The alleged torture, dismemberment and killing of Saudi citizen and US permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul has triggered justifiable outrage throughout the United States and around the world. But amid the outcry over Khashoggi's death, many media and public figures still fail to acknowledge the war crimes Saudi Arabia is committing in Yemen with US assistance.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, had written critically about the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Post reported that Mohammed had recently attempted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia in an operation resembling an extrajudicial "rendition," where a person is forcibly removed from one country and taken to another for interrogation. Bloomberg reported that the United States knew the Saudis planned to seize Khashoggi because US intelligence services had intercepted communications between Saudi officials discussing the plan. According to Turkish sources, participants in Khashoggi's killing and dismemberment were Saudi operatives.
Six days after Khashoggi's disappearance, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman made the astounding claim, "If Jamal has been abducted and murdered by agents of the Saudi government ... [i]t would be an unfathomable violation of norms of human decency, worse not in numbers but in principle than even the Yemen war."
Friedman's attempt to minimize the enormity of the carnage, including over 6,000 civilian casualties and the world's worst humanitarian crisis, resulting from three years of war in Yemen is not uncommon. Vicki Divoll, former CIA attorney and instructor at the US Naval Academy, told The New Yorker's Jane Mayer in 2009, "People are a lot more comfortable with a Predator [drone] strike that kills many people than with a throat-slitting that kills one."
In fact, Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes in Yemen and the US government is aiding and abetting them.
Saudi-US War Crimes Committed in Yemen
The Saudi-led coalition is bombing Yemen in order to defeat the Houthi rebels who have been resisting government repression. This war is the culmination of a long-standing grievance the Houthis have had with the state, which was weakened during the Arab spring. Yemen is strategically located on a narrow waterway that links the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea.
In August, the coalition dropped a 500-pound, laser-guided MK 82 bomb on a bus at a market in Dahyan, killing 51 people, including 40 children. The bomb was manufactured by Lockheed Martin, a leading US defense contractor. Provision of that bomb was part of a US-Saudi arms deal last year.
The August bombing conducted with US-manufactured weapons was not an isolated incident. In 2016, the coalition used a similar bomb to kill 155 people at a funeral in Sana'a.
As recently as October 13, a Saudi-led airstrike killed at least 19 people and injured 30 when it hit a convoy of buses carrying civilians escaping an attack on Hodeidah. The coalition has mounted more than 50 airstrikes on civilian vehicles in 2018 alone.
Targeting civilians is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
By furnishing a bomb with knowledge it would likely be used to commit a war crime, US leaders could be tried for aiding and abetting a war crime under customary international law. They supplied the bomb used in the August 2018 bus attack, knowing a similar one was used in the 2016 funeral bombing.
Trump Administration Lies to Congress About Attempts to Minimize Civilian Casualties
On September 12, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress "that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments [in Yemen]."