Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s certification that the Saudi-led military coalition in the Yemen war was taking adequate steps to avoid inflicting civilian casualties may have achieved a new low in U.S. foreign-policy ethics. There is abundant evidence of multiple atrocities that Riyadh and its United Arab Emirates (UAE) junior partner have committed and continue to commit. The coalition’s war strategy has created a famine as well as a cholera epidemic . Attacks on civilian targets are far too numerous to list. An especially appalling incident occurred in August when coalition aircraft attacked a school bus , killing forty children.
Pompeo’s certification was necessary to meet the requirements of a congressional statute. Otherwise, the U.S. military would have had to curtail its refueling of coalition aircraft involved in Yemen military operations. As part of its obsession with countering Iranian influence in the Middle East, Washington has backed the Saudis in their campaign to destroy Yemen’s nominally pro-Iranian Houthi faction. The latest certification preserves the pretense that Saudi and UAE forces are not committing war crimes and that the United States is not a willing accomplice in those war crimes.
The certification requirement for U.S. aid, especially military assistance, is, and usually has been, a cynical farce to neutralize or (at least dampen) potential public outrage at assisting odious regimes. For decades, U.S. administrations have certified compliance with human-rights standards by aid recipients when those recipients have not come even close to meeting that standard.