Defense Secretary Mattis held a rare press conference earlier today. He was asked more than once about U.S. support for the war on Yemen, but each time he repeated some version of the same discredited excuses he has used for months:
Mattis rejects the notion that US efforts haven’t helped prevent civilian deaths in Yemen. Says there aren’t news reports when Saudi coalition pilots exercise restraint.
— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) August 28, 2018
As I said when I saw this, this is an infuriating and ridiculous response to a very important question. Civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes have increased in the last year, so clearly the coalition is getting worse rather than better when it comes to avoiding civilian casualties. The repeated slaughters of civilians when there is no legitimate military target anywhere nearby show that the coalition is not even seriously trying to avoid them. According to the Yemen Data Project, roughly one-third of coalition attacks are on non-military targets. That rate has remained consistent throughout the war. There is no noticeable improvement in coalition targeting, and more civilians are dying from coalition attacks than before. There is no evidence to support Mattis’ contention that the U.S. has helped prevent civilian deaths, and the evidence that our support has enabled numerous war crimes is substantial.
The biggest problem with Mattis’ position is that the coalition depends on U.S. support to conduct their bombing campaign. Our government can’t pretend that it is limiting the damage when it is providing the coalition with the weapons and refueling they need to continue the bombing. The surest way to reduce the harm done to Yemeni civilians would be to pull the plug on the entire operation. It appears that Trump and Mattis still have no intention of doing anything like that, and so we are treated to more absurd excuses that our government isn’t involved in a war that could not be fought without its assistance.