UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 (IPS) – The widespread use of American weapons by Israel, which has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza, has triggered accusations of war crimes against the United States.
But US has always escaped these charges in contemporary military conflicts –particularly in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Iraq –and also in the use of American weapons in Yemen where thousands have been killed.
The United Nations once described the deaths and destruction in the eight-year-old civil war in Yemen as “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster”.
The killings of mostly civilians have been estimated at over 100,000, with accusations of war crimes against a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose primary arms supplier is the US.
And now, the killings of Palestinians in Gaza have come back to haunt the Americans in a new war zone. But still, the US is unlikely to be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“If U.S. officials don’t care about Palestinian civilians facing atrocities using U.S. weapons, perhaps they will care a bit more about their own individual criminal liability for aiding Israel in carrying out these atrocities,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an American non-profit organization that advocates democracy and human rights in the Middle East.
“The American people never signed up to help Israel commit war crimes against defenseless civilians with taxpayer funded bombs and artillery,” she noted.
According to DAWN, U.S. law requires that United States monitor and ensure that weapons and munitions it provides to Israel are not used to commit war crimes in Gaza.
The advocacy group reminded both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a letter sent last week.
“Failure to comply with end-use monitoring requirements not only breaches U.S. laws but also could expose U.S. officials to prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for aiding and abetting war crimes,” warned DAWN.
In a separate letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, DAWN asked the Prosecutor urgently to issue a public statement reminding the parties to the conflict of the ongoing investigation there and send an investigative team to the Gaza region of Palestine to document and investigate potential crimes under the Rome Statute.
Mouin Rabbani, Co-Editor, Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute, told IPS the United States is in violation of international law, as well as its own domestic legislation, by providing weapons to Israel in the full knowledge that these are being used for the express purpose of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“I would go further and state that it is providing them to Israel for precisely this reason. This is because the US is determined to see Israel achieve its objectives in the Gaza Strip; Washington recognizes that Israel does not have the military capacity and political will to physically occupy the Gaza Strip for a prolonged period and eradicate Hamas and other groups, and has instead — with unqualified US support — adopted as its primary objective the systematic destruction of the Gaza Strip and mass killings of Palestinian civilians”, he pointed out.
As for international law and domestic US legislation, these are as irrelevant as Palestinian lives in this context. That’s how the US-designed rules-based international order works and was designed to work, he said.
“US legislation, the laws of war, and international law more generally, are rigorously applied to rivals and adversaries, while the US and its partners are free to violate them with total impunity, Rabbani argued.
It would be fair to say that ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is the personification of this system — fearlessly prosecuting official enemies and adversaries with rabid zeal, but more docile than a dead canary when similar or greater crimes are committed by states his government and its Western partners support without qualification, said Rabbani.
If there’s one thing US officials complicit in Israel’s war crimes don’t have to worry about, it is prosecution by the ICC, he declared.
Asked about US weapons in killings in Gaza, Matthew Miller, Spokesperson for the State Department told reporters last week that American weapons cannot be deliberately used against civilians.
“Of course – and one of the tragedies of war –is that there are always civilian deaths. It is one of the great tragedies of war, and what we try to do is work to minimize civilian deaths to the greatest extent possible,” he said.
Asked if there is “any concern among the administration that by supplying this military assistance, the US might be involved in any possible war crimes against civilians”, Miller said: “No, I would say that we have made very clear that we expect Israel to conduct its operations in compliance with international law.”
“That is the standard we hold – uphold – that’s the standard we hold ourselves to; it’s the standard we hold our partners to; it’s the standard every democracy ought to be held to. And we will continue to work with them and continue to deliver messages to them that they should conduct their military operations in – and to the maximum extent possible to protect civilians from harm,” he declared.
According to the Washington-based Stimson Center, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. military assistance since the Second World War, amounting to more than $158 billion over the past seven decades– not adjusted for inflation.
In recent years, U.S. assistance to Israel has been outlined in a 10-year memoranda of understandings, the most recent of which was signed in 2016 and pledges $38 billion in military assistance between FY2019-FY2028.
Dr Ramzy Baroud, Palestinian journalist and author, told IPS asking the US to clarify the End Use Monitoring (EUM) measures, or Israel’s compliance with the use of American weapons in its war against Gaza, may give the impression that Washington lacks awareness of how US weapons, and US tax payers money are being used.
“Never before in the history of the US’s relationship with the Middle East has Washington been so directly involved in an Israeli war. The closest was the 1973 war, and even then, the US involvement arrived a week later, and was hardly as direct,” he said.
Every statement made by top US officials, starting with Biden, to Blinken to Sullivan, to all others, indicate that the US is a party in the war, not an outsider, a benefactor, and certainly not a mediator. They even sat in on meetings to discuss Israeli war plans on Gaza. They cannot claim ignorance, Dr, Baroud pointed out.
“In the past, Israel has violated the US’s rules on the use of US arms against civilians, and repeatedly so. Much has been written about this subject, particularly in terms of Israeli violation of the Lehy Laws.”
But what is happening right now is a whole different reality. By sending massive arm shipments, aircraft carriers, and even soldiers to Israel, the US has become a party in the world, therefore it is responsible for the unprecedented war crimes in Gaza, he argued.
“The fingerprints of US weapons are on the body of every Palestinian killed in Gaza, from the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, to UN schools, to every house and every street.
We don’t demand clarification regarding the use of these weapons. We know precisely how they are being used. We demand accountability from war criminals, whether in Tel Aviv or Washington,” he noted.
Meanwhile, a report on Cable News Network (CNN) October 22 said the death toll in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 4,651, with more than 14,245 wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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