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The President Has Not Ended the War on Yemen; Congress Must Do So

The U.S. House of Representatives (in February and again in April, 2019) and the Senate (in December 2018 and March 2019) have each voted twice with strong bipartisan majorities to end the war on Yemen (vetoed by then-President Trump in April 2019).

The Democratic Party Platform of 2020 commits to ending the war on Yemen.

But Congress has yet to act since the veto threat disappeared along with Trump. And every day that the war goes unended means more horrific death and suffering — from violence, starvation, and disease.

I’m reminded — to take one example from among many similar ones — of how the Democratic state legislature in California passes single-payer healthcare whenever there’s a Republican governor, thereby pleasing people without risking actually doing anything.

The same purpose is generally served by party platforms. People put in a lot of serious well-intentioned work, organizing, lobbying, and protesting to get good policies into party platforms, which are for the most part promptly ignored. At least it creates the illusion of influencing government.

Congress has no excuse for the past two months and more of inaction. Were President Biden ending U.S. participation in the war, and were he and various Congress Members serious in their rhetoric about Congressional legislative powers, he would be delighted for Congress to legislate an end to the war. Since Biden is not ending U.S. participation in the war, Congress is obliged to act. And it’s not as if we’re talking about actual work for the Congress. They just have to hold a vote and say “aye.” That’s it. They’re not going to strain any muscles or get any blisters.

On February 4, President Biden announced in vague terms the ending of U.S. participation in this war. On February 24, a letter from 41 Congress Members asked the President to explain what he meant in detail. The letter also asked the President whether he would support Congress ending the war. The letter requested a response before March 25th. There seems to have been none, certainly none made public.

Biden said on February 4 that he was ending U.S. participation in “offensive” attacks and “relevant” weapons shipments, but attacks (however one characterizes them) have continued (and according to numerous experts could not have without U.S. assistance), and so have weapons shipments. The Biden administration has paused two bomb sales to Saudi Arabia but not suspended or ended all U.S. weapons sales and shipments to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, not removed U.S. logistical and maintenance support for the Saudi military, not demanded an end to the blockade, and not sought to establish a cease-fire and peace settlement.

We’re now six years into this war, not counting the “successful” drone war that helped start it. Enough is enough. Deference to a president is not more important than human lives. And what we’re dealing with here is not deference, but subservience. This president is not ending a war or even explaining why not. He’s just pulling an Obama (that’s where you announce the ending of a war but keep the war going).

Yemen today remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations. Over 4 million people have been displaced because of the war, and 80% of the population, including 12.2 million children, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. To add to the already dire situation, Yemen has one of the worst Covid-19 death rates in the world – it kills 1 in 4 people who test positive.

This humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the Western-backed, Saudi-led war and indiscriminate bombing campaign that have raged against Yemen since March 2015, as well as an air, land and sea blockade which prevents desperately-needed goods and aid from reaching the people of Yemen.

UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly documented that there is no military solution possible in the current conflict in Yemen. The only thing the constant supply of arms to Yemen does is prolong hostilities, which increases suffering and numbers of the dead.

Congress needs to re-introduce the War Powers Resolution under the Biden administration. Congress needs to permanently end weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Here’s a place where you can tell Congress that.

There’s another reason to doubt the sincerity of Congress in acting to end the war on Yemen when it could count on Trump to veto it. Congress isn’t ending any of the other endless wars. The war on Afghanistan rolls on, with the Biden administration proposing a peace agreement and allowing other nations and even the United Nations to be involved (which is almost indicative of respect for the rule of law from people still imposing Trump-initiated sanctions against the International Criminal Court), but not removing U.S. troops or mercenaries.

If Congress thought Biden had ended the war on Yemen, sparing it the heavy exertion of parting its lips and uttering “aye,” it could move on to ending the war on Afghanistan, or the one on Syria. When Trump sent missiles into Iraq in a public way, there was at least a member of Congress willing to introduce legislation to forbid it. Not for Biden. His missiles, whether quietly blowing up distant human beings or accompanied by a press release, do not result in Congressional action.

One media outlet says progressives are getting “ansty.” I may even start getting uppity. But people across western and central Asia are getting dead, and I consider that more important. There’s a new caucus in the U.S. Congress made up of members who want to reduce military spending. Here’s the number of its members who have committed to opposing any legislation that funds militarism at greater than 90% the current level: zero. Not a one of them has committed to actually exercising power.

The deadly sanctions continue. The tremendous efforts to avoid peace with Iran move forward. The antagonization of Russia and China is rising sharply. And I’m supposedly getting antsy. Antsy?

Here’s all I ask regarding the project of keeping the promise to end the endless wars: End a fucking war. That’s it. Pick one and end it. Now.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.orgSwanson‘s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook, and sign up for:

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