Do we support bombing school buses full of children?

Apparently, we do. The US is part of this Saudi-led coalition killing civilians in Yemen, and an American-made 500lb bomb was dropped on a bus with 40 kids on their way to a field trip, killing most of them.

This is just the latest string, unfortunately, of really brutal attacks on civilians in Yemen. It is not the worst of its kind in terms of the numbers of people killed, but certainly because all of the—40 out of the 51 people who were killed were children, it really is just an extreme form of this Saudi-led coalition bombing in Yemen. Here were these kids on a school trip. They were excited. There’s footage—we see them laughing and really being excited. Some of the parents said that they couldn’t really sleep the night before because they were so looking forward to—and here’s the sad part—they’re going to a cemetery just to be able to enjoy some time outside. And as the bus entered a busy market, it was targeted by the Saudi-led coalition and most of these children were killed. Of course, we know that the U.S. is part of the Saudi-led coalition, so we are in fact responsible, just as much as the Saudis and Emiratis are, in the bombing of those children.

You might be wondering how we can justify our participation in these crimes. Have no fear! The excuses are flowing faster than the blood of shattered children. Here’s an AP reporter explaining the logic of the attack.

What is very hard to determine in Yemen is what the children were doing. We worked on covering Yemen since 2015. We know that the Saudi-led coalition has bombed civilian targets all the time—markets, hospitals, schools. This is not a surprise. But we also know that the Houthis are actively recruiting the children and then they send them to the front lines. And the question marks here that are not answered yet—what were the children doing at the time?

There are no schools right now at Yemen. There are no buses carrying children from one school to the house. This is a luxury. The children were visiting a cemetery, and that is where they promote the whole notion of jihad and martyrism. So I mean, on one hand, the Saudi-led coalition is blamed for killing the civilians and this has been ongoing without any—no question about it. But at the same time, we have a look at the other side of the picture and see what the Houthis were doing with the children.

Dude. I’m having flashbacks, man. I grew up during the Vietnam War (I was too young to go, fortunately, but this stuff was in the news all the time), and I remember all the rationalizations for dropping napalm on villages. This is the same old story: we don’t know exactly what these kids were doing, but we can imagine all kinds of nefarious schemes, so let’s pretend after the fact that they were all evil terrorists in training. It is all too familiar.

Let’s ask a Yemeni scholar to reply to that.

To just quickly respond to what your guest just said, it doesn’t really matter what the children were doing. They were children, they were in summer school and for the Saudi-led coalition to bomb a bus full of children is a war crime, regardless of what the children were doing.

Exactly. We’re done. It’s inexcusable.

But he does go on, about all the other children killed in this war.

And to talk about really what the U.S. intervention in Yemen looks like, we know what it looks like. We know the devastation that it has caused. Yemen is falling and all of the services have been failing. 113,000 children died in 2016 and 2017 alone of starvation and preventable diseases such as cholera. What we need from the Senate, what we need from Congress right now is to continue to push toward ending the U.S. involvement in Yemen, given how much the Saudis and the Emiratis rely on U.S. support, on U.S. weapons, on U.S. maintaining and repairing of their aircraft, on U.S. midair refueling and on U.S. targeting assistance.

We know that they cannot continue to wage war on Yemen without extensive U.S. assistance, and Congress needs to act quickly to continue to introduce resolutions in the Senate and in the House to push the U.S. out of Yemen.

The United States has been awfully good at minimizing blood shed on our side, and awfully good at maximizing blood shed and terror in other places. Can we stop, please?


  1. raven says

    I found the AP reporters excuses pathetically unbelievable.
    As PZ notes, it is Vietnam War era class excuses.

    The children were going to a cemetery for Jihad training???
    Really, how does that work.
    It’s more likely that they were going to a cemetery because it is an open area unlikely to be bombed.

    One could just as easily say that the children will grow up to be rebel soldiers so they had to kill them now.

    And to continue the Vietnam war comparisons, why are we even involved in the Yemen civil war? I doubt either side is worth supporting.

  2. says

    That “accidental” stuff is bullshit. The US is flying area denial strikes like they did in Vietnam. Kill anything that moves – it’s the American way.

  3. whywhywhy says

    Why would we stop? The US is making choices based on America First and this is easy. What is more important: the lives of foreigners or increasing profits of American arms manufacturers and dealers?

