The Senate is expected to vote today on whether to approve the sale of guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. In an encouraging development, the ranking Democratic member on the Foreign Relations Committee has come out against the deal:
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has committed to vote against a U.S.-Saudi deal for precision-guided munitions, a signal Democrats could oppose the deal en masse.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said Wednesday he would vote to block the sale of $510 million in smart bombs to be used in the war in Yemen because the Trump administration has not yet articulated a strategy to end the war through political means.
Disapproving of the sale would be a small step in reining in U.S. support for the atrocious war on Yemen, but it is an important one. Most civilian casualties in the war have been caused by the indiscriminate bombing campaign for which the U.S. has provided the weapons, fuel, and intelligence. The repeated deliberate targeting of civilian areas has shown that providing precision weapons isn’t saving civilian lives, but rather facilitates the taking of them. Millions of Yemenis are also at risk from famine, and millions more are badly malnourished and vulnerable to preventable disease. There are reportedly now over 100,000 cases of cholera, and that figure keeps increasing rapidly due to lack of clean drinking water, a devastated health care system, and insufficient medical supplies. These conditions have been created in large part by the coalition’s war and blockade, and it is imperative that both be brought to an end as swiftly as possible. As one of the chief enablers of the war, the U.S. has done a great deal of harm to Yemen, and now it is our government’s responsibility to do what it can to end the war and repair what it has helped to destroy. Today’s vote can be the beginning of that effort.
The Saudi-led coalition isn’t going to halt the war on its own, and Trump has made clear that he won’t put any pressure on the Saudis and their allies, so the pressure will have to come from Congress. If the Senate can vote down this sale or at least come close to doing so, that could prompt a real debate about U.S. involvement in the war over the last two years and bring more scrutiny and pressure to bear on both the Trump administration and the coalition. In addition to broader support from the Democratic side, there is a good chance that several Republicans (including co-sponsor Rand Paul) will also oppose the sale:
Despite the prospects of a more lopsided Democratic vote to block Trump’s sales, Murphy said he’s also hoping for stronger GOP support. Three of the four Republicans who backed the effort to block Obama’s Saudi arms deal are still in office, and freshman Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) is a key ally on a related effort to set anti-terrorism and Yemen-related conditions on future air-to-ground weapons deals.
Sens. Murphy, Paul, and Franken should be commended for organizing this effort, and the growing numbers of opponents is a testament both to their leadership on this issue and the ongoing disaster that the U.S.-backed war has helped to create in Yemen. With a little luck, maybe the Senate can deliver a much-needed rebuke to the president and the Saudis.
Update: The vote has been postponed until next week.