Home/Daniel Larison/The U.S. Keeps Making Excuses for Saudi Crimes in Yemen

The U.S. Keeps Making Excuses for Saudi Crimes in Yemen

Even after the funeral hall massacre in Sanaa over the weekend, U.S. officials keep making excuses for the Saudi-led coalition:

The official said there was no evidence that the coalition had deliberately tried to hit civilians; rather, the official said, shortcomings in intelligence and targeting procedures were the most likely explanation.

These claims simply aren’t credible. The funeral hall was obviously targeted because there were many high-level political and military officials present for the funeral being held there, and the coalition’s forces attacked the location at least three times in a row to try to kill as many of them as possible. There could be no doubt about the presence of civilians, since the point of bombing the funeral was evidently to strike at the attendees. Even if the site had been struck by mistake, that wouldn’t let the coalition off the hook for violating international law, but everything we know about the attack tells us that it was done on purpose with no regard for the civilians that would be hurt and killed as a result. When the administration is presented with a textbook example of a war crime, their officials shrug and try to deny the obvious. This fits a pattern of statements from U.S. officials that have tried to cover for the crimes that the Saudis and their allies have been committing.

Priyanka Motaparthy wrote about this last week:

According to the Post, US officials say that “errors of capability or competence, not of malice” led to repeated Saudi-led coalition strikes on civilian structures. But how do they know? There have been no serious investigations into allegedly unlawful attacks. Moreover, whether Saudi targeteers were malicious or simply poorly trained does not absolve the government of responsibility. Indiscriminate attacks that fail to distinguish between civilians and military objectives as well as those that cause disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are also illegal under the laws of war.

It would be bad enough if the Saudi-led coalition were hitting so many civilian targets out of incompetence or carelessness, but Saturday’s massacre shows that things are much worse than that. The funeral hall bombing is just the most egregious example of the coalition’s attacks on civilian targets, and it is one that we can safely assume was not an accident.

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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