JEREMY SCAHILL: [In] December of 2009, the U.S. started bombing Yemen for the first time in seven years. Bush had bombed Yemen once. It was a drone bombing in 2002, November, and ended up killing a U.S. citizen in that strike, though he wasn’t the target of the strike. So the first time that the U.S. did a targeted strike that killed a U.S. citizen in Yemen that we know of was under Bush in November of 2002. In December of 2009, President Obama authorizes a series of missile strikes, not just drone strikes. The most deadly one that we know of was December 17th, 2009, cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah, and it killed 46 people, three dozen of whom were women and children, which is stunning and horrifying. And we have video footage in our film of the aftermath of that strike, interviews with the survivors of when the missile hit. But it was in pursuit of one person that they said was an al-Qaeda operative, and they wiped out an entire Bedouin village. And we went there, and the cruise missile parts are still strewn across the desert. They’re there to this day just rusting out there. But the U.S. also used—
AMY GOODMAN: How many people were killed?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Forty-six people were killed, and I think 35 or 36 of them were women and children. And I was leaked the official parliamentary investigation in Yemen with the names and ages of all of the dead. And I have it—I have it stained in my head, the images that I’ve seen of the videos that people I met there had taken on the scene. You know, one tribal leader, Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, who’s the head of the Awlak tribe in Yemen, he went there right after the attack. And he said to me, “If someone had weak heart, they would collapse, because you saw meat, and you couldn’t tell if it was goat meat or human meat. And you saw limbs of children.” And he, himself—and he’s this older man—actually found body parts and helped to bury—try to bury people with dignity. And he’s this incredibly wealthy man who went there himself and is the main reason why there still is agitation for justice for the victims of the Majalah bombing, that—because these tribal leaders have said, “We will not forget what you did to this village of nobodies, one of the poorest tribes in all of Yemen.”
Who knows why the U.S. bombed it? It could have been that the Yemeni government was under pressure from Obama’s administration, and they said, “No one will care about these people. Let’s just say this is an al-Qaeda camp, because it’s in the middle of nowhere. No one is going to care about them, and no one’s going to go there to investigate.” But when we went there, we saw it. The cluster bombs, these are flying land mines, they’re banned. And yet the United States continues to use them, and they shred people into meat. I saw it in Yugoslavia in the ’90s, and I’ve seen it again now in Yemen.
AMY GOODMAN: So the weapons used were?
JEREMY SCAHILL: The weapons used? They used a Tomahawk cruise missile, and they used cluster bombs. And the cluster bombs are—they are like flying land mines. And they drop in these parachutes, and they explode, and they can shred people. I mean, it’s their—they’re probably the most horrifying weapon I have ever seen the aftermath of in a war zone.
So, this is the first strike that President Obama authorizes, and it’s unclear who the real target even was. They claimed it was this one man and that he was killed. When I talked to people in Yemen, they said, “That guy is old—that guy is—yeah, he was a mujahideen in Afghanistan, but he had nothing to do with the leadership.”
AMY GOODMAN: Mujahideen, who the U.S. worked with.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Who the U.S. worked with, right. You know, Yemenis went to Afghanistan in the ’80s in huge numbers. And, you know, they have a very serious fighting spirit, and there were a lot of Yemenis that had gone there and fought on the same side as the United States. But the point I’m getting at here is that—so, the Obama administration starts to intensify this bombing in Yemen. They bomb al-Majalah. And then, seven days later, they—but remember that the Yemeni government claimed responsibility for the strike, and Obama’s administration released a statement praising Yemen for this attack. Yemen doesn’t have cruise missiles. Yemen doesn’t have cluster bombs.
So, but for, you know, some brave local journalists going there and photographing it initially, we probably would—never would have been able to prove that it was a U.S. strike. And we could talk about him later, but Obama, President Obama, is directly responsible for the first Yemeni journalist to report on this story, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, continuing to be in prison. He was arrested after he exposed the Majalah bombing, and he remains in prison to this day. In fact, the last line in my book is to say that he’s still in prison, and he should be set free. This was a journalist that had worked with major U.S. media outlets, broke this huge story that the U.S. had bombed Yemen for the first time in seven years, using cluster bombs, and then he ends up in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges, put on trial in a court that was set up specifically to prosecute journalists, and then when he was going to be pardoned, President Obama called Ali Abdullah Saleh and said, “We don’t want him released,” and he remains in prison to this day. So, he was the first journalist to do that. He’s in prison. [watch]