The secretary of state “certified” Wednesday that the U.S.-backed coalition of countries bombing Yemen is doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties.
Mike Pompeo's dubious words of assurance came on the same day that 15 more innocent people were killed in airstrikes by Saudi Arabian forces, which receive weapons, fuel and logistical assistance from the United States.
The bombings, in the coastal city of Hodeidah, came on the heels of an August airstrike that took the lives of 40 Yemeni children riding in a school bus. Three years of attacks have resulted in food and water shortages, as well as disease outbreaks.
Human-rights advocates were appalled when Pompeo proclaimed: “The governments of Saudi Arabia and the 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.”
Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders called the cabinet official's statement “outrageous,” telling his Twitter followers: “The Saudi-led war on Yemen is killing thousands of people. … America's role should not simply be to help our Saudi clients manage the slaughter more responsibly; we need to stop supporting it altogether.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren noted that “for months, Congress has raised serious concerns about U.S. support of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.” She tweeted that the secretary of state's statement “makes a mockery of congressional oversight authority.”
The Massachusetts Democrat continued: “It’s not a certification – it’s a rubber stamp for Saudi Arabia. … The Trump administration has all the facts here, but continues to support a coalition that bombs schoolchildren on a class trip. It's wrong, and does nothing to make America safer. We should use our influence to bring an end to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis – not contribute to it.”
“Pompeo’s 'certification' is a farce,” Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California declared. “The Saudis deliberately bombed a bus full of children. There is only one moral answer, and that is to end our support for their intervention in Yemen.”
Kevin Martin of Peace Action wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams that “the United States is the number one weapons dealer in the world, and Saudi Arabia is our biggest customer, having purchased over $100 billion in armaments since 2010.”
The activist pointed out that the coalition is dropping bombs made by Lockheed Martin, an American company that is “the world’s largest weapons manufacturer and the largest U.S. government contractor of any kind, with net sales of over $13 billion in just the second quarter of this year.” Martin added: “It’s not hyperbole to state Lockheed makes a killing, in more ways than one.”
The United Nations recently described the worsening situation in Yemen as the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 2,300 residents of the besieged country have died of cholera in the past 17 months. Another 8.4 million are starving, while 2 million have lost their homes. Airstrikes have killed or injured more than 16,000 Yemenis.
The slaughter began in 2015, when the Saudis and their Sunni Muslim partners began the bombing campaign in an effort to stop a Houthi rebellion against the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Yemen Peace Project is urging lawmakers to pass a War Powers Resolution to ensure that Congress, not the Trump White House, determines the U.S. role. “The administration has acted in extreme bad faith by certifying Saudi Arabia & UAE are meeting requirements,” the organization tweeted. “It's time for Congress to take action. Pass free-standing legislation prohibiting further U.S. refueling for coalition air missions.”
Stephen Miles, who heads the group Win Without War, wrote: “The ball's in your court, Congress. Secretary Pompeo and the Trump administration once again prove that they will lie through their teeth and completely ignore all factual evidence to do whatever they want. How will Congress respond?”
Reuters reported Thursday that Saudi-backed Yemeni troops had taken control of a road that connects Hodeidah's port with the national capital of Sanaa, disrupting the delivery of supplies to the Houthis. The bombing of Hodeidah followed a breakdown of United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva on Saturday, when Houthi representatives failed to appear for the meeting.
“The situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days,” United Nations humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande said Wednesday. “Families are absolutely terrified by the bombardment, shelling and airstrikes.” She predicted that blocking the road to Sanaa will cause greater shortages of food and other critical supplies.
“More than 25 percent of children are malnourished, (with) 900,000 people … desperate for food and 90,000 pregnant women at enormous risk,” Grande told Reuters.
According to UNICEF, 1.8 million Yemeni kids are going hungry, and many others have contracted life-threatening diseases. A spokeswoman for the organization said “the conflict has made Yemen a living hell for its children.”