Human Rights Watch report on cluster bombs in Yemen

Yemen sewing factory (Mohammed Huwais:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 15 2016

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the establishment human rights group, issued a report yesterday titled, “Yemen: Cluster Munitions Wounding Civilians; US Supplied Weapon Banned by 2008 Treaty.” The report cites the Saudi-led bombing coalition for using cluster munitions in “civilian areas” & criticizes the US for supplying the weapons–in particular the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon manufactured by Textron Systems Corporation in Wilmington, Massachusetts (just outside of Boston).

It’s on the one hand a valuable report for its exposures of war crimes by the Saudi coalition & Obama regime, but it’s politically schizophrenic, consistent with HRW politics generally in reporting on war. The problems begin with the designation of “civilian areas.” Of course, HRW means residential areas, schools, hospitals, mosques. But what are legitimate bombing sites in Yemen, according to this designation? Power plants, bridges, highways, agricultural fields? Are those designated “military areas,” as they are by the US, Russian, Israeli bombers when they take out a country?

The CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed cluster bomb is a monstrous weapon but if HRW took a poll of Yemenis about which type of bomb they would rather be killed by, it’s unlikely they would parse the distinctions. It’s true, cluster munitions are indiscriminate; the CBU-105 reportedly has a high failure rate & does not “meet the reliability standard required for US export of the weapons.” That means they don’t explode & like land mines in Afghanistan (& elsewhere) remain a problem after the endless wars end.

Why can’t HRW bring itself to opposing & denouncing these monstrous wars? Why does it have to parse distinctions in weaponry & promote a kinder, gentler form of military savagery? This is where HRW diverges from the antiwar movement which demands not different kinds of weapons for bombing people to death but the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all military personnel & materiel & brokers no discounts on savagery.

The HRW report is valuable because it exposes war crimes & the countries perpetrating them & because it puts political pressure on the Obama administration. HRW previously protested in a letter to Obama under the aegis of the Cluster Munition Coalition which they are part of & sent a copy of the current report to the US State Department. Good work, but it’s not as if Obama & the State Department don’t know what Saudi Arabian bombers are doing with the cluster bombs sold them by the Pentagon. It’s not as if the US doesn’t know “civilian areas” are being targeted since the US is providing intelligence & logistical support to the Saudi regime.

HRW’s report is valuable but it is politically compromised because it is based on a pipe dream that war can be conducted in a civilized way according to human rights standards when by its very nature it is savagery. The antiwar movement must be rebuilt around the demand for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all military forces from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, & everywhere else they are.

This photo taken in Sana’a, Yemen is of a bombed-out sewing workshop where two factory workers were bombed to death. May they RIP.

The historic imperative remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement.

(Photo by Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)

UN military occupations that bring epidemics & sex crimes against women & children

UN peacekeepers in Rwanda  (AP Photo:Jerome Delay)  Feb 15 2016

Were it not for the catastrophic role of UN soldiers (called by the euphemism “peacekeepers”) in bringing the cholera epidemic to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake & reports of their sexual misconduct exchanging money, food & medicine for sex from Haitian minors, we would not know very much about how the UN uses its military force.

The UN deploys soldiers around the world second only to US military deployments. They currently have operations in at least 17 places, 10 of them in Africa (Western Sahara, Central African Republic, Mali, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Abyei, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Liberia), & in Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Kosovo, Haiti, India, & Pakistan.

There are over 125,000 UN personnel, mostly uniformed but also civilian, serving in those places. UN military operations have a budget of nearly US$8 billion a year. That explains why the UN has so little resources to assist refugees fleeing wars UN soldiers are involved in.

The cholera epidemic struck at least 700,000 Haitians, killed over 9,000, & spread to the Dominican Republic & Cuba. The disease entered Haiti’s water system through improperly managed human waste at a UN military base. It is documented that the UN covered up its responsibility in the early days of the epidemic which delayed life-saving medical intervention & it has refused to accept criminal culpability in compensating those who lost loved ones or were harmed in any way by the epidemic.

Sexual abuse, rape, sex trafficking, & promotion of prostitution charges (in particular child prostitution) exist in every country UN soldiers have ever operated in. Reports & public exposure of sexual violence go back to at least the 1990s in UN operations in Mozambique, Bosnia, Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone. But it’s certain they began with the first UN military deployments in 1948. The violent character of prostitution, as an adjunct to the military, puts the lie to the rancid glorification of the flesh trade as “sex work” & to the commodification & reification of women & children’s bodies so au courant among pimps & in certain intellectual circles.

After repeated outcries, in 2003 then UN secretary general Kofi Annan finally issued a special bulletin condemning the decades & thousands of cases of abuses & in 2005 established a “zero tolerance” policy. The crimes in Haiti took place after 2010 & there have also been repeated, serious charges leveled against UN soldiers in DR Congo in the past few years. There are currently new allegations in the Central African Republic of child rape in camps for families displaced by the country’s civil war. There are no reports of any prosecutions or actions by the UN to address the charges.

The more you know about the UN, the more you think it needs to be dismantled.

These are UN soldiers (distinguished by the blue helmet) redeployed from Rwanda to Central African Republic to monitor elections. Soldiers appear to be a fixture at poll booths around the world. What does that tell you about the state of democracy in the world?

(Photo by Jerome Delay/AP)