As far as I know, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) is the first member of Congress to make a case against U.S. support for the war on Yemen in public. He spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations Friday:
But the Middle East doesn’t work like that anymore, and there is growing evidence our support for Saudi-led military campaigns in places like Yemen are prolonging humanitarian misery and aiding extremism. $90 billion in arms sales to Saudi during the Obama Administration have helped Saudi Arabia carry out a campaign in Yemen against the nominally Iranian-backed Houthis. Our government says its top priority in Yemen is defeating AQAP, arguably al Qaeda’s deadliest franchise. But this ongoing chaos has created a security vacuum in which AQAP can thrive and even expand. No expert would dispute that since the Saudi campaign began, al Qaeda has expanded in Yemen, and ISIL has gained a new territorial and recruitment foothold.
Murphy said this as part of his broader argument for reevaluating the U.S.-Saudi relationship. He also criticized Washington’s tendency to “blindly back” the client government in Riyadh. In addition to making a number of correct observations about the dysfunctional nature of the relationship with the Saudis and emphasizing their role in promoting Wahhabism in many other countries, Murphy explicitly criticized U.S. support for the war on Yemen and recommended ending that support until Saudi behavior changes in a number of ways.
One doesn’t need to agree with his entire speech or all of his foreign policy views to recognize that Murphy has done a great service by speaking out publicly against U.S. support for the appalling Saudi-led war. I recommend reading the full speech, and if you have time I’d encourage you to listen to his answers during the Q&A session shown here. He is also shining a light on the destructive behavior of the Saudis that it seems most members of Congress and the administration would rather ignore or excuse. There is still remarkably little American interest in or attention paid to the U.S. role in this war and the devastating effects the war is having on Yemen’s civilian population, and so Sen. Murphy’s remarks are especially welcome and very much needed.