More than 40 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, were murdered in a cluster bomb attack last December personally ordered by President Barack Obama.
The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida.
“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful. The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
The Yemeni government has said its forces alone carried out the attack on al-Ma’jalah, the site of an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in al-Mahfad district, Abyan Governorate.
Shortly after the attack some US media reported alleged statements by unnamed US government sources who said that US cruise missiles launched on presidential orders had been fired at two alleged al-Qa’ida sites in Yemen.
“Based on the evidence provided by these photographs, the US government must disclose what role it played in the al-Ma’jalah attack, and all governments involved must show what steps they took to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries,” said Philip Luther.
In addition to the threat cluster bombs pose to civilians when initially fired, it’s worth noting the ordinance that does not immediately explode can continue to threaten innocent lives for decades to come, part of the reason why much of the civilized world — the U.S., Israel and Russia excluded — has sought to ban them.
Don’t expect much in the way of moral outrage from the commentariat in imperial Washington, though, whose members only seem to find their capacity for self-righteous indignation when someone sufficiently powerless — like Helen Thomas — commits a “gaffe” by expressing an opinion one wouldn’t find on The Washington Post editorial page (a cardinal sin). Sure, maybe a few progressive-leaning types will decry how “counterproductive” it is to drop cluster bombs on innocent men, women and children. Maybe a few will opine about how it makes the task of winning hearts and minds for the U.S. empire that much harder. But judging by Henry Kissinger’s social calendar, no one in Official Washington believes complicity in the killing of innocents abroad is as risible an offense as questioning Zionism; it’s certainly no reason to expel someone from polite society (much less bar them from the hors d’oeuvres), nor to be so uncouth as to call them a murderer.
But make no mistake: Barack Obama is a killer. A mass murderer. A war criminal who jokes about his crimes. He may weep over his victims’ fate when alone at night confronted by his conscience — perhaps, in spite of everything, he has retained that level of humanity. But while Joe Klein and David Gregory may never say it, the president’s much-vaunted capacity for reflection does not lessen one iota his culpability in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians since he took office. Not a guy I’d want at my dinner party.