    Sure we are increasing hatred against America but we are making a profit. This is the beauty of American exceptionalism!

    (yes this is an attempt at satire)

  4. raven says

    The US is flying area denial strikes like they did in Vietnam.

    I remember those.
    They were called free fire zones.

    They didn’t work very well.
    We still lost the war.

  5. Dunc says

    The children were visiting a cemetery, and that is where they promote the whole notion of jihad and martyrism.

    The park I walk in every day has many memorials to those who fought and died in our various wars. Is that promoting the notion of war?

  6. thirdmill301 says

    I visited Yemen in 2010 and fell in love with it. It’s a magnificent place, and I met a lot of people I really liked. I’m now haunted wondering if any of them are still alive.

  7. unclefrogy says

    we ain’t going to stop yet and neither is Putin going to stop in Syria this is how we do it in the 21st century and I am sure we will all get the same fucking results.
    keep america great again
    uncle frogy

  8. says

    @Dunc, #5:

    I think what the pro-US commentator is saying is that it’s okay for Yemenis to bomb US kids if the US kids are reciting the pledge of allegiance, because that’s how we indoctrinate them with our values which is a necessary step in the process of gaining armed forces volunteers who will eventually launch deadly drone strikes or SpecFor ops.

    If the kids are being indoctrinated, they’re fair game. Simple as that.

  9. says

    The park I walk in every day has many memorials to those who fought and died in our various wars. Is that promoting the notion of war?

    Yes, but it’s okay when we’re doing it. Because we’re the good guys, remember?

  10. microraptor says

    I wish I lived in a world where waking up and thinking “I wonder how many kids my government killed today” could be regarded as silly.

  11. voidhawk says

    #11 – chrislawson

    Dude, not the time or the place. It doesn’t matter whether the kids were going to visit a tasteful, respectful monument to World Peace or a giant statue promoting the worst aspects of humanity, they’re fucking children. Bombing a busload of children is wrong.

    Just in case that was too subtle, let me repeat it: BOMBING CHILDREN IS WRONG.

  12. Jeremy Shaffer says

    What is very hard to determine in Yemen is what the children were doing.

    If you don’t know what they were doing then you had no justification for dropping a bomb on them. You just wanted to drop a bomb on a school bus full of kids to provoke factions within Yemen into reacting in the way they most likely will- to the extent they can- so it’ll retroactively grant justification for the next brutal act the Saudis make.

    With the help of the United States, of course.

    The children were visiting a cemetery, and that is where they promote the whole notion of jihad and martyrism.

    Going out on a limb here, and assuming this claim has any positive relationship with reality, I have difficulty believing the kids would grok much with any “jihad and martyrism” sales pitch if their country- not to mention people they knew and loved- weren’t getting bombed to hell and back all around them. Those few kids who survived the bombing: when someone comes to them and starts talking “jihad and martyrism”, how much more likely do you think they’ll buy into it now than they would have one second before the bomb hit?

  13. raven says

    What is very hard to determine in Yemen is what the children were doing.

    It’s likely they had zero idea where that bus was going and/or what they planned to do.
    They might not even have known who was in it with any degree of certainty.

    The Saudis bombed this bus from the air.
    All they are going to see and know is that it is…a school bus.

    The excuses are obviously all flimsy and post hoc.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 unclefrogy

    neither is Putin going to stop in Syria

    Disagree. Putin wanted to stop an American attempt to turn Syria into a failed state. I cannot see any other explanation for the US behaviour. Three or four years ago, I thought it was just general US clueleesess but the more I watched the more I came to the conclusion that it was a deliberate attempt to turn Syria into a failed state.

    Unfortunately Putin had to ally with a vicious state but he is a realist. If Al Assad can hold the county together, than that is better than chaos on Russia’s southern border.

  15. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Giliell at 17:

    Wrong. Even if you know what they were doing, killing children is still wrong.

    Yes, because if you read my post it’s patently obvious that I think there’s a remote possibility they could have been in the right for bombing a school bus full of children and not that I was pointing out that they were- as so often happens- trying to create a situation to retroactively justify atrocities by provoking reactions while dismissing or deflecting criticism for such with “well, we don’t really know what those kids were up to so better safe than sorry, right?”

    Thank you.