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Your taxpayer dollars and military forces are at work, on the other side of the world, in Yemen — one of the world’s poorest countries. Every 10 minutes another child dies of preventable disease. It’s not a natural disaster but a human made one: Saudi Arabia has cut off most supplies of food, fuel, and medicine from Yemeni ports. This has put more than eight million people on the brink of starvation. The destruction of infrastructure has also created the worst epidemic in the modern history of cholera, a waterborne disease that has sickened more than a million people there and has killed thousands. Saudi and Emirati planes have also killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, with bombs.
What does the US government have to do with this suffering, which has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today? Unfortunately, a lot. The US military is directly involved, providing mid-air refueling to Saudi and UAE warplanes during their bombing runs, as well as targeting assistance for their bombs, and other logistical aid.
In November, the New York Times editorial board accused the US government of complicity in “war crimes,” in an editorial titled “Saudis try to starve Yemen into submission.” Which is exactly what they are trying to do.
Most Americans would be horrified by the US role in these atrocities. Now there is something we can do about it. Last week a bipartisan group of senators, led by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a bill to end US military participation in this war, which was never authorized by Congress.
The bill is historic in that it invokes the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which was legislated toward the conclusion of a long struggle to end US military involvement in Vietnam. The law requires that Congress must have a debate and vote on ending involvement of US military forces in unauthorized hostilities, if a member of Congress requests it.
In November, this law was used to force a vote in the House of Representatives, in which the House voted 366 to 30 to confirm that the US military was indeed involved in midair refueling and bomb targeting assistance, and that this US military involvement was not authorized by Congress.
But the Senate vote will be much more powerful, in that the Senate bill, if passed into law, would actually require the withdrawal of US forces from participating in Saudi Arabia’s war.
It has a good chance of passing, too, since the last arms sale to Saudi Arabia — in June — was approved by a vote of just 53 to 47. And in December, President Trump called for Saudi Arabia to “completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.” According to press reports, he made this statement after a briefing that included pictures of starving Yemeni children.
In his speech introducing the bill, Senator Sanders said: “The founding fathers gave the power to declare war to Congress, the branch most accountable to the people. For far too long, Congress under Democratic and Republican administrations has abdicated its constitutional role in authorizing war.”
Since Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution clearly allocates to Congress the power to decide whether the US goes to war, numerous legal scholars have wholeheartedly endorsed this effort.
Many organizations from across the political spectrum have also joined in, as well as celebrities and other public figures. The renowned actor Mark Ruffalo, in a viral video seen by millions, made an impassioned appeal for Americans to call their Senators at 1-833-786-7927 and ask them to end US participation in this terrible war. It’s well worth the phone call.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press). You can subscribe to his columns here.