The seven month sustained air campaign in Yemen continues to devastate the impoverished Gulf Nation, however, making the humanitarian crisis worse are the reports that Saudi Arabia is using US made cluster bombs to root out the Iranian proxy fighters.
Human Rights Watch has recovered photographic evidence and reported to the UN.that seven Saudi-led airstrikes, which enjoy the Obama administration’s support, were discovered to have employed cluster-bombs in Yemen.
“While the United States is not formally part of the Saudi-led coalition, it is assisting the coalition air campaign by providing intelligence and aerial refueling facilities to coalition bomber jets, “ according to Foreign Policy. “The sum total of its assistance to the coalition makes the United States partly responsible for civilian casualties resulting from unlawful attacks.”
Human Rights Watch discovered evidence that cluster munitions landed approximately 250 yards from villages in Yemen. They also found that some “cluster munitions malfunctioned calling into question the (US) required failure rate of 1 percent or less as their submunitions failed to disperse from the canister, or dispersed, but did not explode. The findings raise serious questions about whether the US export law requirements are being violated,” HRW argued.
“I don’t have an outcome of that to report,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said. “We take all accounts of civilian deaths in the ongoing hostilities in Yemen very seriously.”
As part of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program all US contracts require governments purchasing American cluster bombs to “… commit that cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians,” Rathke claimed. Meanwhile Obama still supports the proxy war. Rathke did admit that the State Department “ shares the concerns regarding unintended harm to civilians caused by the use of cluster munitions.”
What exactly is a cluster bomb?
A cluster bomb contains hundreds of sub-munitions that can look like a grenade to the untrained eye and upon release the sub-munitions explode causing injuries to people or damage to equipment or vehicles. The U.S. used cluster bombs extensively in the Vietnam War and is one of 17 countries that continue to produce cluster munitions or reserve the right to do so. The majority of the world signed a Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty in 2010. However, the U.S. along with Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia and Turkey have not ratified the treaty (not surprisingly many of these same non-signatories are the leading weapons traffickers in the world today- for information- link here). International law ruled in 2008 to ban the use of cluster bombs.
The cluster bombs used in Yemen were BLU-108 “skeets” from CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons. The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use of this bomblet arsenal. But the US government states it’s the only cluster bomb it manufacturers and “that meet[s] our stringent requirements for unexploded ordnance rates.” Nevertheless the State Deptartment only approves the sale of the devastating bomblets if the country agrees to never use them in civilian neighborhoods. In fact, these cluster munitions may only be exported if the recipient agrees not to use them in civilian areas, unfortunately in Yemen, monitoring the use of cluster bombs proves elusive.
So where are the bomblets being dropped?
The village of Tahrur is located just north of Aden. It was supposed to be safe for civilians at the neighborhood school. But far too often, what was supposed to be, proved unreliable. The Middle East’s poorest country and its civilians felt the one two punch of the Saudi air raid. They knew the sound and heard the explosions, but residents didn’t suspect the two odd looking canisters.
As it turns out the cluster bomblets were made in America by Textron Corporation and sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the FMS program. According to Mary Wareham Advocacy Director for HRC, the munitions “are part of a Saudi-led coalition that has been attacking Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, in Yemen since the end of March.
The victims were members of the same family, five women and four kids. “The school had been housing families displaced by the conflict between a Saudi-led military coalition and Houthi armed groups and their allies, which took control of the capital Sanaa and large swaths of the country late last year,” Foreign Policy reported. “Ten other relatives, mostly children, were injured in the attack.”
Human Rights Watch investigators inspected the village a few weeks later and uncovered one of the bomblet canisters lying next to the road. Luckily villagers didn’t move the unspent canisters, as the sub-munition could explode at anytime.
“The loss of civilian life in Hajja shows why most countries have made a commitment never to use cluster munitions,” said Ole Solvang, a senior emergencies researcher. “These weapons not only kill or injure people at the time of attack, but the unexploded submunitions go on killing long afterward.”
HRC points out that the use of cluster bombs constitute war crimes and alerted the UN to the data they recovered in Yemen. Meanwhile Amnesty International is calling for the end to the bombing altogether in an effort to send a strong message to the belligerents that additional abuses will not be tolerated.
The past few decades DC defense contractors have supplied the Middle East with unprecedented amounts of military equipment and the world is watching what the KSA-led coalition is unleashing in Yemen.
The World Health Organization said that at least 1,000 Yemenis have been killed, another 3,500 have been reportedly injured and millions have been displaced or considered refugees.
More on cluster bombs: Porous American borders too tempting for terrorists to ignore
A troubling storyline is developing along the U.S. southern border—more high-powered weaponry. Law enforcement agencies on America’s southern border have also confiscated a variety of military explosive devices– including sub-munitions.
Entering or exiting the United States, Juliette and Noe Ramirez were apprehended at the Texas/Mexico border on August 2, 2014 carrying sub-munitions, more commonly known as bomblets used in cluster bombs. “Juliette Ramirez was detained late Saturday night near the toll booth plaza north of the Del Rio International Bridge after a small explosive device was found hidden in a backpack,” the Del Rio News Herald reported.
According to the separate District Court charging sheets (link here), Ms. Ramirez and Mr. Ramirez were walking south toward the Mexican border when CBP/HSI agents “randomly” approached the pair and searched a backpack in their possession. Federal agents say they were stunned to find an explosive device. The discovery prompted further questioning of the Ramirezes, which subsequently led agents to a secondary location where 35 more sub-munitions were located. (Note: Anyone crossing into Mexico knows the U.S. focuses its attention on northbound traffic– it’s Mexico’s responsibility to question pedestrians travelling south. Just look at the Marine still in Mexican custody for crossing into Mexico with his lawful U.S. firearms.
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