: U.S. bombs hit three Houthi radar installations. That doesn’t sound like de-escalation.
According to the Reuters article, some U.S. officials are worried that the United States could be considered a “co-belligerent,” and thus bear responsibility for war crimes against civilians:
“U.S. refueling and logistical support of Riyadh’s air force – even more than the arms sales – risked making the United States a party to the Yemen conflict under international law, three officials said.”
In September, the U.S. Senate refused to halt a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. After the October 8 funeral bombing, U.S. officials said support of Saudi Arabia “is not a blank check.” Words are cheap. They don’t stop bombs And they don’t absolve the United States of responsibility.
Nor do they absolve you and me. Pete Seeger’s song, “My Name is Lisa Kalvelage” tells the true story of a German war bride, whose first reaction to the Nuremberg trials is dismissive:
It seemed to me ridiculous to hold a nation all to blame
For the horrors that the world did undergo
Later, when she emigrates to the United States, Lisa cannot escape questions:
I must have been asked a hundred times where I was and what I did
In those years when Hitler ruled our state
I said I was a child or at most a teen-ager …
They’d ask, where were my parents, my father, my mother
And to this I could answer not a thing.
And so she begins a lifetime of protest, first getting arrested as she stops a shipment of napalm destined for Vietnam. Her activism continued until her death in 2009 at the age of 85. The final stanza of the song haunts me:
The events of May 25th, the day of our protest,
Put a small balance weight on the other side
Hopefully, someday my contribution to peace
Will help just a bit to turn the tide
And perhaps I can tell my children six
And later on their own children
That at least in the future they need not be silent
When they are asked, Where was your mother, when?
x x x x x x
And if you do not want to be silent:
- President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
- Senator Al Franken: https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=email_al
- Senator Amy Klobuchar: https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/email-amy
Dear President Obama:
U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s bombing in Yemen must stop. For as long as it continues, we are complicit in war crimes.
Stop U.S. refueling and logistical support for Saudi war planes.
Stop U.S. support of the blockade of food for Yemen.
Stop U.S. sale of bombs and other weapons to Saudi Arabia.