It is being reported that at least 33 people have been killed in Yemen as the result of Saudi-led coalition strikes that hit a wedding on Sunday, April 22, 2018. This comes just days after 20 civilians were killed when the vehicle they were traveling in was hit by another Saudi-led coalition airstrike.
But that’s okay, it wasn’t chemical-laden weapons that killed these civilians. These were weapons likely sold to the Saudis by the US and the UK. So don’t worry about it when Reuters reports:
“The head of Al Jumhouri hospital in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies, most of them torn to pieces, and that 46 people had been injured, including 30 children, in air strikes that hit a wedding gathering.”
“The attack hit a car transporting 20 passengers south of Taiz province, locals told Reuters. Six bodies had been identified but the rest were charred beyond recognition, they added.”
Let’s just continue to allow the US and UK to sell Saudi Arabia weapons. Let’s continue to refuel their warplanes so they can keep dropping those bombs. I mean, just think of the profits. And, let’s continue to help the Saudi-led coalition select its targets because clearly that’s working.
Don’t worry that the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterras has stated that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. “As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people—three quarters of the population—need humanitarian aid and protection.” Don’t worry about the starvation, the cholera and diarrhea, the six children under the age of five that die from preventable causes every hour. Just don’t pay any attention at all to what Gutteras has to say.
“Civilians have been facing indiscriminate attacks, bombing, snipers, unexploded ordnance, cross-fire, kidnapping, rape and arbitrary detention.”
But that’s okay. It’s our ally committing many of these atrocities after all. So, don’t worry about it.
According to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the US has conducted some 50 airstrikes in Yemen from February 28 through last week. And last weekend, after numerous strikes in eastern Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the total now stands at 70, according to Captain Davis.
Bill Roggio wrote in his April 4, 2017 Long War Journal post that the total number of US airstrikes in Yemen since the beginning of the year is more than 75, which he notes is “already nearly double the yearly total since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009.” He adds that “the previous record number of airstrikes conducted by the US in Yemen in any one year was 41 in 2009.”
(Just a reminder, the United States is not at war with Yemen. For more on how the US justifies such strikes outside of areas it is actively at war, read what I wrote here.)
Yemen has been in the midst of a brutal war with Saudi Arabia for nearly two years. Adam Johnson writes in a February 27, 2017 FAIR article that the war has “left over 10,000 dead, 40,000 wounded, 2.5 million internally displaced, 2.2 million children suffering from malnutrition and over 90 percent of civilians in need of humanitarian aid.”
His article goes on to discuss the threat of famine Yemen faces as a result of the war that has received media attention lately. Johnson rightfully points out that the major media outlets ignore the role of the US in the crisis. He concludes his article with this:
A first step to putting political pressure on Trump to mitigate the suffering in Yemen is for the US public to speak out about their government’s role—a condition unlikely to be met if corporate media never bother to mention it.
Another question the media rarely raises is what these airstrikes ultimately accomplish. Captain Davis stated that “we continue to target AQAP in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting a terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States.”
That vague explanation does not address the threat of increasing the ranks of the very terrorist organization we are attacking. In a September 2, 2014 report for Yemen Times, Ali Abulohoom discusses the PTSD experienced by Yemeni citizens as a result of drone strikes, as well as the continuous fear of future strikes that they live with. He also writes of another effect of airstrikes.
The article states, “it is well-known that animosity against the United States is mounting as the attacks have intensified in recent years,” and concludes with the following quote:
“As long as the United States continues to strike areas in Yemen with drones which are claiming the lives of innocents in addition to their targets, support for Al-Qaeda is going to increase.”
This statement has been echoed by four former drone operators who wrote an open letter to the Obama administration arguing against drone strikes. In the letter, they state that the killing of innocent civilians by drone strikes served to fuel “the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
As many feared, the new administration shows no indication of slowing the use of targeted killing through drone strikes. Instead, it appears the strikes will increase, leading to more innocent lives lost, and more anger and hatred towards the United States. And the drive for revenge.
