How War Crimes and America May Become Synonymous

Christopher Tava, Staff Writer

Children in schools across the United States are taught versions of American Exceptionalism — that the United States has always fought for greater rights for all people at all times. Hence, most Americans are not cognizant of some serious blemishes to its reputation, like the CIA-organized coup of the democratically-elected leader of Iran in 1953 or the whole debacle with Patrice Lumumba. However, right now, there is another horrifying disaster for the United States. According to The New York Times, American allies are using American-made bombs on civilians and children in Yemen.

To give some context, according to Amnesty International, in 2014 a group of rebels called the Houthis captured the capital city of Sana’a and eventually squeezed the government out of the city. Since then, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates together as a coalition have been bombing the country to try to get the government back into control. Nevertheless, in doing so, they have been bombing civilians left and right — The New York Times has reported that the coalition has hit 13,500 civilians in targeted attacks. 

A specific instance of an attack on innocent people happened in August 2018. The New York Times reported that a coalition jet dropped an American-made bomb on a Yemeni school bus, killing 54 people, including 44 children. These children already face malnutrition and cholera, and now, they have to look at the sky, fearing that today is the day a plane comes by. It is important to point out that civilians at weddings and at funerals were also killed from Saudi-led attacks with American-made bombs. 

The United States has been supplying the Saudis with weapons since March 2015. At the time, according to The New York Times, President Barack Obama approved $1.3 billion worth of bomb materials to the Saudis in part to replenish the Saudi stockpiles that were quickly running out. A thing to note about the situation is that between that sale and another in 2017 under President Donald Trump, the State Department realized that top American officials could be charged with war crimes for selling bombs that cause innocent civilians to die. President Obama, however, halted the latter sale in December 2016 in order to take a tougher line on the civilian killings, but President Trump made it a priority when he took office to deliver $3.8 billion worth of bomb materials to the Saudis. 

After the sale, Congress was worried about a war crimes scenario, so they blocked shipments for around two years until The New York Times reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency over Iran to bypass Congress. That declaration in May 2019 prompted an investigation that produced an important report about the subject. The report, experts told The New York Times, can be used as legal evidence against the United States in any international war crimes case.

Due to the fact that American officials had full knowledge of a pattern of horrific killings, The New York Times reported that they are legally eligible to a war crimes hearing. The hearing would be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a city in the Netherlands, by prosecutors in countries like Sweden and Germany. There, the trials would be heard by an international judge with the capability, according to the United Nations’ webpage, to hand out up to 30 years in prison or a life sentence.

Those officials are clearly worried about what could happen next: The New York Times reported that they have been discussing possibilities where they are arrested while vacationing abroad. However, the International Criminal Court in the past has been very reluctant to bring up cases against the United States — the only investigation the Court authorized against the United States was in March 2020 for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

The American people do not want to be militarily involved in this war — according to an IRC/YouGov poll, a whopping 75 percent of Americans agree with that. To put that into perspective, only 15 percent of Americans find pizza, an American staple, to be their favorite comfort food, according to a Harris poll. Hence, there is clear support for ending American military involvement in Yemen. The only thing left is for Congress and the Executive Branch to make it a priority to pull out. For that to happen, the country needs to get the coronavirus under control — something that every American can help do.