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Amnesty Int'l Report Claims U.S. Used Cluster Bombs on Yemeni Children

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This post originally appeared on Booman Tribune.

If true, this is pretty damning stuff and would constitute a war crime.

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was behind a December attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International (AI) said on Monday. The London-based rights group released photographs that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the December 17, 2009 attack on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen's southern Abyan province.

Here's more from Amnesty International's own website about the attack:

Amnesty International has released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa'ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children. [...]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. [...]

The photographs enable the positive identification of damaged missile parts, which appear to be from the payload, mid-body, aft-body and propulsion sections of a BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster submunitions (bomblets) which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150m away. An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.

A further photograph, apparently taken within half an hour of the others, shows an unexploded BLU 97 A/B submunition itself, the type carried by BGM-109D missiles. These missiles are known to be held only by US forces and Yemeni armed forces are unlikely to be capable of using such a missile. [...]

A Yemeni parliamentary committee that investigated the 17 December 2009 attack reported in February that 41 people it described as civilians had been killed. In its report the committee said that on arrival at the scene of the attack in al-Ma'jalah it found that all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture.

It said the committee รข??found traces of blood of the victims and a number of holes in the ground left by the bombings as well as a number of unexploded bombs, and that one survivor told the committee that his family, who were killed although they had committed no crime, were sleeping when the missiles struck on the morning of 17 December 2009.

The the images released by Amnesty International of alleged US cruise missiles and cluster munitions used in Yemen can be found here.

Are we reaching to the point where our government considers anyone, including women and children, potential terrorists because of where they reside, as the Israelis do in Gaza? President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, would have had to give the okay for such an attack with a weapon that is not precise, is not exact, that is intended to kill large numbers of individuals.

I call on the President to immediately answer the question whether he authorized such an attack in violation of international law and simple moral values. You do not murder innocent civilians in a town because you're enemy may live there. That is what we specifically condemned the Nazis for in WWII when they rounded up civilians and killed them in reprisals for attacks by various resistance groups in occupied countries across Europe. The only difference wa the Nazis shot their civilians at close range. We use cruise missiles so we don;t have to force our soldiers to witness the results of their "wet work."

Perhaps using cluster bombs against suspected terrorist sites in civilian areas would have been an acceptable policy under former President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who continue to defend torture and an illegal war of aggression against Iraq to this day without any hint of regret or remorse. However,it should never be the policy that a Democratic President adopts. This was certainly not an action I expected a Democratic President to endorse: the use of cluster bombs which he must have known would kill and maim civilians.

And people wonder why US residents irate at the slaughter of innocent Muslims are attempting to join Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations on Americans after attacks like this. The question must be asked of this administration: what benefit is there to unilaterally killing people in countries where no state of war exists, and with weapons designed to kill as many people as possible, regardless of their connection to alleged terrorists.

In the short term we may have eradicated an Al Qaeda training site. Good for us.

However, it is the long term, that I am concerned about. One of these days we won't be so lucky when a homegrown terrorist tries to explode a car bomb in Times Square, or attacks some other target of "opportunity." I wonder if the people murdered at Ft Hood would have been gunned down by Major Hasan if the Bush administration had not adopted torture and promoted a war in Iraq that killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of civilians, including many children.

When we use weapons that are bound to kill people who have nothing to do with those who oppose us, we are no better than base murderers. War does not excuse such actions authorized by our government and carried out by our military. In the end, it will be innocent Americans who will pay the price for these senseless killings. Perhaps your child or mine.

So, President Obama, answer the question: were our armed forces behind the attack on al-Ma'jalah? Did we employ cluster munitions? Is it our policy to continue to employ such weapons regardless of the risk to innocent civilians who are likely to be killed or maimed for life along with any potential militants that may attack America?

If so, I'd like to know your reasons for authorizing such a vicious assault and whether you believe such weapons of mass murder are an appropriate means to assault civilian areas as opposed to military installations.

This is most certainly not the change I voted for. If your administration is responsible, stand up and be accountable for this heinous crime. No more lies or evasions. We had enough of those under the former President.