Let’s remember the Schoolchildren US & Russian bombs are killing, too

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US-backed Saudi-led war on Yemen is keeping two million children out of school (Yemen is a country of 27 million). Worse, schools and schoolchildren have repeatedly been struck from the air by Saudi, UAE, Moroccan and Jordanian pilots using American-supplied planes and bombs, in a campaign backed by Washington and the Pentagon and the United Kingdom. The US military supplies logistics, refueling and targeting advice to the aggressors.

Just for one of many possible examples, in August of 2016, a Saudi or allied bomb hit a Yemeni school, killing 10 and wounding 28. Although these children were not Floridians, they were human beings and deserved to be mourned more widely than they were. US television news virtually ignores the US-backed war in Yemen and I’d wager most Americans have never heard of it. The dead children were between 8 and 15 years old. They were from the desperately poor Saadeh district in the north, which the Saudis have been trying to reduce to rubble in their Wahhabi war on the Shiite Zaydis.

Then last year in January the Saudi coalition pilots hit a primary school, killing 5.

This goes on all the time. The US is backing the airstrikes. It isn’t even a controversy.

One in three targets hit by the Saudi coalition has been civilian in character, according to the Yemen Data Project.

Then you have the Russians, who have been heavily and indiscriminately bombing Syria since 2015, and have been helping the Syrian air force do the same You almost never see a denunciation of the Russian carpet bombing of Syria in the West except from Turkey and the Middle Eastern religious right or from the US Neoconservatives. But folks these are children. It isn’t ideological. Like Putin, don’t like Putin. His Aerospace Forces should not be dropping bombs on civilian areas. And yes, the US did this all the time in Iraq, and intensified it during last year’s Mosul campaign. My kindergarten teacher told us that two wrongs don’t make a right. Didn’t yours?

Late last year, the Russian and/or Syrian air forces hit a “makeshift school” in Eastern Ghouta, a stronghold of the Saudi-backed Army of Islam fundamentalists who sometimes shell nearby Damascus. The previous year, Russian and Syrian air strikes hit a residential and school complex in Idlib Province, which is under the rule of the al-Qaeda-linked Syrian Conquest Front (formerly Nusra Front). HRW reported it as a war crime: “On a clear morning, warplanes attacked a large school compound while class was in session, and kept on bombing while children and teachers tried to flee,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. ”

In one six-month period, it was estimated that Russian airstrikes killed 2,000 civilians. That’s a lot of innocent people to die. Noncombatants. Some were schoolchildren.

After World War II the world forged the Geneva Conventions to attempt to outlaw the most horrid excesses of the Axis powers. International human rights law has proceeded with further treaties and instruments.

But the world of the early 21st century seems on a bizarre course to reenact the 1930s and 1940s, with the rise of far right mass parties and a cavalier insouciance toward brazen war crimes. Against children.

Of the six million Jews murdered by the National Socialists in the 1940s, Anne Frank is among the more famous. Surely it is in part because she was a child. A schoolgirl.

The world is back to killing schoolchildren in a paroxysm of hatred. War may sometimes be necessary and legitimate, but there is no excuse for indiscriminate bombing that puts children at undue risk. Win your war some other way. And while there are legitimate reasons for gun ownership, for congressmen and senators to run interference for 10 gun manufacturers to make sure their sales are in no way hindered is also a sort of war crime.


Bonus video:

Yemenis mark anniversary of Saudi airstrike on Sa’ada school

11 Responses

  1. Wars are never necessary, professor, but I take your meaning as being wars of self defense being legitimate. I wonder how many wars of death, injury, devastation that have been perpetrated by the US since the end of world war 2 that the US has been involved in or started, have actually been necessary? I’m afraid there is an underlying culture of killing people with guns in the US and one only has to look at the products of the film industry to see that. You rightly say that gun attacks in England and European countries is negligible but that’s because guns are not available, but if they were we would be just as bad as the US in this regard. We British have an unequalled history of plundering nations of the world and killing innocent people played a big part in this genocide. Archaeology suggests that man has always been a killer and he has improved on his ability to kill his fellow man through the centuries. Now he has made the ultimate killing machine that can kill every living thing on the earth. If God created the earth, then he must have surely sipped up when he put humans into the mix.

    • Headlines in the Guardian UK this week are quoting a US general harumphing about how war between the US and China may be necessary because China wants to dominate the South China Sea. And apparently, the US, as global hegemon, expects to dominate EVERY sea, no matter where they are who who they border. And Americans own the South China Sea and they alone determine who can dominate it. The big problem with the US these days is that it acknowledges few limits and tolerates NO rivals and sees its “vital interests” everywhere. So we have US-sponsored wars without end thanks to our paranoia and greed and arrogance.

