Originally appeared on The American Conservative.
There have been dozens of Saudi coalition airstrikes on civilian vehicles in Yemen this year, and coalition investigations almost never fault coalition forces:
The bombing of a bus full of schoolchildren last week was just one of more than 50 airstrikes against civilian vehicles by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen so far this year, according to new data.
The data also shows that the monitoring body set up in Riyadh purportedly to investigate incidents of civilian casualties has supported the Saudi military version of events in almost every case.
The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) has not issued comprehensive statistics but has instead issued periodic press statements. And according to an analysis by Human Rights Watch (HRW), out of 75 incidents where civilian casualties were reported, JIAT has admitted Saudi rules of engagement may have been broken in only two.
The frequency of coalition attacks on these vehicles confirms their blatant disregard for civilian lives that we have seen repeated again and again over the last three years. As the Yemen Data Project has shown, at least close to a third of coalition strikes hit civilian targets in the last year. That figure has been consistent for the last several years. The number of civilian vehicles attacked by the coalition this year is higher than the year before, so that should put to rest the idea that the U.S. has done anything to “improve” how coalition conducts itself in this war. There can’t be measurable improvement in protection of civilians when all signs keep pointing to the coalition’s frequent, deliberate targeting of civilian vehicles and structures. Perpetrators can’t be trusted to investigate themselves, and the Saudi coalition has proven to be most untrustworthy. When the US and U.N. allow the Saudi coalition to investigate their own crimes, they are aiding the Saudis and their allies in covering up massacres.
Some in Congress see through this charade:
“When the Saudi-led coalition’s investigative process basically says they are not responsible for ninety-something percent of these airstrikes hitting civilians, it calls into question the legitimacy of that process,” said Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California.
This week Lieu wrote to the acting inspector general at the Pentagon calling on him to launch an investigation over whether US service members providing support for coalition air operations, or US officials selling arms to Saudi Arabia, “could be responsible for aiding and abetting war crimes”.
The congressman told the Guardian: “I believe both the US and United Kingdom and other governments providing support to the Saudi-led coalition could be liable for war crimes.”
When the US and U.K. governments are providing coalition forces with the means to carry out these attacks, and when they do so knowing that it is likely that the coalition will use them to kill civilians, it is difficult to see how both governments couldn’t be guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes. The pattern of atrocity and cover-up over the last three years is impossible to miss, and the US and UK are complicit in all of it.
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.