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Saudi Arabia Committing War Crimes In Yemen With US Weapons

A new report by Human Rights Watch published on Sunday claims that Saudi Arabia has been using near-universally banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in airstrikes in Yemen. Cluster bombs are notoriously dangerous to civilians and 116 countries signed a treaty in 2008 banning them from use on the battlefield – Saudi Arabia and the United States are not signatories to the agreement.

Just as problematic is the Saudis nonchalant use of US cluster and other munitions on civilian targets such as hospitals leading to the civilian death toll already exceeding 500 including over 115 children. The Saudis blatant disregard for civilian casualties has been met with silence from the Obama Administration even as the killings are carried out with US made and supplied weapons.

While the Saudis are carrying out their killings with US weapons such as cluster bombs to target the Houthis rebels in Yemen the Obama Administration is busy condemning the use of barrel bombs on rebels in civilian areas in Syria – what exactly is the standard again?

Photographs, video, and other evidence have emerged since mid-April 2015 indicating that cluster munitions have been used during recent weeks in coalition airstrikes in Yemen’s northern Saada governorate, the traditional Houthi stronghold bordering Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch has established through analysis of satellite imagery that the weapons appeared to land on a cultivated plateau, within 600 meters of several dozen buildings in four to six village clusters. 

“Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.

The US has its own troubling history using barrel bombs, perhaps most notably in the Vietnam war. US forces use barrel bombs to try and start fires in the jungles of Vietnam and used cluster munitions in covert wars in Laos and Cambodia – munitions still endangering civilians to this day.

Given the course of events and the contradictory public positions the reality appears to be that the US only has a problem with war crimes if the country is not allied with the US. That’s not a revelation by any measure but seeing how obvious that truth is becoming perhaps it is time for the White House to dial down the “humanitarian” rhetoric. It just looks silly.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.