On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over US weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis plan to engage in “a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.”
Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition’s airstrikes, with US assistance, have destroyed bridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.
US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition has included providing weapons, sharing intelligence, targeting assistance, and aerial jet refueling. “If they stop the refueling, that would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow,” says Iona Craig, who frequently reports from Yemen, “because logistically the coalition would not be able to send their fighter jets in to carry out sorties without that help.”
The US has also provided “cover” for Saudi violations of international law. On October 27th, 2015, Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. The airstrike went on for two hours, reducing the hospital to rubble.
Ban Ki Moon, then Secretary General of the UN, admonished the Saudi government for attacking a medical facility. The Saudis responded that the US had similarly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, which indeed the US had, earlier that same month, on October 3, 2015. The US airstrikes continued, in 15 minute intervals, for an hour, killing 42 people and likewise reducing the Doctors Without Borders hospital to rubble and ash.
How would the US military train the Saudis to prevent the accidental killing of civilians? Would they teach Saudi pilots the military parlance used when US drones hit an intended target: the pools of blood that sensors detect, in place of what was once a human body, are called “bugsplat”? If someone attempts to run from the site of the attack, that person is called a “squirter.” When the US attacked the Yemeni village of Al Ghayyal, on January 29th, 2017, one Navy Seal, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owen, was tragically killed. That same night, 10 Yemeni children under 13 years of age and six Yemeni women, including Fatim Saleh Mohsen, a 30 year-old mother, were killed. U.S.-fired projectile missiles ripped apart Saleh’s home in the middle of the night. Terrified, she scooped up her infant and grabbed the hand of her son who was a toddler, deciding to run out of the house into the darkness. Was she considered a squirter? A US missile killed her almost as soon as she fled. Will the US train the Saudis…