How U.S. Weapons Ended Up Hitting Hospitals in Yemen | NYT – Visual Investigations

This is the scene of
an airstrike in 2016 in Yemen, on a busy hospital
in a small city called Abs. Nineteen people were killed
and dozens were injured. The pilot missed
clear warning signs and ignored safety measures,
like a no-strike list of protected buildings. Found in the debris, the
remains of a U.S.-made weapon. America isn’t officially
involved here. The fight is between
a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebel group. But it’s very much
a U.S.-supported war. The fighter jets, the
bombs, the training and intelligence — much of
it is supplied to the Saudis by the U.S. It’s a brutal war. The Houthis have killed
hundreds of Yemenis. The Saudi air campaign
has been even more lethal. Over four years, coalition
airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians and
bombed well over 100 medical facilities, a Times
assessment found. “If U.S. fighter pilots
were doing this directly with U.S. bombs, would there
be a change in behavior?” “If we were hitting
hospitals, over and over, like what we’re seeing? Absolutely, there
would be a change.” Which begs the question:
What obligation does the U.S. have
when it sells weapons to foreign militaries? U.S. officials claim their
ally is doing everything possible to protect civilians. But this is simply not true, according to Larry Lewis,
a former State Department official, who saw firsthand
how the Saudi coalition failed to protect civilians
and how the U.S. chose to look the other way. “Yemen has exposed a
fundamental problem in the way we provide arms and
the way we support partners. So we need to change
the way we do business.” Lewis spent years working
with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan
to try to reduce civilian casualties. He wrote a book on
protecting civilians that’s issued to every
U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. And in 2015, the
Obama administration sent him to work with the
Saudi coalition in Riyadh. “There were some
fundamental problems with how some of the targeting
was being done that really needed to be fixed.” During his time there, he
reviewed the Abs hospital strike with an investigations team he helped the
Saudi coalition to create. “What did you learn from
reviewing that airstrike with the Saudis?” “You look at the
level of destruction in the nearby buildings
and go, the pilot got it way wrong.” Let’s take a look at
what happened there. Coalition warplanes
attacked a Houthi checkpoint a few miles north of Abs. Medics say that a car
transported casualties to the Abs hospital
from the strike. The Saudi coalition
tracked the car, believing a Houthi
leader was inside. For some reason, they didn’t
strike it on the open road. Instead, they waited until the
car pulled into the hospital. It parked by the
emergency room and was hit without warning. Three major failings were
evident in the Abs strike, Lewis says, and
these were repeated throughout the
Saudi-led air campaign. “Doctors Without Borders
say that they provided the
hospital coordinates to the Saudi coalition.” “That’s right.” “So why did they still hit it?” “That information didn’t
get to the cockpit.” The Saudi coalition is
often praised by the U.S. for creating a no-strike list,
a map of protected sites like schools, refugee
camps and hospitals. The list is used
to vet targets when airstrikes
are preplanned. But that doesn’t happen for
the vast majority of strikes, which are on-the-fly bombings
or so-called dynamic strikes. “What can be done to limit the
number of dynamic strikes, or at least force them to
check the no-strike list?” “Mhm. This is not rocket science. It’s not hard to make a
requirement for pilots to call back to
higher headquarters and say, check
the no-strike list and tell me if this object
is on the no-strike list, or if there’s something
that’s close by. It would take a
minute or two.” Another problem? Over and over,
Lewis says, pilots seem to ignore large
roof signs that identified hospitals,
including the one in Abs. We can see six of them
in this satellite image taken before the strike. “So the pilot could have seen
this marking and recognized, hey, this is a
protected facility.” On top of all this,
a major issue is a lack of common sense
