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The Indefensible War on Yemen

Belkis Wille reports on what she saw in Yemen’s Saada province, all of which the Saudis illegally declared a military target last month:

Based on what I saw in Saada, the coalition airstrikes are affecting and killing civilians in ways that are hard to justify, even accepting the harsh reality of conflict. The coalition, and countries providing it military support, have strict obligations not only not to deliberately target civilians — a war crime — but also not to carry out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks that lead to civilian deaths and harm.

Wille is certainly right that the coalition governments have these obligations. However, the Saudis already made clear with their designation of Saada province as a military target that they never had any intention of keeping any of those obligations. The indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas in Saada have not been unintended consequences of the bombing campaign, but have been part of the campaign’s design. These attacks are aimed at punishing the civilian population of the province for what the Houthis are doing elsewhere in the country. It is an outrageous tactic in an indefensible war, and one that our government would presumably be condemning if the U.S. weren’t actively helping the Saudis with their campaign. That campaign is failing at everything except inflicting suffering and death on the civilian population, and it shows no signs of halting anytime soon.

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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