Alex Ward / Vox.com & The Hill – 2018-03-21 18:07:48
The 10 Democrats Who Voted to Continue Washington’s Illegal War Against the People of Yemen
WASHINGTON (March 20, 2018) — Senators Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy said earlier this month their resolution would force the first-ever vote in the Senate “to withdraw US armed forces from an unauthorized war.”
“We believe that, as Congress has not declared war or authorized military force in this conflict, the United States involvement in Yemen is unconstitutional and unauthorised, and US military support of the Saudi coalition must end.”
The Senators Who Voted to Continue
The Illegal US-backed War in Yemen
Source: The Hill
The GOOD Senate Republicans who voted against tabling the Sanders/Murphy motion:
Mike Lee (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Rand Paul (Ky.).
The BAD Democrats who voted to table the Sanders/Murphy motion:
Christopher Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Ree d (R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).
ACTION: Send a note to these individuals. Feel free to include the following photo.
Lawmakers Tried — and Failed —
To End US Support for the Saudi War in Yemen
Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy
had their Yemen resolution killed.
The US will therefore continue to
help commit war crimes in Yemen
Alex Ward / Vox.com
(March 20, 2018) — A bipartisan effort to end US involvement in a bloody, three-year war in Yemen failed in a close Senate vote on Tuesday afternoon.
The vote demonstrated growing pushback on President Donald Trump’s coziness with Riyadh, which is leading the war effort in Yemen. That same day, the president met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who was visiting Washington during a country-wide tour.
A disparate group of senators — Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — drafted and introduced the resolution to stop America’s support for the bloodshed. “This is one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time,” Sanders told Vox in an interview last week.
But the GOP-controlled Senate voted to table — that is, kill — the resolution that says America shouldn’t assist Saudi Arabia in its three-year fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. By a 55-44 margin, a majority of Republicans and some Democrats effectively said the US can still help Riyadh, by refueling its planes and providing intelligence in the Saudi’s brutal air campaign.
Supporters of the resolution claimed it would immediately end America’s involvement in the war; critics said it wouldn’t.
So far, the conflict has claimed more than 13,500 lives — many of them in airstrikes. Roughly 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs — including food and water — out of a prewar population of 28 million, and nearly 1 million people are suffering from cholera. However, conditions are so bad there that it is hard to have a reliable tally of any of these measures, which means the situation could be much, much worse.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to navigate Yemen is Riyadh’s relentless bombing campaign. The Saudi military has conducted more than 145,000 missions in Yemen over the past three years. A Saudi general told the Wall Street Journal that about 100,000 of those were combat missions, conducting about 300 missions per day. One human rights group counted around 16,000 Saudi airstrikes in total, killing thousands of civilians in total.
During a blockade last year, Saudi Arabia put various restrictions on Yemen’s airspace and seaports, which led to the deaths of more than 5,000 civilians, more than 20 percent of whom were children.
Lee, one of the measure’s co-sponsors, told me the push to pass the resolution was also to make a statement about how America goes to war. “We have a set of processes that have to be followed,” he said, noting that Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war.
“If advocates for this war within our government are confident that this is that important to America’s national security interest, then they should bring forward those arguments and ask for an authorization,” he continued. “But without that, we have no business getting involved in someone else’s civil war.”
The Trump administration lobbied to defeat the measure. Last week, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sent a letter to Congress requesting that lawmakers not restrict America’s support for Riyadh’s military.
He claimed that stopping US assistance “could increase civilian casualties, jeopardize cooperation with our partners on counterterrorism, and reduce our influence with the Saudis — all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis.” Mattis traveled to the Hill on Tuesday to encourage members of both parties to block the resolution.
This isn’t the first time Congress has tried to stand up to the president on America’s involvement in Yemen. Last November, the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution to the Senate version. That’s because, by a wide 366-30 margin, the House believed the US is only authorized to fight terrorist groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda. Lawmakers said the US doesn’t have authorization to fight the Houthis.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who led the House effort, noted his displeasure with the vote in an interview with me but struck a note of optimism. “Eventually, we will prevail because our position is on the side of human decency and human rights, consistent with basic American values,” he told me. “We just need to keeping speaking up for peace and for the children in Yemen.”
Scott Paul, a Yemen expert at the humanitarian group Oxfam America, was unhappy with the news, telling me that “today should have been the day that the Senate moved to end US involvement in this catastrophe.” But Paul noted that some senators may have voted against the measure because the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may soon take up the issue. “We expect Congress to take decisive action soon,” he said.
But Tuesday’s vote was relatively close, and that is important on its own. It’s even more noteworthy because on Tuesday, Trump welcomed Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the driving force behind the Yemen war to the White House to discuss their burgeoning relationship and arms sales.
Trump had previously issued statements asking Saudi Arabia to cease violating human rights in Yemen. But in his two public statements alongside MBS, as the crown prince is widely known, at the White House, Trump didn’t mention the word “Yemen” once.
One Man Drives the Saudi-led War on Yemen
Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, champions the fighting in Yemen. It’s part of his aggressive anti-Iran policy in the Middle East, which led him to intervene in Yemen in support of the internationally recognized government against the Houthis.