among pilots and spotters on the ground. “You have a pilot that’s
not really so experienced, and then you have
a person, who’s not even a military person, agreeing on what they think
is a valid target, and then engaging that target. So, it’s really
fraught with peril.” In Abs, a teacher
named Hamza Ahmed Absi saw that peril firsthand. He rushed to the hospital
from a nearby school. Muhammad Darm was badly
injured in the attack. He’s an X-ray technician,
who was helping patients near the
hospital’s entrance when the bomb exploded. Muhammad was lucky to survive. He recently returned to
work in the hospital. Once a sanctuary
in a time of war, he says it no
longer feels safe. For years, officials in both the
Obama and Trump administrations have said they’re working directly
with the Saudis to stem civilian casualties. “I think every Yemeni
that is killed — any innocent
person is killed — it affects all of us. And there are many steps
that are being taken, and have been taken, to
try to minimize that.” “The training that we
have given them, we know has paid off.” “We are co-located with them
in their operation centers to help them develop the
techniques and tactics that will allow them to conduct
strikes while mitigating civilian casualties.” But one problem
with U.S. oversight, Lewis says: The U.S.
wasn’t tracking how the American
weapons it sold were being used by
a Saudi military with little experience in war. In 2018, three years into
the conflict, the head of U.S. Central Command
said as much. “Is CENTCOM able to tell
whether U.S. fuel or U.S. munitions were used
as part of that strike?” “Senator, I don’t
believe we are.” Lewis says they did have
access to that information. They just weren’t using it. “Every flight by the
Saudi-led coalition where they were doing
airstrikes, that pilot would then make a report that talked
about what target was it, what kind of weapons
did they use and just information
about the strike. They would file
it and then that would go to populate this
Excel spreadsheet that had every single strike
in the campaign.” “And the U.S. and U.K. had
access to that database? “They did.” “So if the U.S. wanted to know
if American bombs were bombing hospitals, they
could have done so?” “Yes.” A year later, after reporters
disclosed the database, General Votel
changed his tune. “Today, we do have that. We do have a database that
does have that information and we have the
ability to see that.” Lewis says the database
could be a tool to increase U.S. oversight in
reviewing foreign weapons sales. A State Department official
told us this kind of data could be incorporated into
its monitoring, but vetting it can be onerous, and it
may be of little use to policymakers. After a Saudi
coalition airstrike on a funeral home killed
over 150 people in late 2016, the Obama administration,
having brokered $100 billion in weapons sales, now
sought to distance the U.S. from the coalition. “And their response
was, clearly, the Saudis aren’t learning.” It paused sales of
precision weapons, and pulled the plug on
Lewis’s advising mission. “The U.S. said this is up to
the Saudis to do their thing and investigate themselves.” When President Trump
took office, the U.S. doubled down
on weapons sales. “So we make the best
equipment in the world. There’s nobody even close. And Saudi Arabia’s buying
a lot of this equipment.” In Yemen, things for civilians
continue to get worse. In 2018, the rate of
civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led
coalition soared, Lewis says, to almost 50 per week. And in Abs, history
repeated itself. Yet another medical
facility was attacked in June of that year. The airstrike destroyed a
vital cholera treatment center built by
Doctors Without Borders to handle the worst
outbreak of the disease in modern history. The Saudi coalition tried
to shift blame to Doctors Without Borders,
saying its buildings weren’t marked. But again, satellite images
from before the strike show large red crescents were
visible, even from space. And Doctors Without Borders say they shared the center’s
coordinates at least 12 times. The Saudis deny this. The U.S. sells weapons
to over 100 countries, but in Yemen, the scale
of the devastation has become the story. And for the people living
there, it’s the new normal.

