Congress must end U.S. military aid to Saudi war in Yemen
Every ghastly new detail we learn about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that this was a premeditated murder, carried out at the direction of the highest level of the Saudi dictatorship. The cascading revelations rival the gore of horror films, from the 15 Saudis who flew into Turkey, lying in wait for Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, to the bone-saw-equipped forensics specialist who reportedly dismembered Khashoggi’s body wearing headphones and recommending that others listen to music as well.
Just weeks before, Khashoggi had publicly pleaded with the de facto ruler of the Saudi regime, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to curb his propensity for violence. Khashoggi’s September column for the Washington Post was headlined “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince must restore dignity to his country — by ending Yemen’s cruel war.”
“Cruel” is, if anything, an understatement. Since 2015, the Saudis have launched an estimated 18,000 air strikes on Yemen, attacking hospitals, schools, water treatment plants, funerals, markets and even farms. The Saudis also imposed a blockade on food, fuel and medicine from freely entering the country in what can only be described as a deliberate effort to starve the civilian population into submission. Buried by the news of Khashoggi’s slaying was a grim new warning by Lise Grande, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen: The nation could experience the world’s worst famine in 100 years, with 12 million to 13 million innocent civilians at risk of dying from the lack of food within months.
As early as 2015, Foreign Policy magazine reported the Saudi coalition’s “daily bombing campaign would not be possible without the constant presence of U.S. Air Force tanker planes refueling coalition jets.” Yet there was never a debate or vote by the people’s elected congressional representatives, as required by the Constitution, as to whether the U.S. military should participate in the Saudi government’s genocidal war.
As the architect of this hideous military strategy, Mohammed bin Salman reacted to Khashoggi’s criticisms the way he knew best. MbS, as he’s known, probably ordered the assassination of Khashoggi and then — just as the Saudi regime did after bombing a school bus filled with Yemeni children last month — issued ever-shifting and contradictory lies, relying on the Trump administration’s full backing and clumsy assistance in the cover-up.
MbS’ campaign of killing Yemenis and Saudis alike must come to an end. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and I are leading dozens of our colleagues, including top House Democrats, in demanding answers from the Trump administration about its possible complicity in Khashoggi’s killing. We also are working to force a vote in Congress to decisively shut down unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi regime’s gruesome war in Yemen within weeks.
Partnering with Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent-Vermont, we aim to secure majorities in both chambers of Congress as soon as we return to Washington to direct the president to remove U.S. forces from unauthorized hostilities in Yemen. We are invoking the War Powers Resolution with the aim of passing House Congressional Resolution 138 and Senate Joint Resolution 54. These resolutions have priority over other foreign policy considerations in the chambers, and the votes on them cannot be blocked by Republican leadership. Never before has such a feat been attempted in both houses of Congress at once — but the War Power Resolution allows members of Congress to force votes to end illegal U.S. military participation in this war. When we succeed, the Saudi campaign will inevitably collapse.
If our moral compass is to guide our country after the butchering of Jamal Khashoggi, the incineration of thousands of Yemenis in U.S.-Saudi air strikes, and the quiet deaths of more than 100,000 Yemeni children who succumbed to war-triggered hunger and disease over the past two years, Congress must pass these resolutions.
America’s founders deliberately broke with the unchecked power enjoyed by Europe’s monarchs by vesting Congress with the sole authority over the question of war and peace.
By forcing long-overdue sunlight and public participation into the now-secret realm of war, these resolutions will help restore our republic and end America’s complicity in such incomprehensibly immense human suffering.
Today’s leaders owe it to all those who have sacrificed for a fairer world to bring an end to the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth.