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Whether Seen Through Human Eyes or Eyes of the Law, The U.S. is Guilty of War Crimes in Yemen

By       Message Michael Galli       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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President Obama had an excellent reason to veto HR 3815 just twelve days after the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks; his own neck.1 The bill titled "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act," which became law on September 28 after Congress overrode an Obama veto for the first time, allows the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for its complicity leading to that fateful day.2,3 The new law is an ironic extension of President George W. Bush's message to the world just hours after the Twin Towers collapsed, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them," as well as his State of the Union address delivered ten days later: "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." 4,5 Of course Bush allowed 140 Saudi nationals, twenty-four of whom were related to Osama bin Laden, to flee the US just days after the attack.6

The Obama administration is fully aware that allowing civilians to sue nation states for sponsoring terrorism is - in the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor of the Nazis during the Nuremberg Trials - "a poisoned chalice" that must be put "to our own lips as well." 7,8 For example, in an effort to convict Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the so called "mastermind of 9/11," the U.S. Military Commission cited the conviction of Liberian president Charles Taylor of war crimes by an international court for providing "practical assistance, encouragement, or moral support to the perpetration of a war crime." 9,10 This legal argument did not escape the notice of Obama's State Department regarding its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Last January it held a meeting on limiting "U.S. exposure" to the Geneva Convention's "Law of Armed Conflict" regarding the continued supply of U.S. weapons to the Saudis despite the Kingdom's deplorable record of bombing civilians.11,12 For example, on October 8 two American-made GBU-12 Paveway II missiles were dropped on a Yemeni funeral hall.13,14

The Paveway II missile is tipped with a 500-pound MK-82 warhead that is a mixture of 80% TNT and 20% aluminum power.15,16 The aluminum increases the heat and kinetic energy of TNT. The MK-82 has an approximate blast force of 435 one-ton trucks traveling at 100 miles per hour.17,18,19,20 The "double-tap" strike, meaning two missiles fired, the second while funeral attendees and emergency personnel were in the process of providing aid to the injured, killed over a hundred mourners and injured more than five-hundred others, including women and children.21 The Associated Press reported that "hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall" and that "rescuers collected them in sacks."22 Human Rights Watch and the UN have dubbed the bombing a war crime.23, 24

In response to the carnage, Yemeni rebels fired shore-based missiles a week later at the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer prowling off their coast. The missiles fell harmlessly short off their intended target.25 In response, President Obama ordered the U.S.S. Nitze, also operating in the Red Sea, to fire Tomahawk missiles at three Yemeni radar installations believed to be involved in targeting the Mason.26 It is unknown how many Yemenis may have been killed in the retaliatory strikes, but it is known that along with providing weapons, targeting information, and refueling support to the Saudis, the U.S. has now directly engaged the Yemenis in war.

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As far as a U.S. president being tried for war crimes? Unlikely. The last time an international court tried the U.S. government for committing war crimes (for mining Nicaraguan harbors) the U.S. delegation simply got up and walked out of the courtroom.27, 28, 29 After all, imperialism has its privileges.


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1. Obama vetoes 9/11 bill, likely setting up first congressional override of his presidency: click here

2. H.R.3815 - Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3815 3. Enter the lawyers: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21707931-presidents-veto-ringingly-overturned-congress-enter-lawyers

4. George W. Bush 9/11 Address to the Nation: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm

5. Text of George Bush's speech: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/21/september11.usa13

6. After 9/11: the Saudis Who Slipped Away: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/apr/11/opinion/oe-unger11

7. Exclusive - As Saudis bombed Yemen, U.S. worried about legal blowback: click here

8. Robert H. Jackson: Opening Statement Nuremberg Trails, 1945: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/sources_document12.html

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9. KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED AND THE C.I.A.: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/khalid-sheikh-mohammed-cia

10. MILITARY COMMISSIONS TRIAL JUDICIARY GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA: http://www.mc.mil/Portals/0/pdfs/KSM2/KSM II (AE120B(Gov Sup)).pdf

11. D meeting -- Yemen civilian casualties and the LOAC:

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Michael Galli is the Dean of Students at Rivendell Academy, a small 7-12 interstate public school on the New Hampshire / Vermont border, where he teaches classes on media and U.S. foreign policy.

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