In a new meeting with reporters, Defense Secretary James Mattis has offered new details about US involvement in the Saudi invasion of Yemen, providing specifics about what the US is doing that contradict long-standing claims of a very limited, non-combat involvement.
Mattis now admits the US is “doing the planning” in Yemen strikes, and has shown the Saudis how the concept of a no-strike zone is supposed to work, and engaged in a maturing process of “battlefield management” intended to see Saudi strikes killing fewer civilians.
Mattis also tried to spin the already established US involvement in mid-air refueling as beneficial for civilians being bombed. He warned Saudi bombers would make “rash or hasty decisions” if they had to worry about running out of fuel before bombing a place, and might take less time to avoid hitting civilian targets.
Obviously all of these US efforts to avoid hitting civilian targets in Yemen aren’t working, as Saudi airstrikes are still killing a shocking number of innocent bystanders. The comments are more noteworthy than just another half-hearted attempted to spin US involvement in the war as innocuous, however.
That’s because the Senate just debated measure on the Yemen War, with Mattis and other top Pentagon officials defending their involvement as limited. Throughout this, officials have long presented the civilian toll as something distinct from their own involvement in the conflict, and suggested that the US has nothing to do with targeting.