Iran’s government is a Shia Muslim theocracy; Saudi Arabia’s government is a monarchy closely aligned with the country’s Sunni Muslim religious establishment. The two countries represent two ideological and political poles and have spent decades fighting each other for dominance in the Middle East and for the right to represent the Muslim world.
MBS, along with his father, King Salman, completed a purge of an astonishing 11 princes and dozens of other officials and businessmen last November. That allowed MBS to consolidate even more power in Saudi Arabia, which gives him even more authority to direct Riyadh’s war in Yemen.
Trump continues to support MBS, going so far as to approve his purge in a tweet on November 6. At a joint appearance at the White House on Tuesday, Trump continued to show his backing for MBS and Saudi Arabia writ large.
“The relationship is probably the strongest it’s ever been,” Trump said. “We understand each other.”
Zack Beauchamp contributed to this report.
Senate Sides with Trump on Providing Saudi Military Support
Jordain Carney / The Hill
(March 20, 2018) — The Senate on Tuesday rejected an effort to force President Trump to end the US military’s support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing operations in Yemen.
Senators voted 55-44 to table the resolution, effectively killing it.
The resolution, spearheaded by Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), would require Trump to withdraw any troops in “or affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.
Senate Republicans who voted against tabling the measure included Lee, Susan Collins (Maine), Steve Daines (Mont.), Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Rand Paul (Ky.).
Democrats Christopher Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) voted with the majority to table the measure.
The vote marks a victory for the administration, which lobbied hard against the resolution.
Defense Secretary James Mattis urged Republicans to oppose the resolution during a closed-door lunch just hours ahead of the vote. And administration officials briefed all senators late last week to tout the US-Saudi relationship.
“New restrictions on this limited US military support could increase civilian casualties, jeopardize cooperation with our partners on counterterrorism and reduce our influence with the Saudis,” Mattis wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week.
The United States has provided support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen’s years-long civil war, including military advisers helping Saudi forces target enemies in Yemen for attack and US planes refueling Saudi-led bombers on combat missions.
But senators have signaled growing concerns about the level of civilian casualties. The United Nations estimates that 10,000 people have been killed.
“This war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, human beings, lest we forget. Each one of them possessing innate, immeasurable worth and dignity. This was has created refugees, orphans, widows,” Lee said.
Supporters of the resolution argue that too much power on foreign policy has been ceded to the executive branch and Congress needs to sign off on military action in Yemen. The Sanders-Murphy-Lee resolution would require congressional approval for future operations.
“It is Congress that has the power to declare war. The founding fathers gave the power to authorize military conflicts to Congress . . . not the president,” Sanders said. “For far too long, Congress under Democratic and Republican administrations has abdicated its constitutional role in authorizing war.”
But supporters faced an uphill battle in the Senate where other efforts to place restrictions on the US’s support for Saudi Arabia’s military action have fallen short. For example, last year, a resolution to block part of Trump’s $110 billion arms sale narrowly failed.
Murphy acknowledged that votes on the Democratic side remained “fluid” with members weighing whether or not to set a “new precedent.”
Menendez noted the Foreign Relations Committee, where he is the top Democrat, “has the jurisdiction over the questions of the use of force.”
“As we consider this resolution, we must fully grasp the situation on the ground and the scope of the attacks on one of our traditional security partners. Saudi Arabia has endured Yemeni-originated attacks inside its territory on a scale that no American would accept,” he said.
GOP leadership publicly lined up against the resolution ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
“Withdrawing US support would increase, not decrease, the risk of civilian casualties. And it would signal that we are not serious about containing Iran or its proxies,” McConnell said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) added that the resolution should go back through the committee process, calling the move to bring it straight to the floor “very unusual.”
“Not all of us are as up to speed on the details of this or what the unintended impact might be as the Foreign Relations Committee that’s set up for the purpose of examining legislation,” he said.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) noted that he and other lawmakers met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday and “strongly pushed back on what is happening right now in Yemen and asked them to take strong corrective actions.”
He added the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Yemen in coming weeks, as well as markup a war authorization bill next month.
“We plan to have a Yemen hearing in the next few weeks to deal with this issue, but also to take up appropriate legislation. That is the way that we typically deal with issues of such importance,” he said.
He added that the way the forthcoming authorization for the use of military force bill is being constructed “when we go into new countries, when we take on new groups, the Senate would have the ability to weigh in on those issues.”
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) separately introduced legislation that would require the State Department to certify that Saudi Arabia is working in “good faith” to try to negotiate an end to Yemen’s civil war and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. If the Secretary of State couldn’t make that certification, then steep restrictions would be placed on using US funds to refuel Saudi-coalition aircraft.
Young added on Tuesday that the Lee-Murphy-Sanders resolution is the “wrong approach.”
“[The] resolution sidesteps the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, doesn’t lead to the short of fulsome debate,” he said. “The legislation is never going to become law. It will never become law. It’s an exercise in messaging.”
The Senate vote came just hours after Trump met with bin Salman, who is visiting Washington for the first time since becoming next in line to the throne. Trump, during the meeting, called Saudi Arabia a “very great friend and a big purchaser of equipment and lots of other things.”
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