62 thoughts on “How U.S. Weapons Ended Up Hitting Hospitals in Yemen | NYT – Visual Investigations

  1. Trump brags a lot about how America is the number 1 military arms dealer on the planet. Along with the New York Times beating the war drums when it came to Iraq, Venezuela, and Iran. It’s too bad that all the neoliberal democrat and neoconservative republican lawmakers are all in bed with the bomb making war profiteering military industrial complex

  2. This is how declining empires overextends itself and gets into endless wars after endless wars. Which is the reason why the New York Times fired Chris Hedges for telling the truth.

  3. US is spreading terrorist with their guns, Yemeni people are suffering from US weapons, leave Yemen alone you are the devil

  4. It takes great conscience for weapon providers (countries like U.S., etc.) to be “Tony Stark” who knows the the degree of cruelty those weapons can bring to human. Not to mention the fact that he only came to realize the traumatic damages his military products have brought to ppl at war zone after “experiencing” them himself.
    Pray for all the ppl who are forced to live under severe living conditions anywhere in the world. 🙏🏻

  5. I'm an old Texan…my Dad was a WWII Naval officer….I'm so deeply ashamed of my country. I grew up believing our country was far from perfect, but as good as it gets. That cliche won't work anymore. From Guatemala and Iran till today it just gets worse and worse and worse…not only foreign policy horrors, but new policies towards college debt, threatening to garnish Social Security and take away drivers Licenses, and harass relatives. No shame, no honor, no pity….

  6. Oh.. it is so terrible
    I am so sad that there have been so many victims from the reckless attacks of th US

  7. Let's not kid ourselves: it wasn't an accident, and while the US will make a show out of cajoling the Saudis, and the Saudis will fawn and fall over themselves to demonstrate how sorry they are, it will happen again. Our policymakers have known for a very long time that Saudi Arabia is run and operated by some very appalling people, but unlike Saddam Hussein who tried to bite the hand that fed him, the Saudi Royalty are smart enough to play along. The US goes along with it, because we need their oil, their land provides a handy staging ground from where to launch our missions, and, as the Yemen War proves, we can use their soldiers to serve as our proxies in another military quagmire, thus making it so we don't have to commit our own soldiers to the fight.

    The US military is stretched thin as is and both parties, Democratic or Republican, are doing whatever they can to stave off a draft because any party that does so, would effectively sign its own death warrant. The US military learned from Vietnam, learned how it was the photos coming in from the war and the draft that turned the public against it, and applying the lessons they've learned. Hence why they are doing whatever they can to avoid a draft and why they tightly control press briefings and the photos the public is allowed to see. So the war continues to exist as an abstract phenomenon for the average American citizen and they don't have the face the very real horror of what we're doing overseas.

    Basically, the US will do the diplomatic equivalent of swatting Saudi Arabia with a newspaper, going, "Bad Saudi Arabia! Very Bad!" But within a few weeks, we'll be back to selling them weapons and turning a blind eye to what they do with them, until another incident like the one in the video forces us to voice token objections to all of it.

  8. They need some tony stark treatment. They should get hit with their own weapons. See how they feel about it then

  9. jesus only teaches the way of peace,since the year 30,war is murder,what kinda religion approves murder,trump's war with iran begins in june,casualties in the tens of millions,except Jordan iran&friends capture the mid east&the isreali state will be no more,saudi arabia will be annihilated&the saud family will not exist

  10. For the USA its just "MONEY MONEY" no care for people in distress. And a lot of fools are still supporting DONKEY TRUMP

  11. America is the main and head country which has been continuously promoting terrorism all over the world..

  12. Saudi Arabia is a stain on the United States. They are using our weapons for genocide.
    Saudi Arabia is disgusting and doing these things intentionally with no shame.

  13. This is, unfortunately, nothing new. We have been bankrolling and arming brutal, oppressive regimes for well over 150 years now. United States foreign policy is similar to domestic policy: protect the obscenely rich and all of their privileges.

  14. tbh I started to love the New York Times journalism, Really great work. Im thinking of newspaper subscription

  15. American industrial complex loves blowing people up . That's what they do . American " interests " means your blood is America's for the taking because they have the money to be the biggest punk in town .

  16. Bi partisan votes to discontinue arming the Saudi’s was vetoed by Trump. The Saudi’s give us money he said …

  17. (apparently the downloader of this video changed the heading).. so my comment below no longer applies.

