About 1 AM Pacific time, broad daylight in the Middle East, a pair of missiles were reportedly fired that hit the water "near" a US warship, and the Pentagon is calling it an attack. The ship is the modern equivalent of a destroyer. It was patrolling in, or transiting through, the Straits of Hormuz. That's the narrowest point of the Red Sea. The ship is the USS Mason, one of the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers.
The ship was 14 miles off shore, off the war-torn nation of Yemen. That's the Navy's story 'n they're stickin' to it. But hold on a minute.
Immediately, the Associated Press was on it, using the Pentagon's press release. When you read the AP story, it's reeeeally interesting that it so readily accepts "the narrative" that the missiles were fired by Houthi rebels, and not by our "allies," the Saudis, who keep blowing-up Houthi rebels (and everybody else in Yemen). Because it looks to be a 50/50 proposition who could have fired the missiles from land at the ship at sea. Time to look at motive and opportunity.
The opportunity to fire missiles surely was present for any forces on the ground in Yemen. And with modern weapons systems, you should be asking how it was possible for the pair of missiles to miss a target and simply fall in the water. Any modern launch system tells you before you press the button whether or not you have a lock on the target; it's actually difficult to get the system to allow you to launch unless it has that confirmation of a "lock." So, knowing that the opportunity isn't going to work out, why would a launch occur? There are two obvious possibilities. Either,
- the people who launched the missiles did so with the knowledge they would not hit the ship, or
- the missiles were engaged and shot-down by the ship's defensive weapons systems, and the Navy is not telling that part of the story.
Now, if you are part of a group of beleagured rebels under constant attack, would you fire a pair of missiles at a ship knowing you were using-up your expensive missiles for no purpose, other than to piss somebody off?
Now, if you are part of a group of beleagured rebels under constant attack, would you fire a pair of missiles at a ship knowing you were using-up your expensive missiles for no purpose, other than to piss somebody off? Somebody with unlimited capability to express their displeasure at you, and to do so in very deadly terms? And if you are that bunch of rebels who get hammered every day by Saudi Arabian forces -- who use front-line US weaponry to attack you -- what are the odds that you can replace something like a pair of missiles -- good-sized missiles, capable of flying 14 miles -- to not-quite hit a ship that you knew you were not going to hit?
But the motive?
There is a foreseeable premise of motive by the rebels: on Saturday, one of the latest Saudi airstrikes targeted a funeral in Yemen's capital that killed over 140 people and wounded 525 more. But you'd have to equate an expression of retaliation against the Saudi air force with an attack on a US ship, an attack that you knew would fail. Plus, the Houthis are backed by Iran, a nation that has been avoiding provocations with the US since completion of the multinational treaty usually called the Iran Nuclear Deal.
On the other hand, Iran and Saudi Arabia are in a titanic struggle for control of the region.
It's not the Houthis, but the Saudis who have a HUGE motive for making us believe their "enemy" is our enemy, too. The $15-17 billion in US weapons to Saudi Arabia puts it among the military-industrial complex's largest annual foreign sales, and it's part of what they expect to drive their corporate profits. The UK and Canada both make huge sales of armaments to the Saudis, too, and the most public opposition to continuing is present in the UK. By last spring, the Brits had made 2.8 billion pounds of weapons sales to the Saudis just since the desert kingdom began attacking Yemen.
But that has come under increasing criticism by ordinary Americans, in light of the kingdom's oppression of its citizens, especially the subjection of women which do not receive full citizenship rights, its operation and funding of radical schools teaching extreme intolerance to children throughout the region, and its role in spreading a contentious brand of Islamic fundamentalism and using military force enabled by US-supplied armaments. The latter has included questiuons about Saudi support for ISIL as far back as 2014.
The list goes on, and includes the Saudi government's practices of imprisonment without trial of prisoners of conscience, torture and cutting-off hands with swords, and beheadings by sword, all to exert fear to maintain their regime's control. The Saudis best argument is that we keep their military power unchallenged in the region and they look out for our interests. Except it's clear that they don't. And that is an underlying factor in the congressional override last month of President Obama's veto of the bill allowing US citizens to sue the Saudi government over 9/11-related claims.
Back to the ship. Anybody ever heard of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution? It was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1964 after a US Navy destroyer was attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the waters off North Vietnam. It's what started serious American involvement in the Vietnam War. Except that US navy destroyer was never attacked. For a time, it was supposed to have been two US Navy destroyers attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats, but they never could get the story straight. Even after we went to war over a lie. Sorta the forerunner for weapons of mass destruction that weren't there in Iraq. Deja vu all over again.