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Trump’s Disgraceful Pro-Saudi Vetoes

Last month, the Senate passed three resolutions of disapproval to block the president’s attempt to abuse his power to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Last week, the House passed those resolutions. Today the president vetoed all three resolutions as part of his ongoing subservience to the Saudi and Emirati governments:

President Trump on Wednesday vetoed three resolutions that Congress passed to stop several arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which the president pushed through without congressional approval.

The president’s justifications for hisvetoes were not the least bit persuasive, and it is worth digging into the president’s veto messages to understand how disgraceful and indefensible his continued willingness to arm these governments is.

The president states in his veto message for S.J.Res. 36 (echoed in his other veto messages):

First and foremost, it is our solemn duty to protect the safety of the more than 80,000 United States citizens who reside in Saudi Arabia and who are imperiled by Houthi attacks from Yemen.

This is one of the Trump administration’s preferred talking points for justifying arming war criminals. The conceit here is that they are somehow “protecting” Americans who choose to live in Saudi Arabia by providing the Saudis and the UAE with the means to slaughter Yemeni civilians. This excuse is not even slightly credible. None of the weapons that the U.S. sells to the Saudis and the UAE actually protects anyone. The weapons that the U.S. sells to these governments are used to imperil and kill people in Yemen that have never done anything to the U.S. It is not our government’s responsibility to enable war crimes by a government simply because some of our citizens may happen to reside in the country in question, and the Americans living in the kingdom would not be at any risk if it were not for the Saudi coalition’s indiscriminate bombing campaign and long list of atrocities against the people of Yemen. By continuing to funnel weapons to the Saudis and Emiratis, Trump exposes American citizens in the region to greater danger.

Trump’s embarrassing excuses for arming war criminals continue:

Third, Saudi Arabia is a bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region, and the licenses the joint resolution would prohibit enhance Saudi Arabia’s ability to deter and defend against these threats.

The great Saudi “bulwark” launched a stupid war of choice in Yemen and they are now paying the price for their stupidity. The war on Yemen is a boon to Iran by bogging Saudi Arabia and the UAE in an unwinnable war, and the more weapons that the U.S. sends to these governments the longer they can keep waging that war. Sending more weapons to the Saudis and Emiratis does not deter or defend against anything. It simply encourages more bloodshed and recklessness from horrible client governments.

The president is not done misleading the public:

Finally, by restricting the ability of our partners to produce and purchase precision-guided munitions, S.J. Res. 36 would likely prolong the conflict in Yemen and deepen the suffering it causes.

The quickest way to bring the war on Yemen to an end is to deprive the Saudi coalition of the means to continue their campaign. It has been the Saudi coalition’s intervention that prolonged and intensified the war, and more than four years later it is the Saudi coalition’s involvement that prevents the war from ending. Providing Saudi Arabia and the UAE with more weapons allows them to commit more war crimes and it gives them more weapons that they can hand off to their proxies in violation of the agreements they have made with the U.S. The Trump administration couldn’t care less about the suffering caused by the war on Yemen. If they did, they would not have fought tooth and nail to keep the war going for the last two and a half years.

The president concludes with an insulting lie:

The United States is very concerned about the conflict’s toll on innocent civilians and is working to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end.

Neither part of this statement is true. The Trump administration in particular has shown only indifference to the catastrophic toll that the war and the humanitarian crisis have taken on the people of Yemen. Through their determined efforts to thwart Congress’ attempts to end U.S. involvement in the war, the administration has proven that they have no interest in bringing the conflict to an end. On the contrary, the president and the Secretary of State have bent over backwards to cater to the governments responsible for most of the civilian casualties in Yemen. The administration has made every effort to oppose or ignore clear opposition to this war from a majority of both houses of Congress, and the president has used his veto power almost exclusively to support the Saudi coalition as they continue to kill Yemeni civilians in a disastrous war.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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