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A Chance to End U.S. Involvement in the War on Yemen

The senators' resolution is important and worthy of the public's strong support.
yemen airstrikes sa'ada

Sens. Mike Lee, Chris Murphy, and Bernie Sanders explain why they are co-sponsoring a resolution to force an end to U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen:

We believe that since Congress has not authorized military force for this conflict, the United States should play no role in it beyond providing desperately needed humanitarian aid.

That is why we are introducing a joint resolution that would force Congress to vote on the U.S. war in Yemen. If Congress does not authorize the war, our resolution would require U.S. involvement in Yemen to end.

The senators’ resolution is important and worthy of the public’s strong support. It is the first measure of its kind introduced in the Senate, and it could not be for a worthier cause. There is no question that the U.S. has been and continues to be a party to the Saudi-led coalition’s war effort, and as such our military is engaged in hostilities on the side of the coalition against its enemies. Congress has never voted to authorize any of this. The policy of supporting the war represents our government’s shameful indulgence of some of the world’s most authoritarian and abusive governments, and it makes the U.S. partly responsible for creating the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen is illegal, and it is also indefensible. Congress has an opportunity to repudiate this disgraceful policy once and for all.

There was an attempt in the House to do something similar last year, but the House leadership blocked it. The official excuse for torpedoing H. Con Res. 81 last fall was that U.S. involvement in the war didn’t constitute hostilities and therefore the War Powers Resolution didn’t apply to it. This was similar to how the Obama administration defended the blatantly illegal 2011 intervention in Libya while pretending to respect the WPR. It seems that there will be a similar attempt this time around to deny the obvious:

The Defense Department’s acting general counsel sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a letter criticizing the resolution on Tuesday. That letter was sent to all Senate offices Wednesday morning, hours before a high-profile news conference at which Sanders and Lee argued that current American efforts in Yemen ― providing aerial refueling and intelligence to a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels ― are unconstitutional because Congress has never explicitly approved them.

William S. Castle of the Pentagon disagrees. His letter maintains that the U.S. support does not count as “hostilities” because American forces are not having exchanges of fire with the rebels, known as the Houthis, or commanding the coalition.

It is not credible to say that the U.S. isn’t engaged in hostilities when our military assistance is essential to keeping the coalition bombing campaign going. Our government cannot enable a war and then deny that it is deeply involved in that war. Instead of looking for loopholes for why almost three years of involvement in a foreign war “doesn’t count,” our government should be prepared to justify its involvement publicly and authorize it through the proper channels or halt it all together.

It is telling that supporters of U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen are desperate to avoid a meaningful vote on the issue. If U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition had any merit, one would think that its defenders would be more than willing to debate and endorse the policy. Of course, the policy has no merit and can’t be defended, and that is why its supporters keep running away from a full debate and vote.



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