Originally appeared on The American Conservative.
Zaid Jilani reports that the U.S. military has no idea what missions are carried out in Yemen by the coalition planes that they refuel:
In a surprising admission on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command – which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia – admitted that the Pentagon doesn’t know a whole lot about the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen that the United States is supporting through intelligence, munitions, and refueling.
U.S. CENTCOM Cmdr. Gen. Joseph Votel made the admission in response to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.
“Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.
If the U.S. military doesn’t track what the coalition planes do after they are refueled, it can’t honestly claim that it isn’t aiding and abetting coalition violations of international law. They don’t know what the coalition planes they refuel do later on, and perhaps they don’t want to know. If the U.S. isn’t tracking how our assistance is used, it isn’t credible to say that our government is using that assistance to change the coalition’s conduct of the war for the better. The U.S. is blindly enabling indiscriminate coalition bombing without making any effort to understand the effects of our support.
Gen. Votel also stated that the U.S. is not a party to the conflict. This is the lie that U.S. officials have been hiding behind for the last three years. When our military refuels planes that go on to bomb targets in another country, our military has joined that war on the side of the governments it is aiding. That should be an uncontroversial statement of fact, but supporters of U.S. involvement in the war are desperate to deny it. If the U.S. weren’t a party to the conflict, there would be no need to debate the extensive assistance that the U.S. provides to the governments wrecking and starving Yemen for the last three years.
U.S. support has been essential to the Saudi-led war, and it would be much harder for the Saudis and their allies to continue waging that war without our military assistance. That is why those in favor of continuing the war don’t want to cut off that support. They wish to keep the war going, but they want to dodge the responsibility our government has for aiding and abetting the coalition’s crimes. Americans that want to end U.S. involvement and help bring an end to the war on Yemen should urge their senators to vote for S.J.Res. 54.
Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.