    The heading on this video is misleading. AND SIMPLY UNTRUE.
    It's incredible how easy it is to tell who did not watch the video based on their comments.
    It's amazing how many people in this thread have strong opinions based on nothing but the heading.

  18. The US has sold weapons to areas all over the world ever sincea we had a market and interest to. Even worse now is hillary clinton sold uranium to russia. Russia has one main enemy, the USA. How do you think that uranium will be used? Nukes on America. So, if we are going to be upset it needs to be at those people who had no political purpose in mind, just monetary gain such as hillary. It isn't my words that make that fact, it is the facts that make that fact.

  19. Nobody in the US can stop this. It is an economy that runs on war. It doesn't matter who is the president.

  20. I can only ask God to stop the Saudi terrorist funding regime, namely MBS from hurting Islam and the world. Killing poor innocents in Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, now trying to take Iran.
    You will never succeed Al e Saud.

  21. Just horrible. What a mess. Governments destroy innocent people. Why do the governments do this. They do not represent the will of their people.

  22. It is not a lack of education, lack of propper administrative procedures, lack of information. It's a lack of ethics from both the saudi's and the US. I almost could not finish watching this out of frustration. You can send out as many experts as you want and write as many reports as you want, but it is all smoke and mirrors to hide the underlying cause; the leaders of the US and the saudi's don't care about anything but securing and expanding their wealth and power, at all costs. That a dictator gets away with it I can understand, but a democratically elected president?!

  23. Yeah right… Américan military and war is just sick.. No one follows the rules .. War crimes are like games And no one cares.

  24. +20 US vets are suciding daily Why?? cuz they know they aren't Fighting for freedom & liberty. they they are killing millions of innocent people for oil & other resources for their greedy govt,politicians & bankers.US is the biggest terrorists org in the world history till now and will remain in future too.

  25. So we bomb them, and say "it is hurting us" ? As in we the victim now? . SMH ! Ashame to what we as I say we as in one , should take the blame. God will give the final call and judge witch he know right of the back, of what we are doing on this Earth. God bless the world and the true victim 🙏. We are very sorry for many things. From myself . This ain't right at all. Foul calls. 😞

  26. What gets me is how Americans don't believe this will happen on their soil. It's coming, it's inevitable!

    Just leave the civilians alone in this world, go straight for the leaders quarters! Im tired of reading of the genocides of innocents, created by greedy criminal slave owners in every country!!!

  27. The us criticises other countries that sells weapons to dangerous countries that would possibly threaten the us but doesn’t think of their own actions?

  28. So, if I sold The Bloods or The Crips 100 A.K. 47's, then they mow each other down, I will go to prison, but if the U.S. sells a country a bomb, then they drop it on a hospital, it's all cool?

  29. Everyone here has to remember that the average enraged American citizen has little to no more control over what their army or their bombs do thousands of miles away than the people being bombed do. All world leaders, American, Saudi Arabian, every leader has to step up and actually change this situation because they are the only ones who can. Unfortunately, it seems like the world and especially Americans have normalized this state of affairs in their minds because they’re never personally affected by it, so there’s no pressure on politicians to change a thing.

    But this isn’t the average Americans fault, some are fighting hard for peace and human rights and life, but psychologically, when a population gets too comfortable for too long, they become mostly complicit. They start fighting over smaller and smaller issues when the big ones no longer affect them. This isn’t unique to Americans, this is just the way all humans are.

    Humanity’s true heroes are only born out of necessity. That’s why so many average people, average Americans, stepped up and became heroes during world war 2. But now, surrounded by cushions and comfort and safety, there is almost no more necessity for us in the west, and therefore there are almost no more heroes here. It’s no ones fault, just human nature.

  30. Please investigate the Rabaa massacre in Egypt, it is claimed to be a war crime and the most horrific massacre in modern Egyptian history. Please shine some unbiased light on it.

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