There are innumerable accounts from local sources and media as well as rights organisations that contradict the US claim.

It is right that former US President Barack Obama deserves the blame being aimed in his direction for greenlighting the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a situation that has left the Middle East’s poorest country now dealing with the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. 

But the White House's current resident, President Donald Trump, is responsible for escalating Yemeni misery by approving record arms deals to the Kingdom and blocking bipartisan congressional bills to end the five-year conflict.

“Year after year, the bombs fell — on wedding tents, funeral halls, fishing boats and a school bus, killing thousands of civilians and helping turn Yemen into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” observes an investigation by the New York Times into how US weapons have come to kill civilians. 

“Weapons supplied by American companies, approved by American officials, allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue the reckless campaign.”

Last week, the US Pentagon hit back by saying it had not killed any civilians in Yemen during 2019, a claim it also made the previous year in its annual report on civilian casualties in connection with American military operations. 

These claims border on the absurd and are at their core, deceitful, only serving as a reminder that the US remains committed to continuing its policy of holding zero accountability towards the innocent men, women and children killed by its kinetic actions and foreign policy.

It is in fact what the Pentagon’s annual report on civilian casualties omits that really does answer and reveal why the US military hasn’t recorded or acknowledged a single civilian death in Yemen during the course of its participation in the conflict for the past two years. 

It chooses to not mention CIA-led operations and US military supported actions, including those carried out by Saudi coalition partners guided or supported by US military assets.

Naturally, The Pentagon only acknowledges its own findings and ignores those of human rights organisations, and others from local and US media sources, international aid groups, and other non-government agencies. 

For instance, the Yemeni-based human rights organisation Mwatana for Human Rights, has alone documented dozens of casualties from US air strikes.

According to Mwatana – whose staff visit strike sites, gather eyewitness testimonies and analyse weapon remnants – the US killed 17 Yemeni civilians in 2018 in six alleged drone strikes. 

“We left our area (Al Mahashimah) and came to the Al Ruwaik Desert as IDPs because this area is safe and far from the conflict,” Abdullah bin Saeed Al Wahair told Mwanta, after a US drone strike struck a Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up truck on 8 March, 2018. 

“But we got none of the security that we were looking for, and an American drone struck a vehicle with six members of our family on it. ..Three of them were my sons… and two my grandchildren. All of them were killed in a horrible manner. They were good people and supported large families. Some of them were truck drivers, and others were labourers.” 

Official policy?

But here’s the thing – under President Trump, the US has made it official policy to deny civilian casualties caused by its secretive drone program. 

Amnesty International accuses the US military of providing “zero accountability” for these deaths, particularly when it comes to its drone war against the militant group, Al Shabaab in Somalia.

“Not only does AFRICOM [US African Command] utterly fail at its mission to report civilian casualties in Somalia, but it doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the numerous families it has completely torn apart,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s east and southern Africa director, told The Guardian newspaper.

In a recent investigative piece for Byline Times, my Somalia-based colleagues and I, concluded that more than a dozen Somali civilians in the Janaale region were killed by US drone strikes in the month of March 2020 alone. This was based on video testimonies that we gathered from survivors at an IDP camp located on the outskirts of Mogadishu. 

“One of those killed was my husband. Another one was my sister’s son. And another is my nephew,” said one of the survivors. 

“Our homes destroyed, livestock destroyed, crops destroyed, people obliterated, our children and I faced so much agony and suffering after being forced to flee. And now we don’t even have a single bag, let alone a home to go to.”

Another explained how she witnessed her grandmother being struck through the heart by shrapnel from the missile, saying, “They [US] began firing down on crops. We saw dead and wounded everywhere. Then the next day it happened again [more strikes] and then it happened a third day in a row.”

While Africa Command, which coordinates US military operations in Somalia, has publicly acknowledged it carried out a dozen or so drone strikes in the Janaale region during March, it has not taken responsibility for a single civilian casualty, and it did not reply to our request for comment.

To put this into context, the US military carried out 36 aerial attacks in Yemen during 2018, according to Mwatana, but maintains that they did not result in a single civilian casualty. 

The US position stands directly in contradiction to those affected by its operations on the ground and the numerous rights organisations whose job it is to document the crimes.

“The US military should better facilitate receiving reports from, and opening dialogue with, civil society in countries where it conducts military operations. Groups like ours, working on the ground in areas of conflict, have access to information the military does not and often are well-placed to quickly and credibly raise concerns about civilian impact and wider patterns of harm,” writes Abdulrasheed al Faqih, executive director of Mwatana, and Kristine Beckerle, the group’s legal director.

To the rest of the world, the US sends out strong signals when they choose to  actively deny the consequences of their actions. 

Principly, that the lives of Africans, Arabs, and Asians have inferior significance, which, of course, only exacerbates and feeds the very thing it is trying to end: anti-American driven terrorism.

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