    • I fully agree with you that “wars are never necessary” and with about 99 percent of the rest of your comment. But I would like to address the part where you said that “archaeology suggests that man has always been a killer …” I am sure it’s true that some humans who are quite capable of killing other humans have existed for a very long time. I think that those people are the rare exception rather than the rule. The “humans are natural killers” or “we’ve always had war” ideas are mostly war propaganda. There’s a lot of work out there on this topic, but here’s a video of Paul Chappell, extracted from a longer presentation, explaining why: link to youtube.com I find it pretty compelling.

  2. Back in 1980, I was writing about the 20th Century being “the Century of War.” For tonight, I do thank you for your reminder of the better part of human thought and action that has created and begun to institutionalize the concept of “international human rights.”

    Unfortunately, it’s clear that the trend of war (including small un-named internal wars in many nations, of which America’s enabling of the worst among us to kill some of the best among us is a particularly weird example), the sad old “Century of “War” has continued, so far, as we get into the 21st Century.

  3. Thanks for the reminder: as nation we settle international grudges by shooting, not by talking talking, which we call it “justice”. When the shooting is domestic we call it “mental Illness”. We gota find the compass soon.

  4. While those who profit from war often use ideology to drive the public, almost all of these evil wars are really about economics and money. Whether it is invading a country to secure its oil for the 1% owners or invading another country to protect the wealth and/or status of individual despots or politicians, the warmongers always use some ideology – religion, “democracy”, ethnicity, “security” – to pillage. And the vast majority of people the world over, including the US, are easily fooled and manipulated.

  5. We’re transitioning from war fighting to “bombardment”. As long as there are no US combat casualties (even one made the headlines link to nytimes.com), the civilian casualties, and and turning cities and towns into rubble, have little or no affect on our collective conscience. Even the concept of “victory” is so vague in the ME strife, that military is off the hook when it comes to the scoreboard.

  6. The War on Children is not a crime which occurs only on foreign soils. The NRA/Russia Republican War on U.S. Children is also deplorable and on-going. Doing NOTHING under our current circumstances is tantamount an actual ARMED ATTACK, the cowards approach to mayhem.

    It is fair to point out that the offspring of the 1% do not attend public schools. There are priorities after all.

  7. This post makes a very excellent and necessary point, but I don’t know how to make people “get” it. For example, I try to share ideas like this on Facebook from time to time and hardly ever get any reaction one way or another. Pretty flowers and cute animal videos get likes and comments. I don’t know if people don’t see my “political” videos or just don’t want to comment. I have the feeling that to the extent they would even read something like this, they would be outraged that such a comparison is even being made. You would be accused of “politicizing” the problem. I guess I will keep trying.

  8. “His Aerospace Forces should not be dropping bombs on civilian areas. And yes, the US did this all the time in Iraq, and intensified it during last year’s Mosul campaign. My kindergarten teacher told us that two wrongs don’t make a right. Didn’t yours?”

    International law is not partisan, being Russian or American or Dutch or Indonesian, has nothing to do with the codes in international law. Russian war crimes in Syria are documented in Syria, including the ones mentioned in this post. When Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US provide munitions to extremist groups that are affiliated with terrorist groups this is also a war crime as detailed in the Geneva conventions. The Geneva Conventions prohibit the support of mercenaries in different countries.

    On this front, the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are all guilty of committing war crimes, and under international law would be adjuciated as separate cases. My taxes fortunately do not fund Russian, Saudi or Iranian politicians that decide on policies that amount to war crimes. Unfortunately, my taxes do go to American politicians that decide to commit war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, or help Turkey and Saudi Arabia in supporting extremists in Iraq and Syria.

    For every American, our responsibility lies with ensuring that the our government abide by international law and regulations. As Americans, we are far less responsible for the war crimes that are committed by Russians. The way in which we are responsible is to advocate and petition for stronger transnational governance, such as the ICC, that would try war criminals for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Successive American governments have stripped transnational institutions of the little power they had to prevent war crimes. Instead, what you see is the result today.

    The two wrongs don’t make a right works with regards to Syria as well: American policy makers cannot break international law and use Assad or Russia as an excuse. International law would certainly not find this a valid excuse.

  9. Human nature doesn’t change as much social attitudes to aspects of it. This is well illustrated by attitudes to homosexuality which not long a go was a crime and is now all but a fashion accessory. The destruction of civilians of all ages is as old as the records of ancient Mesopotamia , it dominates the Hebrew book of Joshua, and much ever since. It used to be said that if one person in a thousand defies a law it is unenforceable. I have no idea how true this may be but it illustrates the distinction between having laws and enforcing them. International law, like all law, is primarily for guidance, and if there are penalties they arise from being convicted of breaking it. Leona Helmsley, the notorious hotel lady, supposedly said that taxes were only for little people, and in the same spirit International Law is only for little countries.

    The phenomenon of mass shooting in public places is something quite different and I have wondered if it’s incidence in the US could arise from the conjunction of the ready accessibility and preponderance of guns with the obsessive amount of time spent by younger generations on compulsive digital games calling for the destruction of anthropomorphic entities. Those of us who play bridge or chess can remain wound up in a game long after it’s actually over but having these other games running through one’s mind would be quite another matter.

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