This month, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report for 2016 that details civilian casualties in Afghanistan for that year. They reported a 3% increase in civilian casualties since 2015, as much as a 24% increase among children. The majority of these casualties are the result of on-the-ground fighting, airstrikes, and attacks, but there is an increasing number of civilians falling casualty to what is often called unexploded ordnance, or UXO.
The report states, “between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, UNAMA documented 326 incidents of explosive remnants of war detonation resulting in 724 civilian casualties (217 deaths and 507 injured), an increase of 66% compared to 2015.” 84% of those casualties were children, 183 killed and 426 injured.
Unexploded ordnance are explosive weapons that fail to detonate when employed. They can be various types of bombs and shells, grenades, land mines, cluster munitions, etc. Cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, are particularly heinous bombs that separate in mid-air and scatter hundreds of smaller “bomblets” over a wide area. Not all of those bomblets explode, however, with failure rates estimated between 1% to as high as 30%. These can be, and often are, detonated accidentally by civilians. The UNAMA report documented the following personal account from a 13-year-old girl:
“Yesterday, I was playing with other children on the streets near our house in the village. I saw our neighbor, a boy who later died, holding something made of metal. I knew it was something explosive. He told all of us, ‘I’m going to detonate it.’
I slapped him on the face and told him, ‘don’t do it!’ and then I moved farther away from him. He began hitting the object with a stone. It exploded. I fell unconscious and I don’t know what happened next.”
According to the report, that explosion killed four children and injured three more, including the 13-year-old girl.
The report states, “children living in conflict-affected areas are less likely to have received mine-risk education, and motivated by natural curiosity, frequently pick up familiar and shiny objects near their homes while playing outside. Children also use metal-detectors to find scrap metal to sell, often searching former battlefields or farmland where stray dud ordnance can be found.” Many people collect scrap metal in spite of the known risks, and farmers are also heavily affected by unexploded ordnance as they work the land.
Afghanistan is far from alone in dealing with this horrible legacy of ongoing war. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report on cluster munitions, the estimated number of global, all-time casualties for 33 countries is 55,000. Many of those casualties have occurred in Southeast Asia, where people are still being killed today by bombs dropped by the United States over four decades ago.
By far the hardest hit country is Laos, where the United States dropped 414,000 cluster munitions, containing an estimated 260 million submunitions during it’s so-called ‘secret war’ in that country between 1965 and 1973. In neighboring Vietnam, where the US was fighting overtly, 296,000 cluster munitions containing nearly 97 million submunitions were dropped. Even at the lowest estimated failure rate, that is a lot of live bombs left lying around. It is no wonder that an estimated 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed by UXO since 1975, according to George Black in his May 2016 New Yorker article.
The cluster munitions monitor report goes on to document that in the US invasion of Afghanistan, in the years 2001 and 2002, 1,228 cluster bombs were dropped, containing 248,056 submunitions. It adds, “in 2003 in Iraq, the US and the UK used nearly 13,000 cluster munitions, containing an estimated 1.8 to 2 million submunitions in the 3 weeks of major conflict.”
In May of 2008, more than 100 nations signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreeing to prohibit the use of cluster munition weapons. The United States is not one of them. According to this Congressional research report, the US policy on cluster munitions is defended because “using cluster munitions reduces the number of aircraft and artillery systems needed to support military operations, and that if cluster munitions were eliminated, significantly more money would need to be spent on new weapons systems, ammunition, and logistical resources. Officials further suggest that if cluster munitions were eliminated, most militaries would increase their use of massed artillery and rocket barrages, which would likely increase destruction of key infrastructure.”
The State Department has claimed the US stopped using cluster munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, but the US continues to profit from them by selling them to other countries, most noticeably to Saudi Arabia who employs the weapons in Yemen.
It is yet another tragedy of war that goes largely unnoticed in countries not affected by unexploded ordnance. According to the cluster munition monitor report, the degree of contamination from UXO is still unknown for Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. Civilians made up the vast majority, 94%, of cluster munition casualties from 2010 to 2015, with children under the age of 18 accounting for 40% of those. Even if the United States were to end it’s ongoing wars of aggression around the globe, it is unlikely the casualties caused by the unexploded ordnance left behind will end any time soon.