A Bogus ‘Compromise’ Senate Bill Would Prolong Atrocities in Yemen

The Nation

The Young/Shaheen measure would allow continued US participation in Saudi war crimes. Support the Sanders/Lee/Murphy bill instead.

Mark Weisbrot, The Nation, March 13, 2018

Yemen airstrikePeople carry water tanks at the site of a Saudi-led air strike, north of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, March 8, 2018. (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

Sometimes the most important stories about what our government is doing don’t get a lot of media attention. That’s the case now, when the Senate is about to hold a historic vote that could decide whether millions of people live or die in the near future. The US military is directly participating in a war that has pushed those millions to the brink of starvation and caused the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.

The war is in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is leading the bombing and blockade that is denying people medicine and food as well as the fuel and infrastructure they need to pump clean water. The deprivation and destruction led to the cholera epidemic, which has sickened a million people and killed thousands. American military planes are not only providing midair refueling to the Saudi bombers but helping them with intelligence and targeting.

This constitutes military involvement under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as well as Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, neither of which allows the executive branch to engage in such hostilities without the authorization of Congress. Any doubts about the constitutionality of US participation in the Saudi attempt to “starve Yemen into submission,” as a November New York Times editorial-board headline described it, were put to rest by a vote in the House of Representatives in November. The House voted 366 to 30 for a resolution that declared US military involvement to be unauthorized.

It is therefore illegal under US law. On February 28, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill to put an end to this illegal war. Under the War Powers Resolution, the Senate majority leaders cannot block a debate and vote on this legislation. And a number of experts believe it could pass; for one thing, the last vote in the Senate on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in June, passed by a margin of only 53-47.

But the Saudis have a powerful lobby: They spent $16 million last year on lobbying and public relations that was recorded under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This does not include other spending, such as contributions to think tanks (and that of their allies such as the United Arab Emirates). And along with the Saudis are the big military contractors that profit from these weapons sales.

On the other side, members of Congress, as well as antiwar and other public-interest groups have mounted an offensive of their own to publicize the horrors, illegality, and targeting of civilians in this war. (People can call their senators at 1-833-786-7927, with helpful talking points supplied here; and thousands have done so.)

On March 8, Republican Senator Todd Young and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a new bill that poses a grave threat to this historic effort to stop the war. The bill would require the secretary of state to submit certification to determine “whether the Government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking: (1) an urgent and good faith effort to conduct diplomatic negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen; and (2) appropriate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

Of course, the secretary of state could simply make this certification. We have seen this trick many times. In the 1980s in El Salvador, where the US-funded government sponsored death squads that were murdering civilians by the thousands, Congress passed a law saying that the president had to certify every six months that the Salvadoran government was improving its human-rights record. President Reagan did this, and the murders and other horrific atrocities, aided by US tax dollars, continued.

We can expect the same result going forward if the Young-Shaheen bill is passed. Most recently, the Trump administration has followed that same pattern in Central America: Just two days after the Honduran government was widely seen as stealing the presidential election, and despite worsening human-rights abuses, the administration certified that the government was combating corruption and supporting human rights.

Antiwar and humanitarian groups are trying to get Senators Young and Shaheen to withdraw their “compromise” bill. This is very important, because even if the Sanders-Lee bill is voted on separately—or even first—the presence of the “compromise” bill will tempt those who want the US military to continue its participation in the Saudi war to use that bill for political cover. Senator Young had been previously lauded by aid groups for his efforts to persuade the Saudis to ease their blockade on food and medicine. But these groups, as well as many other observers, will see this latest move as having the opposite effect, by helping to prolong the war.

Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, said there was one clear way to end the man-made disaster: “Stop the war.”

The world’s “worst humanitarian crisis”—as described by UN agencies—has gotten relatively little media attention, and the US role even less. But if it turns into the genocide that many experts fear is imminent, with deaths on the scale of Rwanda in the 1990s, the senators who share responsibility for it may pay a political price.

That is why it is so important for both the media and voters to confront US senators, especially Young and Shaheen. They can have cover only if the public does not know what they are doing. “Democracy dies in darkness,” as the Washington Post motto says. So, too, do the victims of our government’s military interventions abroad.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, and president of Just Foreign Policy. His latest book is Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (2015, Oxford University Press).

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#TalkAboutYemem


Donna Smith, Progressive Democrats of America, Nov 22, 2017

Yemen Is Suffering. Please Help.

While there is so much going on in this country and so much upheaval continues to swirl around our planet, many millions of Americans find themselves in a rush to get away from all things political long enough to find even a few moments of distraction. We all deserve and need that from time to time.

Still, I find it very difficult to distract myself from the reality of 7 million people in Yemen at risk of famine and another 900,000 facing life-threatening diseases such as cholera. Yes, that’s right. Cholera. In 2017. But the Trumpublican standard bearer in the White House and his self-proclaimed “family-values defenders” in Congress could do something, but have done almost nothing to address this human-made catastrophe.

Call Congress: (202)-224-3121

A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country’s future that were boycotted by the rebels. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Crisis paid for by our taxes. We can’t remain silent. Act now!
Tell Congress: ”End US support for Saudi atrocities in Yemen”

Of course Trump couldn’t be bothered with real action on behalf of Yemen before jetting away to Florida for some badly needed golf time at Mar-a-Lago. Yes, he pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys in a routine symbolic gesture, but what about our fellow human beings? Cue the crickets. Trump and the Trumpublicans won’t act, but we can.

  1. Click here to find your Senators and Representative.
  2. Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202)-224-3121.
  3. An operator will connect you directly with the Senate and House offices you request.
  4. Ask to speak with the staffer assigned to defense, military and / or foreign relations issues.
  5. Leave a voice mail message if he or she is unavailable.
  6. Identify yourself by your name and town or city.
  7. Say you demand that the U.S. act to halt the Saudi aggression against the people of Yemen.
  8. Thank them for their time and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

PDA National Advisory Board Member and Code Pink Co-founder Medea Benjamin said it this way, “What does it say about us as a people that we allow our government to keep supporting the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen, and now the blockade of humanitarian aid, that is starving children every day? As we sit around the Thanksgiving table this holiday, please think of the children of Yemen and ask your representative in Congress to speak out.” #TalkAboutYemen

We’re encouraged that the House finally passed a resolution specifying that not authorized U.S. participation in war in Yemen, but that does little to stop the unfolding, yet highly preventable catastrophe. It’s way past time for us all to demand as fellow human beings that our government stop supporting this, and we must stand with other nations to bring medical and humanitarian resources swiftly to the aid of these suffering souls. To do less is unacceptable.

Won’t you join us in calling your Congress members? You can click here to find your Senators and Representative. Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202)-224-3121. An operator will connect you directly with the Senate and House offices you request.

Ask to speak with the staffer assigned to defense, military and / or foreign relations issues. Identify yourself by your name and town or city. Say you demand that the U.S. act to halt the Saudi aggression against the people of Yemen. Then, what a happy day of thanksgiving that will be for us all.

In peace and solidarity,

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Children are starving in Yemen

The White House should intervene

A Yemeni woman takes the clothes off her malnourished child. (Yahya Arhab/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)

Editorial Board, Washington Post, November 20, 2017

IT HAS been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by two and a half years of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.

Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.

U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Ms. Muhrez told us.

Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.

The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.