VERIFY: An NGO reported that Donald Trump “bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined”

Business Insider falsely claimed a report by an NGO asserted that “Trump may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined.” While the claim, though falsely cited, is technically correct it lacks the important context that only two other presidents in American history have ordered any airstrikes in Yemen at all.

BACKGROUND: In 2014, during the presidency of Barack Obama, a civil war erupted in Yemen. This conflict drew in regional powers including Saudi Arabia and —  to a lesser extent — the United Arab Emirates. The United States also intervened, conducting airstrikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the belligerents in the conflict, as well as the Islamic State organization and other actors. These airstrikes continued during the presidency of Donald Trump.

THE CLAIM: On October 27, 2020, Business Insider published a story titled “Trump may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined, new report finds.” The dramatic claim contained in the Business Insider headline is neither repeated nor elaborated upon anywhere in the body of the story. The story does, however, link to an October 2020 report by the NGO Airwars titled “Eroding Transparency: Trump in Yemen.


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INVESTIGATION: A close examination of the Airwars report fails to unearth any claim within it that Donald Trump “may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined.” The closest thing to such an assertion in the report is found on page four, which offers a qualitatively and chronologically different assessment.

A total of 230 alleged and declared US kinetic actions took place in Yemen during Donald Trump’s presidency (2017-2020) according to Airwars monitoring. Of these, 181 US actions were officially declared. This likely marked the most intensive period of strikes in that country by any US president since 2001. However, this high tally disguises significant variations between individual years.

Having established that the report cited by Business Insider does not, in fact, claim that “Trump may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined,” we next turn our attention to whether or not such a claim may be correct, even if falsely cited.

A July 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2020,” notes that the first use of U.S. military forces in Yemen occurred in 2000 during the presidency of Bill Clinton when a small element of ground troops was deployed in the country. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism explains that the “US conducted its first known drone strike outside of Afghanistan in Yemen in 2002. The second attack in the country did not take place for another seven years.”

While it is likely that Donald Trump did, indeed, preside over more bombings of Yemen “than all previous US presidents combined” it is also true that virtually all drone strikes in Yemen carried out by the United States in its history occurred during just two presidencies, those of Barack Obama and Donald Trump (one strike, executed in 2002, was carried out during the presidency of George W. Bush).

RATING: Business Insider claimed the Airwars report they cited found that “Trump may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined.” The report makes no such claim, nor anything similar to it, only indicating that Trump had been more prolific in his use of airpower against Yemen than either of the previous two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. We rate the assertion that the Airwars report contained this claim as FALSE.

As for the assertion itself, it may be technically correct that Donald Trump “may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined.” However, only three of 45 American presidents have ordered any type of air strike against Yemen at all, an important fact Business Insider omits. The result is a headline that is nothing more than clickbait. We rate it as TRUE but LACKING ADEQUATE CONTEXT.

Status: Business Insider did not publish a correction within 72 hours of making the false claim. 


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