Lee Fang cornered some senators at the Washington Ideas Forum and pressed them to comment on Saudi war crimes in Yemen. The exchange with McCain is damning for the senator:
“They may be bombing civilians, which is actually not true,” McCain said, when asked about civilian casualties in Yemen.
“Civilians aren’t dying?” I asked.
“No, they’re not [bold mine-DL],” the senator replied. “Oh, I’m sure civilians die in war. Not nearly as many as the Houthis have executed,” McCain continued, referring to the Shiite militia waging an insurgency against the Sunni government in Yemen.
Asked about the recent reports of Saudi forces bombing a wedding party in Yemen, McCain said, “I’m sure in wars terrible things happen and the Houthis however are an extremist group backed by the Iranians who are slaughtering Yemenis.”
As Fang correctly notes, U.N. officials have just this week stated that the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes are responsible for a large majority of the civilian deaths in Yemen. They have also called attention to the ruinous effects of the coalition’s blockade, which is bringing the country to the brink of famine. McCain’s dismissive comments about the thousands of civilians killed and wounded by Saudi-led, U.S.-backed bombing are appalling in both their ignorance and their contempt for innocent life. McCain is either completely uninformed about what is happening in Yemen and repeating the official Saudi line, or he is knowingly reciting dishonest pro-Saudi talking points. Either way, McCain has outdone himself here in denying coalition war crimes in Yemen.
Both sides in Yemen are guilty of war crimes, but it is simply a fact that the Saudi-led coalition has done significantly more harm to the country and caused more civilian deaths and more destruction than their enemies. One of the reasons that the Saudi-led war and its U.S. backing receive no scrutiny here in the U.S. is that so many of our political leaders are indifferent to or supportive of the campaign. McCain distinguishes himself as one of the most shameless and disgraceful supporters of the war on Yemen. I have had a pretty low opinion of McCain for a long time, but today it just sank a little lower.
McCain is a perfect example of the double standard that so-called “humanitarian” interventionists apply when it comes to military intervention and protecting the lives of civilians. If a hostile or pariah government commits human rights abuses, McCain is the first to demand that the U.S. “do something,” and if it is the U.S. or a client that does the same thing McCain will be first to make excuses and to shift the blame.