When the new Congress convenes Jan. 3, it is expected to pass a House resolution upholding congressional war powers and ending all direct U.S. involvement in the Saudi coalition’s war in Yemen. But hopes remain high that H. Con. Res. 138 will help to end the Yemen war itself. Congressional strategists and activists who have been working on the issue believe passage of the war powers measure will force Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the negotiating table.
Together, they are challenging the position of some former Obama administration officials who have warned the war powers resolution alone cannot bring the conflict to a close. Those former officials, led by Brookings Institution fellow Bruce Riedel, say that cutting off the Saudi pipeline of spare parts is the only way to prevent further airstrikes, which have been central to the Saudi war strategy.
It’s tragic that tens of thousands had to die before anyone in the US sat up and took notice. From Kathy Kelly at antiwar.com:
Twenty years ago, a small delegation organized by Voices in the Wildernesslived in Baghdad while U.S. cruise missiles attacked more than 100 targets in Iraq. Following four days of bombing, known as “Operation Desert Fox,” our group visited various Iraqis who had survived direct hits. One young girl handed me a large missile fragment, saying “Merry Christmas.”
An engineer, Gasim Risun, cradled his two-week-old baby as he sat in his hospital bed. Gasim had suffered multiple wounds, but he was the only one in his family well enough to care for the infant, after an unexploded missile destroyed his house. In Baghdad, a bomb demolished a former military defense headquarters, and the shock waves shattered the windows in the hospital next door. Doctors said the explosions terrified women in the maternity ward, causing some to spontaneously abort their babies while others went into premature labor.
In December 1998, US news media steadily focused on only one person living in Iraq: Saddam Hussein. With the notable exception of Stephen Kinzer of The New York Times, no mainstream media focused on U.N. reports about the consequences of US economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. One of Kinzer’s articles was headlined: “Iraq a Pediatrician’s Hell: No Way to Stop the Dying.”
Last week something historic happened in the US Senate. For the first time in 45 years, a chamber of the US Congress voted to pull US forces from a military conflict under the 1973 War Powers Act.
While there is plenty to criticize in the War Powers Act, in this situation it was an important tool used by a broad Senate coalition to require President Trump to end US participation in the Saudi war against Yemen. And while the resolution was not perfect – there were huge loopholes – it has finally drawn wider attention to the US Administration’s dirty war in Yemen.
The four year Saudi war on neighboring Yemen has left some 50,000 dead, including many women and children. We’ve all seen the horrible photos of school buses blown up by the Saudis – using US-supplied bombs loaded into US-supplied aircraft. Millions more face starvation as the infrastructure is decimated and the ports have been blocked to keep out humanitarian aid.
Stopping US participation in this brutal war is by itself a wise and correct move, even if it comes years too late.
The Senate vote is also about much more than just Yemen. It is about the decades of Presidential assaults on the Constitution in matters of war. President Trump is only the latest to ignore Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, which grants war power exclusively to Congress. Yes, it was President Obama who initially dragged the US illegally into the Yemen war, but President Trump has only escalated it. And to this point Congress has been totally asleep.
Fortunately that all changed last week with the Senate vote. Unfortunately, Members of the House will not be allowed to vote on their own version of the Senate resolution.
Imagine if Russia had pulled the same stunts Saudi Arabia recently has: bombing a small, poor neighbor into oblivion, murdering a journalist in an embassy. The uproar would be incessant and interminable, and there would sanctions on top of sanctions on top of sanctions. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:
The US Senate has voted 56 to 41 to sorta-kinda eventually end America’s part in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, one step out of a great many that will need to happen in order to end the worst humanitarian crisis on the face of the earth.
The joint resolution still allows US drones to patrol Yemeni airspace and rain death from above in its “war on terror” against Al Qaeda, and it is unable to pass in the House this year due to an unbelievably sleazy rider that House Republicans attached to the unrelated Farm Bill. The resolution isn’t expected to change much in terms of actual US participation in the war besides some intelligence and reconnaissance assistance to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Houthi rebels, since the US has already ended its assistance in refueling Saudi jets on their bombing campaigns as of last month. Trump is expected to veto any Yemen resolutions, and the Senate resolution was not passed with a veto-proof supermajority.
A Washington Post columnist is murdered and America’s politicos and media finally notice that Saudi Arabia isn’t a peaceful libertarian paradise. From Peter Crowley at antiwar.com:
Jamal Khashoggi’s death has captured the American news cycle for nearly two months. During this time, we have seen Saudi Arabia try to unsuccessfully try to bury the story, conduct their own “investigation” and, ultimately, determine that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had nothing to do with it. President Donald Trump buys the Saudi government’s narrative, or at least wants to, in so far as any other conclusion would damage the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Other elements in the American political establishment, including the relatively new Trump faithful Lindsey Graham, would like to mildly punish the Saudi government and have become leery of MBS.
On the intelligence front, the CIA has come to view MBS as a liability and, not unrelatedly, considers him the mastermind of the Khashoggi killing, which there’s little doubt he is. Bin Salman’s status as a liability is due to his rash behavior in kidnapping and extorting money from members of the Saudi elite last year, kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister, igniting tensions with Qatar and now this. MBS may be virulently anti-Iran and pro-Israel, but what does that matter if he causes social instability and then the House of Saud goes under? Then Christmas will not come for American arms dealers and the politicians whose campaigns they helped finance.
Khashoggi worked for an American newspaper, The Washington Post. The fact that he’s associated with an American organization seems to be the main reason why the story has stuck around for two months. Other Saudi killings of dissidents have hardly raise eyebrows, including Saudi state prosecutors’ seeking the death penalty for women human rights activists and the Saudi government’s killing of the nonviolent Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr in early January 2016.
Senator Rand Paul breaks with Trump on Saudi Arabia. From Paul at townhall.com:
The brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has opened a window into the world of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reminded us that there are many places in the world where disagreeing with your government is a death sentence.
I break with the administration on their response to this killing for many reasons. If Saudi Arabia is not held accountable for the barbaric murder of Khashoggi, what will it mean for the fate of other dissidents held in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are being held without trial? What message does it send to kingdoms and dictatorships around the region and the world that America considers its defense sales paramount to its stand for human rights?
What will it mean for Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, the Shia sheik executed by the Saudis in 2016?
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