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Congress Must Oppose the Saudi Arms Deal

Kudos to Sen. Rand Paul for his willingness to oppose [1] the new arms deal with the Saudis:

Sen. Rand Paul will attempt to force a Senate vote on the $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia announced over the weekend by the Trump administration, according to Senate staff.

Part of the $110 billion is a deal that had already been made by the Obama administration, so that portion is probably not going to be blocked, but the bulk of it still could be [2]. Because it is likely that at least some of the weapons being sold to the Saudis will used in the commission of war crimes and because the Saudi-led coalition has already committed many such crimes, there is a strong argument that the sale itself would be illegal [3]:

Citing “multiple credible reports of recurring and highly questionable [air]strikes’’ by the Saudi military that have killed civilians, the U.S. “cannot continue to rely on Saudi assurances that it will comply with international law and agreements concerning the use of U.S.-origin equipment,” Michael Newton, a prominent Vanderbilt University law professor and former military judge advocate general, said.

Newton, in his 23-page opinion, said the strikes have continued “even after Saudi units received training and equipment to reduce civilian casualties.”

“Continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia ― and specifically of arms used in airstrikes ― should not be presumed to be permissible” under the two statutes covering most sales of military equipment by the U.S government to foreign nations [bold mine-DL], he said.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin recently wrote about the famine being caused by the coalition’s intervention and addressed [4] the need for Congress to step in:

If Trump’s deal with the Saudis ignores the suffering of millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation, I can assure you that members of Congress will act swiftly, using every tool at our disposal — from blocking weapons shipments to forcing a debate and vote on U.S. military involvement in Yemen — to end this incomprehensible tragedy.

There is no hint that the administration has put any pressure on the Saudis regarding their war on Yemen, and there is no reason to expect that they will. During his Riyadh speech Trump applauded the coalition’s “strong action” in attacking the country, and he has consistently shown no understanding of the war or its consequences. Insofar as he thinks he understands what’s going on, he has just been echoing pro-Saudi talking points. So it falls to Congress to try to rein in U.S. support for the atrocious war on Yemen. Failure to do so will further deepen U.S. complicity in wrecking and starving Yemen.

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5 Comments To "Congress Must Oppose the Saudi Arms Deal"

#1 Comment By collin On May 24, 2017 @ 9:07 am

After the media attention from Trump’s trip and the jobs created, this is going a tough one for Congress to stop.

On the other hand, Iran buying airplanes from Boeing is probably the main reason why the Nuclear Deal still stands.

#2 Comment By John Mulligan On May 24, 2017 @ 9:48 am

Massively arming the country that supplied the bulk of the 9/11 terrorists and not expecting blowback is to be expected of Trump and his coterie of fools. It is incumbent upon the conservatives in the Congress to short circuit this latest bit of idiocy by this dangerous and deranged administration.

#3 Comment By Michael N Moore On May 24, 2017 @ 10:50 am

As University of Washington professor Rebeca U. Thorpe points out in “The American Warfare State”, her definitive study of the political economy of military spending, Congress will never stop any president from going to war because a significant majority of House Members represent districts that are economically dependent on military spending.

The arms industry cherry picks or creates sub-contractors in ex-urban and rural areas where they become the monopoly employer. This particularly impacts Republicans. There is effectively no longer any check on Presidential war powers and the politics of constant war follow.

#4 Comment By Donald On May 24, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

It is really depressing reading some of the comments below the Pocan piece in the Washington Post. The majority that I read ( I didn’t read them all) reacted in purely partisan terms. The Trump supporters saw it as a conspiracy to bash Trump, correctly pointing out that most liberals said nothing when Obama was in office. Some liberals in turn saw it as an opportunity to bash Trump, who obviously deserves bashing, but it misses the point and just feeds the notion that everything has to be viewed through a partisan lens. The fact is that we have had a bipartisan and awful policy in Yemen, but there are some honorable people in both parties trying to change this.

#5 Comment By Maj. Deegan On May 24, 2017 @ 3:52 pm

At least Rand Paul is trying to do something about this insanity.

As someone who voted for Trump in the hope that he would finally get us out of the Middle East, I’m pretty unhappy about the way things are shaping up. It looks like he’s giving the military boys (McMaster and Mattis) everything they want no matter how expensive or stupid, and giving client states like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt everything they want too. As a foreign policy it makes no sense and will end badly. As a TRUMP foreign policy, it’s the opposite of what he promised, which suggests he’s a complete liar.