FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen

Photo by Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

The New York Times editorial board recently took an unusual position of denouncing what it called “war crimes” by a US ally, in a war in which the United States government is actively participating militarily.

“Saudis Try to Starve Yemen Into Submission,” was the headline, and it was no exaggeration. As the Times noted, there are nearly seven million people in Yemen, including millions of children, who are facing famine.

“At least 10,000 people have been killed, many by Saudi-coalition bombings carried out with military assistance by the United States,” the editorial stated.

The famine and shortages of medicine result from the Saudis deliberately blockading Yemeni ports, including Hodeida, through which 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive. Combined with the Saudis’ destruction of Yemen’s water and sanitation infrastructure, the Saudi war and blockade has also delivered to Yemen the world’s worst cholera epidemic. More than 900,000 people have been sickened and, although cholera is normally easily treatable, thousands have died.

All of this is well known, although neither the atrocities nor the US role in perpetrating them have gotten the attention they deserve. But the efforts of humanitarian and antiwar groups, as well as members of Congress who believe that US military involvement without congressional consent is unconstitutional, are beginning to close in on the perpetrators.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution, by a margin of 366–30, which did two unprecedented things: first, it acknowledged the US role in the war, including the mid-air refueling of the Saudi-led coalition planes (which is essential to their bombing campaign) and help in selecting targets; and second, that this military involvement has not been authorized by Congress.

The resolution was a compromise, so it contained a lot of excess verbiage inserted by Republicans; and it was nonbinding. It thus fell short of the goals of its sponsors, led byrepresentatives Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), who had attempted to use the War Powers Resolution to force a full debate and binding vote to withdraws military forces from the war. But these two unprecedented statements are a big step toward ending this war.

The process that led to this resolution also forced the military to brief House leaders with classified information on the Pentagon’s role in the Saudi-led war, including its targeting and refueling assistance. And it allowed for a debate on the constitutionality of US military involvement in the war against an indigenous Yemeni rebel group that has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. This is also a very big deal, since Article I of the US constitution reserves for Congress the right to decide whether our military wages war.

Under the War Powers Act, when the US military is involved in hostilities, any member of Congress can force a debate and full floor vote on this involvement. But the Republicans, with possible complicity from Democratic leadership, threatened to block this vote and most of the debate, thereby forcing the compromise resolution.

These details are important, because they show how an engaged citizenry – with just a handful of courageous members of Congress taking the lead — has much more power than is commonly believed to end United States involvement in atrocities. The Republican House leadership did not pass this resolution because they care about people dying in Yemen. They did it because they were afraid of a full debate and vote to direct the president to remove armed forces from engaging in an indefensible war, and the US military’s role in creating and perpetuating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. They do not want this to become a major political and possibly electoral issue.

The House resolution has now set the stage for the fight to proceed in the Senate. The Senate is more evenly divided, and in June there was an effort led by senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to block about $500 million of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It failed, but the vote was 53-47.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate last week, Senator Murphy said:

It is U.S. refueling planes flying in the sky around Yemen that restock the Saudi fighter jets with fuel, allowing them to drop more ordnance. It is U.S.-made and -transferred ordnance that is carried on these planes and are dropped on civilian and infrastructure targets inside Yemen. The United States is part of this coalition. The bombing campaign that has caused the cholera outbreak could not happen without us.

It is important for as many people as possible to get involved in this next phase of the fight, because this is the world’s best chance of ending this nightmare as UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned of Yemen experiencing “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.” If the Congress turns against this war and blocks US involvement, the Saudis will have to negotiate an end to the conflict. Americans can contact their senators and representatives in Congress and ask them to help put an end to this unconstitutional war, and the mass starvation and killing.

Sooner or later, this war must come to an end. The only question is how many people, mostly civilians and including children, will die before it does.

This column originally appeared in the Hill.

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail