War is Over. If You Want It.

Let’s end US complicity in the awful war in Yemen 

Last Thursday marked 42 years since John Lennon was killed. Many people, including me, lament his death and can recall where we were when we heard the heartbreaking news.

This holiday season, we can heed John’s and Yoko Ono’s 1969 “Happy Xmas, War is Over, If You Want It” call by acting to end US military, intelligence and logistical support for the Saudi-led coalition in the horrendous war in Yemen. More than 400,000 Yemenis have perished since the war broke out in 2014, making it the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, according to the United Nations.

Fifty-three years ago, John and Yoko were calling on Americans to act to end the war in Vietnam, which unfortunately took another six years. Today, we can get Congress to pass a War Powers Resolution to end US complicity in Yemen’s catastrophe. Congress already did so in 2019. President Trump then vetoed it, and the vote to override the veto failed.

Since then, thousands more Yemenis have suffered and died. President Biden’s pledge to end “offensive” weapons transfers to the Saudi-led coalition soon after taking office was insufficient to end the war. A mostly successful truce earlier this year recently expired, and violence has escalated. The time for more definitive action is now.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, long a leader in Congress for ending US support for the war, is pushing for another War Powers Resolution vote on Senate Joint Resolution 56 as soon as this week. He has 13 co-sponsors, all Democrats at this point, though the 2019 vote did garner significant Republican support, and should again.

The title of the measure, “A joint resolution directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress,” makes its intent clear. Congress, which the Constitution explicitly gives powers over matters of war, has never approved US participation in the war in Yemen.

While the emphasis needs to be on ending the suffering of Yemenis, symbolized by the slogan Yemen Can’t Wait, political crosswinds could play an unpredictable role in any upcoming Congressional votes. The House of Representatives could schedule a vote soon after a successful Senate vote. House Joint Resolution 87, introduced by Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, has 118 cosponsors, including 10 Republicans.

Saudi Arabia’s terrible human rights record and its hideous murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as thumbing its nose at President Biden last summer when he embarrassingly beseeched it for help in lowering oil prices (who didn’t cringe at Biden’s fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?) are surely negative factors.

However, the Saudi lobby is very powerful in Washington and beyond, and its influence on Congress should not be underestimated. There is also antipathy toward Iran, which has supported the Houthi rebels in this eight-yearlong conflict, but US participation in the war, which is mostly at a territorial stalemate, is beyond any calibration of regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia (and there have been at least some signs of both countries wanting to tamp down such tensions).

John Lennon sang, “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?” Let’s answer that question by acting to end the harrowing war in Yemen.

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization with more than 200,000 supporters nationwide.