Originally appeared on The American Conservative.
Micah Zenko catches Secretary Mattis making an obviously false claim about U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen:
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) August 13, 2018
I saw Mattis’ comment yesterday and said this:
No one buys that the U.S. is not a party to this war. This line is used to evade responsibility for coalition attacks that our support makes possible https://t.co/woWaxWJiEs
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) August 12, 2018
When we remember that the U.S. has provided the Saudi coalition with arms, refueling, intelligence, and diplomatic cover so that they can wage their war on Yemen for more than three years, it is remarkable that U.S. officials try to keep up the pretense that our government is not involved in the conflict. The Pentagon is quick to remind us that their support is “limited” and “non-combat” in nature whenever the Saudi coalition kills civilians with U.S.-supplied weapons, but at the same time they are adamant that their “limited” support must never be cut off. When they assert that U.S. assistance helps limit civilian casualties (for which they provide no evidence), U.S. officials stress how vitally important that assistance is. When it comes to answering for coalition atrocities, they pretend that they have nothing to do with the fighting. If that excuse doesn’t work, they will shrug and claim not to know the extent of U.S. responsibility:
“We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the US sold to them,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesperson for US Central Command, told me.
This tweet, from respected Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee, shows part of a 500-pound MK-82 bomb. It is manufactured in the United States and sold in large numbers to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The remnants of the US bombs that killed Yemen children in the latest US-Saudi massare and war crime of August 9th, 2018
In Saada north Yemen. pic.twitter.com/z8bvadwncG
— Nasser Arrabyee (@narrabyee) August 11, 2018
Continued military assistance to governments that have routinely struck civilian targets and killed thousands of people is abhorrent. When our government has reason to believe that the assistance it provides will be used to commit human rights abuses and war crimes, it is obligated to withhold that assistance. Pretending not to know how the coalition is using the weapons and fuel the U.S. provides them is not credible after more than three years of coalition atrocities against Yemeni civilians.
The reality is that the coalition relies on U.S. and British military assistance to wage their war and would not be able to continue it without that support. Bruce Riedel says as much here:
Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute: “if the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman that this war [on Yemen] has to end, it would end tomorrow because the Royal Saudi Air force cannot operate without American & British Support". pic.twitter.com/XQTcLlNKJn
— Louis Allday (@Louis_Allday) August 12, 2018
Mattis must know this, and this is why he has strenuously opposed any effort to curtail or end U.S. support for the war. Cutting off U.S. military assistance to the coalition would force those governments to halt their campaign, and the Trump administration has no desire to stop them. On the contrary, the administration has backed them to the hilt and refuses to hold them accountable even when they commit the most egregious war crimes, including the slaughter of dozens of children.
U.S. support for the Saudi coalition is essential to their war effort, and that makes our government deeply complicit in what the coalition does in Yemen.
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.