What Does It Say When a Hospital Is Deliberately Bombed?

The Blood of Yemeni Children is on America’s Imperialist Hands

August 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


What does it say when a hospital is deliberately bombed? It says the bombers are targeting the injured, the sick, the elderly, and the children. That the war-wounded don’t deserve medical care. That there’s no place safe from the bombs, nowhere to go. And that the bombers are willing to inflict savage violence regardless of law, morality, or public opinion. In short, bombing a hospital delivers a barbaric message of mass terror.

On August 15, Saudi planes bombed the Doctors Without Borders run Abs Hospital compound in northern Yemen.
On August 15, Saudi planes bombed the Doctors Without Borders run Abs Hospital compound in northern Yemen. At least 19 were killed, including three Yemeni members of Doctors Without Borders (also known as MSF). Dozens more were wounded, including three foreign doctors. (Photo: MSF)

That’s the message that was delivered on August 15 by Saudi Arabia’s warplanes and America’s bombs.

Saudi planes bombed the Doctors Without Borders run Abs Hospital compound in northern Yemen. Doctors and nurses were caring for 25 expectant mothers in the maternity ward. “The emergency room had been full of patients when it was hit,” the New York Times (August 15, 2016) reported. “Many of the victims were badly burned...and body parts were scattered around the site.” At least 19 were killed, including three Yemeni members of Doctors Without Borders. Dozens more were wounded, including three foreign doctors.

The Saudis claim they’re investigating, and insist they only hit military targets. But they had the hospital’s GPS coordinates, and Yemeni officials say the closest military target was more than 30 miles away. And this wasn’t the first Saudi attack on Doctors Without Borders hospitals. It was the fourth. Now Saudi Arabia’s “indiscriminate bombings” and refusal to guarantee it won’t happen again has forced Doctors Without Borders to pull 550 staff members from six hospitals in Yemen, a country whose bare-bones medical infrastructure has already been shattered by Saudi Arabia’s 17-month-long war.

“We basically want to wipe out the Houthis”

Where Are the Images of Yemen’s Dead and Wounded Children?

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The hospital bombing is just one example of Saudi Arabia’s savage war on Yemen’s Houthi movement and Shia population. Since it began in March 2015, the Saudis have systematically targeted civilians—and the civilian infrastructure. They’ve bombed schools, warehouses, markets, food factories, water distributors, bridges, and roads. The Saudis haven’t just bombed, they’ve enforced a blockade that’s cut off food, medicine, fuel, and other needed goods. Their war has been a massive, criminal act of collective punishment against Yemen’s people.

A week before the hospital bombing, the Saudis bombed a small market in northern Yemen, killing a dozen civilians. People were afraid to rush to help the victims for fear the Saudis would bomb the rescuers, as they’ve done before. Two days before it bombed a neighborhood and religious school, killing at least 19, 10 of them children. During this period the Saudis destroyed a bridge vital to the food deliveries—increasing the hunger of millions.

Since March 2015, between 6,500 and 7,000 people have been killed. The UN estimates that over 500 children have been killed by U.S-Saudi bombings. More than 2.5 million have been forced from their homes. And one of the world’s most impoverished countries has been plunged into an abyss of suffering and starvation: 21 million of Yemen’s 28 million people are in need of humanitarian aid and half are on the brink of starvation. These are percentages of the population that dwarf even the horrendous—and much more widely publicized—carnage in Syria. “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” the head of the international Red Cross declared.

The evidence points to the targeting of a wide swath of Yemen’s population as being part of a deliberate strategy. According to Harper’s magazine contributor Andrew Cockburn, the Saudi rulers told a top Obama administration official:

“Well, we basically want to wipe out the Houthis” (a reactionary religious movement based among Yemen’s roughly 10 million Shia Muslims). Well, they termed it as “end all Iranian influence in Yemen.” So, the Americans—[Anthony] Blinken was a bit shocked by that, so I’m told, and said, “Well, you know, that’s going a bit far. But it’s—you should certainly stop the Houthis taking over the country.” And that, effectively, gave the Saudis carte blanche.
(Democracy Now!, August 22, 2016)

These weren’t just words: Under Obama, the U.S. has supplied Saudi Arabia with more than $100 billion in weapons. It has provided targeting intelligence, and U.S. air tankers have flown some 1,200 sorties and refueled more than 5,600 Saudi warplanes. In other words, Saudi planes wouldn’t be in the air over Yemen without direct U.S. support. Blood from every Yemeni killed or wounded is on U.S. hands.

Obama Response: No Effect on American Support

This spring, when Syrian planes bombed a Doctors Without Borders supported hospital, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced it as appearing to be “a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders. These strikes have killed hundreds of innocent Syrians.”

What about Saudi Arabia’s apparently deliberate August 15 attack on a hospital in Yemen, which Amnesty International said could constitute “a serious violation of international humanitarian law, which would amount to a war crime”?

This attack “like previous ones that killed thousands of civilians since last March,” a New York Times writer commented, “will have no effect on the American support that is crucial for Saudi Arabia’s air war.”

Why does the U.S. condemn Syria’s hospital bombings while supporting Saudi Arabia’s? Because condemning one while supporting the other serves America’s imperialist interests.

The U.S. is a capitalist-imperialist power whose system runs on globally exploiting millions, controlling and plundering resources, securing markets, and dominating whole swaths of the planet—especially energy-rich and strategically crucial areas like the Middle East. Right now, the U.S. is violently scrambling to maintain its grip on this region, which is threatening to tear apart. The U.S. is doing so by attempting to crush reactionary Islamic jihadists whose actions are clashing with its interests, while supporting other reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces and states—like Saudi Arabia—when that serves its agenda. At the same time, the U.S. is trying to fend off global rivals like Russia, which backs Syria’s reactionary Assad regime, buttress regional allies like the Saudis, and contain other regional powers like Iran.

Right now, right on the ground, all this is translating into bombed-out hospitals, thousands dead, and millions starving in Yemen, combined with pious condemnations of U.S. rivals for committing similar crimes.

Directly aiding and abetting the bombing of hospitals in Yemen. Could there be a clearer statement of the deliberate criminality and ghoulish inhumanity of U.S. imperialism?


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