Home/Daniel Larison/The Indefensible War on Yemen Continues

The Indefensible War on Yemen Continues

Ibrahem Qasim/Flickr: air strike in Sana'a, May 2015

The Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war on Yemen continues, and the U.N. is once again calling attention to the coalition’s war crimes:

Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, warned Friday that a Saudi-led air coalition that is supported by the United States may have committed war crimes by using cluster munitions in heavily populated neighborhoods in Yemen.

The U.N. chief has “received troubling reports of the use of cluster munitions” in several Jan. 6 attacks in Sanaa, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York. “The use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to a war crime due to their indiscriminate nature.”

Human Rights Watch also reported on the use of cluster bombs in the capital last week:

“The coalition’s repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war’s horrors.”

This is only the most recent example of the coalition’s use of cluster munitions in this war. Evidence that the Saudis and their allies have been using cluster bombs appeared within the first few weeks of the intervention. Despite the evidence of the Saudis’ use of such indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, the U.S. continues to aid the Saudis in their war effort, and the administration has avoided publicly criticizing the coalition for its many documented abuses.

Over the weekend, a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Yemen was bombed, and the Saudi-led coalition was almost certainly responsible for that attack as well. The hospital was located in Saada province, which the Saudis illegally declared a military target last year, and witnesses reported seeing coalition aircraft overhead. It is the third medical facility associated with MSF in Yemen to be attacked, and in the other two cases the coalition was also responsible. This comes on the heels of the bombing of a rehabilitation center for the blind.

The coalition not only uses inherently indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, but it has attacked civilian targets with regularity since the bombing started in March. It is not a surprise that most of the civilian casualties in the war have been caused by coalition bombing, since the coalition has repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for civilian life. If anything, the Saudi-led coalition is becoming even more reckless as their failing campaign drags on.

On top of all this, the country’s humanitarian crisis only gets worse as Yemen continues to be strangled by the Saudi-led blockade. The U.N. warned last month that half of the country faces famine. Thirteen million people are at serious risk of starvation in Yemen, and millions more are scarcely faring much better, and the Saudis’ blockade is the chief reason why. This is the indefensible war that the Obama administration has supported unstintingly with weapons, fuel, and intelligence for the last nine and a half months.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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