Win Without War & Project on Government Oversight – 2018-03-13 00:39:10
Survivors search through the rubble of buildings left after an airstrike in San’a, Yemen. (MiddleEastEye.com)
ACTION ALERT: The Senate Will Likely Vote on America’s
Involvement In the Yemen War on Thursday, March 15
Win Without War
WASHINGTON, DC (March 12, 2018) — After three years of our tax dollars helping Saudi Arabia bomb and starve Yemen, we have three more days to maximize our pressure and cut off US support for this brutal, unconstitutional war.
But the Trump administration isn’t about to cave in without a fight. They’re spewing false information and excuses to justify the continued starvation of 8 million people. So we can’t let a single stone go unturned to knock out these hypocritical counterarguments and get our senators on board before Thursday. We’re down to the wire — and we need your help to push these next 3 days to the limit.
This historic vote isn’t just an important step towards ending the horrific war in Yemen, though that would be more than enough. Thursday’s vote will also set a precedent for Congress to stop dodging their Constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on war.
For decades, Congress has turned over the reins of the life-and-death decision to declare war to a single person — the president. That’s not democracy. That’s a recipe for authoritarianism.
Worse, our current reckless president has an ugly obsession with dropping bombs, casually threatening nuclear annihilation, and dictatorial war parades. We’ve got to get Congress to stand up to Trump on war-making — stat. And we won’t get a better chance than Thursday’s vote on Yemen.
If we can get Congress to admit that our war in Yemen is unconstitutional, then we can jam a powerful legal barrier in the way of Trump’s dangerous hunger for more war. [Write. Call. Fax. Tweet. â€“ EAW.]
Thank you for working for peace,
Stephen, Cassandra, Kate, and the team at Win Without War
Pentagon to Congress: You Can’t Stop Us
From Fueling Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen
Katherine Hawkins / Project on Government Oversight
WASHINGTON, DC (March 9, 2018) — On February 28, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 54, a resolution that seeks to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
Even before the resolution was introduced, the Department of Defense responded with the extraordinary claim that Congress lacked the legal authority to “override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief” and end the United States’ involvement in the conflict.
It is bad enough the extent to which the Defense Department has treated Congressional silence as a blank check to wage war wherever and whenever it wants. The Pentagon’s claim that Congress lacks the power to limit US involvement in the Yemeni civil war is an even more serious encroachment on Congress’s constitutional authority over the military.
In March of 2015, a coalition of nine Arab governments, led by Saudi Arabia, began a bombing campaign in Yemen. The Saudi airstrikes were aimed at restoring to power the internationally recognized government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been deposed by an armed rebel group known as the Houthis.
Since 2015, the United States has been refueling Saudi planes in mid-air before their bombing runs into Yemen. As of last October, the military reported that the US had provided over 80 million pounds of fuel, and refueled over 10,400 in “the Horn of Africa region.” (This total includes support for US and allied counterterrorism operations as well as the Saudi coalition’s war in Yemen. The number of airstrikes by the Saudi coalition is orders of magnitude higher than the number of reported US counterterrorism strikes, so refueling for Saudi planes for operations in Yemen likely constitutes a large share of the total). The war has killed thousands of civilians and contributed to epidemics and widespread food shortages.
Congress has never voted to authorize the US’s involvement in the Saudi war against the Houthis, as the House of Representatives recognized in a resolution that passed last fall. Lee, Murphy, and Sanders argue that this makes the conflict unlawful under the War Powers Resolution, a 1973 law designed to limit the executive branch’s ability to wage war without specific Congressional approval.
The War Powers Resolution, passed over President Nixon’s veto, requires the President to notify Congress in writing whenever the US military is “introduced . . . into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” It requires troops to be removed within 60 days unless Congress votes to authorize the deployment with either a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of military force.
Lee, Murphy, and Sanders have a strong argument that the United States’ involvement in the Yemeni civil war falls within the War Powers Resolution’s criteria of “introduction of the United States Armed Forces” into hostilities, including “assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government,” although the executive branch has generally interpreted the War Powers Resolution more narrowlyhttps://www.justsecurity.org/53226/legality-u-s-support-saudi-campaign-yemen/.
But the Defense Department’s letter goes beyond defending the legality of US aid to the Saudi coalition under current law. It also claims that “[e]ven if enacted into law, the Joint Resolution would not achieve its apparent purpose of restricting US support” for the Saudi-led coalition, because “that support does not constitute ‘hostilities.'”
This ignores the text of the draft resolution, which explicitly states that the United States’ current actions in support of the coalition in Yemen fall within the definition of hostilities. If it became law, it would remove any ambiguity about whether the War Powers Resolution’s definition applies, and the Defense Department would have no basis to ignore it.
DoD also claims in a footnote that:
Because the President has directed US troops to support the [Saudi] operations pursuant to his authority under Article II, and because the limited operation does not implicated [sic] Congress’s constitutional authority to Declare War, the draft resolution would raise serious constitutional claims to the extent it seeks to override the President’s determination as Commander In Chief.
The argument that the Commander In Chief clause of the Constitution overrides all of Congress’s war powers recalls one of the arguments that John Yoo made in his infamous 2002 Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing the CIA’s torture program. Yoo argued that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to encroach on “the President’s complete authority over the conduct of war” by banning torture.
Like the Yoo memo, the Defense Department’s letter simply ignores inconvenient Supreme Court decisions as well as the text of Article I of the Constitution. Article I gives Congress the power not only to declare war, but also to “provide for the common defense,” “raise and support armies,” “provide and maintain a navy,” “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” and “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”
The draft resolution may not pass the Senate, let alone passing both houses with sufficient support to overcome a likely Presidential veto. But even supporters of the US’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war should strongly reject the Defense Department’s claims that it can disregard laws passed by Congress by interpreting them into meaninglessness, or that it is unconstitutional for Congress to limit the United States’ involvement in wars overseas.
Katherine Hawkins is an Investigator at the Project On Government Oversight.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.