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The War on Yemen and the Senate Vote on the Saudi Arms Sale

Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani report [1] on the Senate’s failed resolution of disapproval aimed at blocking a sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia:

On Tuesday, only five Democrats voted against the resolution — Virginia’s Mark Warner, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Florida’s Bill Nelson, and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly.

Some prominent Democrats who had voted against the September bill changed their tunes on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., both came around to supporting the measure of disapproval against the arms sales.

Cardin told The Intercept that many Democrats changed their vote because they didn’t see a commitment from Trump to end the conflict. “The main reason is we don’t see from President Trump,” he said, “a foreign policy that ends this conflict and the humanitarian crisis it’s causing.”

The good news from Tuesday’s vote is that there is now much broader opposition to selling weapons to the Saudis when there is every reason to expect that those weapons will be used in Yemen. Sens. Murphy, Paul, and Franken have done great work in persuading many more of their colleagues to oppose such sales, and if they can continue to bring more senators over to their side the Senate may well block one of these sales before long. A close vote on this issue makes it much more likely that there can be a real debate over U.S. support for the atrocious and unnecessary Saudi-led war.

There were a few honorable Republicans, including co-sponsor Rand Paul, who voted to disapprove the sale. The full roll call can be found here [2]. Unfortunately, all but four Republican senators voted to support the latest sale and even now still have shown their backing for our disgraceful policy of enabling the destruction and starvation of Yemen. If there had been a unified Democratic front against the sale, enough Republicans broke ranks with the White House that the resolution of disapproval would have passed.

The bad news is that the resolution still failed. Resistance to shameful U.S. support for the war on Yemen started very late, and it is not growing as quickly as it needs to in order to provide Yemen with the help that its civilian population needs right now. Blocking arms sales to members of the Saudi-led coalition is an important start to helping Yemen, but when the country is in the grip of both famine and a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic there is much more that must be done quickly to address the severe humanitarian needs there.

There has not been a serious effort from Washington under the Obama and Trump administrations to seek an end to the conflict, and neither administration has done much of anything to pressure the Saudis and their allies to halt their campaign. Obama belatedly made a few half-hearted gestures at the end of his presidency, but they had no effect and they have been quickly undone by his successor. If there is to be any chance of changing that policy, the White House needs to start losing votes on these arms sales on a regular basis.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "The War on Yemen and the Senate Vote on the Saudi Arms Sale"

#1 Comment By bayesian On June 15, 2017 @ 9:07 pm

Looking at the vote, good for Sen. Young: I’m going to have to keep an eye on him (not in any way to denigrate Sens. Paul, Lee, or Heller for their votes, particular Sen. Paul, but Sen. Young came as a surprise to me in a way that none of the others did).

And an extra helping of shame on Sen. Warner who does not even have the poor excuse of having to face the voters in an orange state in 2018 as the other four do.

And doubleplus honor for Sens. Murphy and Paul, whose out-front positions don’t change with the party affiliation of the President. I look forward to the day when Sen. Paul will survive in the primaries long enough for me to vote for him (sorry, Sen. Paul – even though my father’s family is from KY for many generations, I’m not moving there now).

#2 Comment By Fred Bowman On June 15, 2017 @ 10:32 pm

I think that some of the Republicans voting on the Saudi Arms Sales did so because of 2018 mid-term coming up and are worried about Republican voters (& Trump supporters) back home. Hopefully some of these voters will realize that Trump is reneging on just about all of his campaign promises and will demand that their representatives do better. Of course I’m not going to hold my breath on any of this. Still one can only hope.

#3 Comment By a spencer On June 16, 2017 @ 5:22 am

As long as they’re not sending their constituents’ sons and daughters to die in Yemen, the lawmakers who voted against this resolution are willing to look the other way as the future of war becomes increasingly mercenary. Who is on the ground in Yemen?

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On June 16, 2017 @ 8:38 am

Well with the delivery of precision guided bombs, at least the Saudis will be able to resume double tap strikes to kill rescue workers
[3]

You can’t surprise them with unguided bombs.

#5 Comment By Donald On June 16, 2017 @ 10:46 am

It is now Trump’s war and given his incompetent handling of the Qatar crisis it gave many Democrats a face saving way to switch from supporting the war to opposing it. I don’t think we should forget how many of they supported it for 2 years, but it is good they have switched sides.

#6 Comment By Chuckie = Little Joe On June 16, 2017 @ 10:54 am

Schumer is an interesting guy. He’s the Minority Leader, and yet he voted against the majority of his own party on this one.

I sense a pretty serious tension if not outright contradiction between Schumer’s role as a party leader and his long history of carrying water for Wall Street and Israel’s Likud Party. When their interests diverge from those of most Democrats – and when his vote most counts – Schumer can be counted on to switch sides, a la Joe Lieberman.

Don’t Democrats see that? Why do they put up with it? If I were a Democrat I’d want him out of the leadership if not out of the party entirely.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 16, 2017 @ 11:17 am

” . . . 2018 mid-term coming up and are worried about Republican voters (& Trump supporters) back home. Hopefully some of these voters will realize that Trump is reneging on just about all of his campaign promises and will demand that their representatives do better.”

