A new report from the independent monitoring group Airwars offers a clearer picture of the devastating impact of the Trump administration in Yemen
The American people are “on tenterhooks”. 48 hours after the presidential elections have been held, a winner is still not known. If Nevada wins, Joe Biden would be elected. However, there are other states that have not produced results either. But whether Donald Trump stays or not, this is the picture left by his four-year presidential administration in Yemen.
At the end of January 2017, a few weeks after Donald Trump took office as president of the United States, US military troops carried out a “raid” in the village of al-Ghayil, in southwestern Yemen. Thus, Trump began his mandate: with bloodshed.
This alleged “raid”, led by dozens of US special forces troops. was backed by helicopters. The mission — supposedly — was to attack Al Qaeda operatives who were “believed” to be living in that village. In the end, the “successful” mission, as Trump called it, was just another “bloody massacre”.
The Intercept describes that day in Yemen. The military descended on the village, razing houses with explosives and filling al-Ghayil alleys with gunfire. At the end of the shootings, dozens of Yemeni civilians were killed, while only one single US officer was killed.
Among those killed were many children, including an eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American citizen. Nawar was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who allegedly joined a local Al Qaeda network. He and his other son, Abdulrahman (15), had already been killed in a drone attack ordered by Barack Obama.
Subsequent reports included Nawar among the dozen children under the age of 13 killed in the attack. Her death, ordered by Trump, marked the latest tragic chapter in the Al-Awlaki family’s collision with Washington.
She “was hit with a bullet in the neck and suffered for two hours”. This was later related to journalists by her grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki. “Why kill children? This is the new administration”, the Trump era, “it is very sad, a great crime”.
The report on the offensive in Yemen
A new report from the independent monitoring group Airwars was released on Wednesday, October 28. The document offers a clearer picture of the devastating impact of the Trump administration in Yemen.
The report is called “Eroding Transparency: US Counterterrorism Actions in Yemen Under President Donald Trump”. It describes a war waged brutally over the past four years, while quietly slipping away from the public eye.
This action contrasts with the image that Trump had given months before. When he campaigned in 2016, he presented himself as a “counterweight to the bloodthirsty and out of control US foreign policy establishment”. But, the Airwars report demonstrated that the tycoon does not fit — in any way — with that optimistic picture.
The report determined that at least 86 civilians were killed in airstrikes and raids in Yemen on Trump’s orders. Most of these killings occurred during 2017 and 2018. In the African nation, those two years were the most active in terms of attacks, and the deadliest for civilians.
Washington’s entire war effort in Yemen contains different components: raids and airstrikes carried out by the Army. Also, a separate covert campaign involving drones and other measures undertaken by the CIA.
Finally, it highlights the indirect support of the United States to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Arab nation is waging a separate and devastating war against Yemen’s Houthi rebel forces.
Trump says Yemen is a “heritage”
Trump says he “inherited these conflicts” from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Worse still, he refuses to accept that he escalated them himself. The Intercept claims that Trump helped turn Yemen into “the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis”, in the words of Human Rights Watch.
In Yemen, after more than five years of war, millions are on the brink of starvation. And that happens in “one of the poorest countries in the world”. On his part, Trump expresses feeling good overseeing the crisis, the bombing and the raiding. But, he also arms foreign states — like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that have their own political interests in Yemen.
In 2019, Trump could not even take “an exit route” in Yemen. He even used his presidential veto to block a congressional decision that called for an end to US participation in that war.
To add insult to injury, the Airwars report pulled out another revelation. Trump reversed Obama’s modest attempts, after years of pressure, to provide transparency about military operations in Yemen.
Also in 2019, Trump issued an executive order to repeal an Obama measure. This required to make public the estimated number of civilians killed in operations in “active war zones” such as Yemen.
The move came two years after Trump relaxed the rules on airstrikes and command raids. The latter gave the Army the ability to execute operations with reduced supervision.
How many civilians did Trump assassinate in this administration?
In Trump’s annual reports, the Army claims that “zero civilians” were killed in Yemen during the operations they carried out between 2018 and 2019. But that claim contradicts detailed reports from monitoring groups like Airwars.
Unfortunately, “the absurd death toll was not questioned by an administration that strives to encourage and defend people accused of killing civilians in combat”, reported the British media.
So the Trump administration’s bloody footprint in Yemen is just one example of how the brutal legacy of US foreign policy in the Middle East continues and intensifies.
The actions in Africa and the Middle East include how air strikes in Somalia reached record levels with Trump. This was so even as the country gave in under the pressure of the coronavirus.
On the other hand, the US embarks on a policy of war and siege against the people of Iran, just as both countries are facing one of the worst virus outbreaks in history.
Furthermore, due to its sanctions and coercive measures, Washington denies the Iranian population the possibility of accessing vital supplies. That happens while the healthcare system is under strain, not to say provocation, following the assassination of Iranian military commanders.
Donald Trump’s actions in Afghanistan are much easier to explain and easier to understand. During his government, he ordered only 10 air strikes against that nation, but ultimately ended up killing at least 150 civilians.
Trump’s charade about the Islamic State
One of Trump’s alleged military successes — never proven — was the war against the Islamic State (ISIS). That battle was carried out with similar brutality and indifference to future consequences. Even as soon as he assumed the presidency, civilian deaths from that conflict skyrocketed.
Under his administration, attacks by the US coalition in Iraq and Syria against the terrorist group killed some 13,000 civilians. It is the latest tragic chapter in decades of history of military campaigns in the Middle East. These actions are what breed radicalism among the ruins of the Arab countries.
The Intercept reviewed statements by a French military man who served in the coalition and spoke about how Trump fought that war. “We have massively destroyed the infrastructure. We have given the population a repugnant image of what a Western-style liberation can be”. This was reported by Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier, in 2019.
Legrier’s comments gave an important insight into how Washington and its allies fought the war under Trump: with the utmost brutality and little concern for civilians.
Following the 2017 raid on al-Ghayil, a reporter from The Intercept visited the village and found a scene of destruction and grief among the survivors. Thousands of people were left stranded in a remote location where Trump had approved sending the Army.
A child even told the reporter about the death of his mother. She “was run over by the American plane (…) she now is in heaven”.
Thus, while Trump was seeking re-election, he promoted himself as an opponent of “endless wars”. But, it is worth reflecting on the fate of civilians in al-Ghayil and in many other towns, unknown to most Americans, destroyed by the US Army and on the orders of the magnate.
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