Missing from Reports of Yemeni Carnage: Washington’s Responsibility

MEDIA, 7 Sep 2015

Jim Naureckas – Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting

The Washington Post provided a photo of the kind of jets the US had sold to Saudi Arabia—but when such jets were used to kill civilians, they were out of the picture. (photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

The Washington Post provided a photo of the kind of jets the US had sold to Saudi Arabia—but when such jets were used to kill civilians, they were out of the picture. (photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

The New York Times (8/30/15) reported on the deaths of civilians in a military assault in Yemen. Wrote reporter Saeed Al-Batati:

Airstrikes by a Saudi-led military coalition killed at least 13 civilians working early Sunday at a water plant in northern Yemen, the plant’s owner said.

The bombings appeared to be the latest in a series of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia or its Arab coalition partners that have hit civilian facilities with no apparent military target nearby.

This photo of the aftermath of an airstrike in Sana, Yemen, accompanied a New York Times story (6/24/15) that provided a detailed account of the human toll of the air war—but made no mention of the US’s responsibility. (photo: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters)

This photo of the aftermath of an airstrike in Sana, Yemen, accompanied a New York Times story (6/24/15) that provided a detailed account of the human toll of the air war—but made no mention of the US’s responsibility. (photo: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters)

The Washington Post (8/30/15) briefly covered the story too, using a Reuters wire report that gave a higher death toll:

An airstrike by warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition, which said it targeted a bomb-making factory, killed 36 civilians working Sunday at a bottling plant in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah, residents said.

Noting that another airstrike had killed four people in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, the piece continued:

The attacks were the latest in an air campaign launched in March by a Saudi-led alliance in support of Yemen’s exiled government, which is fighting Houthi forces allied with Iran.

Both of these reports left out the information that made this news particularly relevant to the papers’ mostly American readership: The US government is actively backing the air war in Yemen that killed those civilians, as the Times and Post have both reported. The Times (3/26/15) wrote at the start of the Saudi assault:

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said Wednesday night that the United States was providing intelligence and logistical support for the campaign in Yemen, and that President Obama had authorized a ”joint planning cell” with Saudi Arabia to coordinate American support for the military offensive.

And the Post, in a piece headlined “How US Weapons Will Play a Huge Role in Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen”  (3/26/15), noted that the weaponry involved largely comes from the US:

US officials said they will offer intelligence and logistical support to the Saudis, but that’s really only a piece of it: The Saudi military is equipped with billions of dollars in advanced American-made weapons.

But that “huge role” often disappears when the the leading papers are discussing the carnage that results from the air attacks that the US is supporting and supplying. Thus when the Times‘ Rick Gladstone (8/22/15) reported that “Saudi-led airstrikes on a residential district in Yemen’s southwestern city of Taiz had killed more than 65 civilians, including 17 people from one family,” according to Doctors Without Borders, and that the death toll in the war included “hundreds of civilians killed in airstrikes,” Washington’s role in facilitating those deaths went unmentioned.

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Jim Naureckas is editor of EXTRA! Magazine at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He is the co-author of Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader. He is also the co-manager of FAIR’s website.

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