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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis departs after meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Ministry of Defense on April 19, 2017 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis departs after meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Ministry of Defense on April 19, 2017 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst—Pool/Getty Images)

Plan to Train Saudi Pilots on US Soil Undermines Pentagon Denial of Complicity in Yemen Carnage

"The U.S. is a willing participant in the Yemen genocide despite claims to the contrary."

Jake Johnson

Just 48 hours after Defense Secretary James Mattis attempted to obscure America's direct role in Saudi Arabia's ongoing massacre of Yemeni civilians by proclaiming that the U.S. is merely "watching" the deadly conflict, journalist Ken Klippenstein reported for The Young Turks (TYT) on Thursday that the Pentagon is currently preparing to train Saudi military pilots on U.S. soil.

"Saudi pilots have shown a reckless disregard for human life in the countless atrocities they've caused in Yemen; at this point, we need accountability for war crimes, not more training."
—Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch

"Federal procurement documents reviewed by TYT show that the U.S. Air Force is actively soliciting private contractors for training of Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) personnel to be 'conducted in the U.S. at contractor's facility,'" Klippenstein reported.

Klippenstein noted that if the training of Saudi pilots to fly F-15 fighter jets takes place, it would appear to be the first such activity on American soil since the U.S.-Saudi coalition intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015.

Despite the Pentagon's threat on Tuesday to withhold military support and intelligence from Saudi Arabia after the kingdom killed 29 children in an airstrike on a Yemeni school bus—an attack carried out with a U.S.-made bomb—Klippenstein notes that the "Pentagon's solicitation for training Saudi pilots... was posted on August 23, two weeks after the school bus bombing, the procurement records show. What's more, the training will be for warplanes including the F-15 fighter jet, which the Saudis are using in Yemen."

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division, called the Pentagon's reported plans to train Saudi fighter pilots on U.S. soil "disturbing."

"Saudi pilots have shown a reckless disregard for human life in the countless atrocities they've caused in Yemen; at this point, we need accountability for war crimes, not more training," Whitson told TYT.

Independent journalist Walker Bragman—who helped start a social media campaign to pressure America's corporate media outlets to cover the U.S. role in Saudi Arabia's assault on Yemen—argued that Klippenstein's reporting provides further evidence that the "U.S. is a willing participant in the Yemen genocide despite claims to the contrary."

Other progressive commentators echoed Bragman, noting that despite its feigned concerns for Saudi atrocities, "U.S. complicity in the most brutal human rights abuses in the world is increasing."

Alluding to the fact that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, some of whom trained at U.S. flight schools in preparation for their attackm, writer Karen Geier declared sardonically, "training Saudi pilots has never been a problem for America."


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