By Robert Naiman, Truthout
Last week, on the Senate floor, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called out US participation in the Saudi war in Yemen.
Senator Paul affirmed that US participation in Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war has never been authorized by Congress — in violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution — and demanded that Congress vote on it:
We’re at war in Yemen. We are aiding and abetting the Saudi war in Yemen. And yet they’re been no vote on it. 17 million people live on the edge of starvation, because of the Saudi blockade and bombing campaign. We are aiding and abetting that, and yet there’s been no vote here in Congress.
Senator Paul charged that US participation in the Saudi war in Yemen is not in the interests of Americans, but is in fact harmful to the interests of Americans:
Does anybody in America think that the war in Yemen is in our vital interest? Most people don’t know where Yemen is, much [less] think it’s in our vital interests. Guess what? The war in Yemen may actually be opposed to our vital national interest. It may be making it worse.
Senator Paul also charged that US support for Saudi Arabia’s war has fueled the world’s worst outbreak of cholera and help push 17 million people to the edge of starvation:
Seventeen million people, as we speak, live on the edge of starvation. Seventeen million people! They’re having the largest outbreak of cholera. Where’s most of this happening? Where’s most of starvation, most of the killing, most of the cholera? It’s in areas that are being bombed by the Saudis. They have bombed the infrastructure into ruins, and there is no clean water. So you have cholera being spread. War is probably the most common and most important precipitating factor in humanitarian disasters. If you look at humanitarian disasters around the world, you’ll find the number one cause is war. And Yemen was already a poor place to begin with. But you’re fighting the war and nobody asked your permission. You’re fighting a war in Yemen through the proxy of Saudi Arabia and no one has asked my permission … we have no business in Yemen. We’ve not voted to go to war in Yemen.
Senator Paul further argued that US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen is helping Al Qaeda:
Is it possible that in us supporting the Saudi Arabian-backed government against the Houthis, they fight and kill each other to such a degree of chaos that al Qaeda … fills the vacuum? Well, if you look at Libya, that’s what happened. If you look at Syria, that’s what happened. What if it happens in Yemen? And you have to say, what is our vital interest in Yemen? Why are we in Yemen? Why are we supplying bombs to the Saudis? Is it somehow making us safer from terrorism? Are we “killing them over there so they don’t kill us over here”?
The Saudis bombed a funeral procession. A funeral procession! Of civilians! They killed 150 people and they wounded 500. Do you think they’re ever going to forget about it? … they will talk about the day the Saudis came and bombed civilians. And they will also say in the next breath, guess who gave them the bombs? The Americans. Guess who helped guide the planes? Guess who refueled the planes in the air? The Americans refueled the Saudis the day they came to bomb a funeral procession. So in the end we killed 150 people…Well, do you think we killed 150 and that’s the end of it? Or do you think those who are wounded that survived went back to their villages tell every one of their neighbors and everyone in the village about the day the Saudis came with the American bombs? So we have to ask ourselves, are we making things better? Is Yemen in our vital national interest? Are we making things better or are we making things worse? Is there a possibility that we lead to such chaos, that al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula rises up and becomes a real threat to us?
Unlike the Senate, the House of Representatives has not had a roll call vote on the floor regarding any aspect of US participation in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen in at least a year, when an amendment introduced by Rep. John Conyers was narrowly defeated, 204-216. That’s why it’s important that Senator Paul has spoken out in support of House action to call the question on US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Paul said “he supports a bipartisan effort in the House by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and others to force the Trump administration to seek congressional approval on United States involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war with Yemen, which started under President Obama.”
“That’s a big debate we ought to be having,” Paul said regarding the Yemen controversy.
That’s a whole new separate war, it’s not connected to any of the other wars. And I think there is a strong argument to be made that if we further the chaos in Yemen and we take one side against another, we make it to such an extent that a vacuum develops and Al Qaeda steps into that vacuum. I think there’s a chance. One: It’s not our war. We should vote on it, and there’s not a vital interest. But, two: Whatever we do may do the opposite of what we want and may allow Al Qaeda to grow stronger…”
Paul’s support for the effort, now, adds a huge momentum boost behind stopping the very controversial US logistical backing of the Saudis in this conflict.
The Intercept reports that the Pentagon doesn’t even know the extent to which the US is helping Saudi Arabia bomb civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen. Therefore, anyone saying that the US is not “directly involved” in the Saudi war in Yemen — as The New York Times recently did — should not be believed. If the Pentagon doesn’t know, how does The New York Times know? And anyone saying that US support for Saudi Arabia’s war is legal and constitutional is also lying, because even the Pentagon doesn’t know what the Pentagon is doing. While Senator Paul is a unique Republican voice on foreign policy, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) has affirmed Paul’s obvious point: The 2001 anti-al Qaeda Authorization for Use of Military Force doesn’t authorize US military action against Yemen’s Houthis.
Press your representative in the House to assert their war powers to end unconstitutional US participation in Saudi Arabia’s famine-producing, Al Qaeda-helping war in Yemen here.