I think your second position suggests anyone supporting more foreign engagement, not directly related to US interests would make those candidates vulnerable. An opposition candidate could make serious headway by tapping into the numbers of Pres Trump supporters who are betwixt about supporting the Saudi government.

After all this was the pres. who not log ago wanted the royal family out and the Saudis held accountable for 9/11. The polls reflect support by defacto, but enter a new data set that this Pres is abandoning why he was elected that is distracting from their lives here at home.

Could spell trouble.

#8 Comment By bayesian On June 16, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

@Chuckie = little joe

One of us has reading comprehension problem. I think it’s you, but it easily could be me trying to make sense of your comment (for example, I certainly am missing the joke behind your nick).

You said “[Schumer] voted against the majority of his own party on this one.”

Schumer voted for the resolution of disapproval, along with the vast majority (43/48) of the Democrats.

Back when it was a Democrat in the WH (last September’s vote on S.J.Res. 39), Schumer and quite a few other D Senators voted not to disapprove (the arms sales). To their, err, credit, all but three of Republican senators were consistently in favor of slaughtering Yemenis even with a (D) in the WH (although we will MAGA by helping the Saudis and their allies slaughter Yemenis more bigly than under Obama).

To your broader complaint about Schumer being relatively pro-Likudnik for a Democrat, yeah, that’s true. My recollection, which could easily be wrong (though a couple of spot-checked votes supports me), is that he has pretty consistently been on the interventionist/hawk side whenever there has been a major split among the Democrats going back to his days in the House. Bear in mind though that his old House district (10th then 9th) contained a good number of seriously Israel hawk voters, and that after he went to the Senate his colleague for most of the time was You Know Who.

OTOH Gillibrand seems to be moving non-interventionist since she went to the Senate (versus her House votes), so there may be long term hope.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 16, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

Note: I did not agree with the Presidential candidate ate the time. I would that the Saudis seek an exit strategy as soon as possible. But I am not inclined to call them to task on what are their clearly issues in the middle east.

#10 Comment By Jk On June 16, 2017 @ 9:30 pm

Interesting to see the obsession with isolating Cuba due to “human rights” but selling hundreds if billions of arms to Saudi Arabia, paragon of human rights and actual attacker on US through support if various wahhabists, no problem!

#11 Comment By stoop ball On June 17, 2017 @ 7:03 am

@Chuckie = Little Joe “He’s the Minority Leader, and yet he voted against the majority of his own party on this one. “

No. He voted with most of the party for the disapproval motion. But you sort of get it that his Israel and Wall Street positions threaten to turn him into another Joe Lieberman, given where the energy is in the Democratic base these days.

It’s hard to see him in the same party as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He’s far more comfortable swimming with other corrupt Clintonites like MacAuliffe, for whom starving Yemenis or blockaded Gazans are a matter of indifference, and who has always championed Wall Street over Main Street.

#12 Comment By Roaming Charges On June 17, 2017 @ 7:20 am

Trump and Mattis ought to do their jobs so that we don’t have naval disasters like the one that just happened off the coast of Japan. Instead of playing Big Boss and attempting and then botching complicated maneuvers like enabling the Saudis to destroy Yemen in order to send a message to Iran that Iran already got 20 years ago, or proposing to put more troops in Afghanistan to try (yet again) to turn defeat and failure into victory.

Who’s going to take us seriously when 16 years of unending and incredibly costly wars has reduced our basic military competence to this level? The Taliban and N. Korea must be laughing their heads off.

We need to bring our troops home, stop meddling in foreign countries, and re-dedicate ourselves to proper training of our troops for their constitutional role: defense of the American homeland – not invasions, occupations, assassinations, globo-policing, favors for client states, and other expensive adventures that we regularly screw up.

#13 Comment By Kevin On June 17, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

“And an extra helping of shame on Sen. Warner who does not even have the poor excuse of having to face the voters in an orange state in 2018 as the other four do.”

Virginia is the ground zero of DOD spending, so I get where this comes from (and, given that, we should give extra props for Kaine, who is facing voters this year, and yet voted no.)

#14 Comment By Kevin On June 17, 2017 @ 12:03 pm

“Schumer is an interesting guy. He’s the Minority Leader, and yet he voted against the majority of his own party on this one.

I sense a pretty serious tension if not outright contradiction between Schumer’s role as a party leader and his long history of carrying water for Wall Street and Israel’s Likud Party. When their interests diverge from those of most Democrats – and when his vote most counts – Schumer can be counted on to switch sides, a la Joe Lieberman.”

I understand that you see red whenever the name is mentioned, but if you actually read the story, you’ll see that, Zionist dog as he might be, Schumer voted for the Paul-Murphy resolution.

#15 Comment By Claudius On June 18, 2017 @ 5:16 pm

No matter how many Senators Rand Paul gets to support the rejection of a Saudi arms deal, the bill will pass, because in short, we are in dire need of the money. US balance of trade is negative without sales of weapons. That Russia is overcoming US cornered markets as well as significant reductions of sales in energy production equipment of all kinds due to oil and gas oversupply means revenue streams are drying up. The need for the cash along with the pressure from effected corporate bottom-lines means this sale is a go. Like it or not Yemen, ruck up.