Friday, September 29, 2017

Can Congress Legislate An End To The Carnage In Yemen? 4 Members Are Trying


Wednesday evening, Democrats Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Marc Pocan (D-WI) have teamed up with Republicans Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Walter Jones (R-NC) to introduce a resolution (H.R. 81) that would halt U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen on grounds that Congress has never approved the American role in the war. The bill requires the removal of U.S. forces from the war in Yemen unless and until Congress votes to authorize the American assistance, something Ryan has refused to allow to be voted on for over two years.

Hawaii's Kaniela Ing, the most progressive member of his state's legislature who may run for the open congressional seat next year, told us that "Ro Khanna and Mark Pocan are inspirationally demonstrating that Democrats can achieve bipartisanship without checking our values at the door. Some ideas just make sense on the left and on the right, like protecting human rights and taxpayers by ending reckless wars. No split-the-baby, neoliberal compromise here."

Khanna and Pocan, in a letter explaining the bill to their colleagues, wrote that they "aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it." Conservative Republicans like Jones and Massie like that message as much as progressive Democrats do.

The authors of the bill also argued that assistance to the coalition bombing in Yemen was harming U.S. security interests, by creating conditions that enabled al Qaeda and Islamic State to bolster their presence in the country.

The proposed legislation will help “in reducing a genuine threat to national security posed by the expansion of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and promises to assist in ending the senseless suffering of millions of innocent people in Yemen,” according to the text of the bill.

The bill cites a 2016 State Department report on terrorism in Yemen, which found that al Qaeda and Islamic State militants have benefited from the country’s “security vacuum” and exploited sectarian tensions between the Sunni Yemeni government and the Shiite Houthi rebels.

The bill does not seek to end U.S. counterterrorism operations-- including drone strikes-- against al Qaeda or Islamic State branches in Yemen, which date back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The Saudi-led coalition launched its air war in Yemen in March 2015 after Houthi rebels backed by Tehran ousted the government led by president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Anxious over its image, Saudi Arabia has invested in an extensive public relations effort in Washington to counter criticism of the air war in Yemen and its obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries to Sanaa airport and the country’s main port in Hodeida.

Riyadh has argued that it had to intervene to defend itself against Iranian-backed and armed Houthi rebels who have fired rockets across its border. And it accuses Houthi forces of diverting aid from the Hodeida port, though international relief organizations have not confirmed those allegations.

The Saudi-led coalition has come under intense scrutiny in Congress over its refusal since January to permit the delivery of four cranes financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development to the port of Hodeida. The World Food Programme and other aid groups say the cranes are crucial for unloading emergency food and medical supplies from ships arriving at the port amid a mounting humanitarian catastrophe.

The blockade on the cranes violates international law and the Geneva Conventions, human rights groups say. And by continuing to provide military assistance to the coalition, the United States could be violating U.S. law, according to a legal opinion from the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights.

The Foreign Assistance Act prohibits aid to governments that directly or indirectly block the transport of U.S. humanitarian assistance, unless the president certifies to Congress that it is in the security interests of the United States, it said.
This morning, Ro Khanna told me that "It is time we learn the lesson that our military entanglements abroad have made us less safe. There is no national security interest in aiding Saudi Arabia in its proxy war with Iran in Yemen. This must stop. It's a humanitarian catastrophe. My bill invokes the war powers resolution and will force a vote in the House requiring us to stop fueling Saudi Arabia airplanes that are bombing civilians in Yemen."

We caught up with another of the resolution's authors, Madison, Wisconsin's Mark Pocan-- "Enough is enough," he said. "Today, as aid groups warn of Yemen approaching a famine of 'Biblical proportions,' and as the Saudis continue to impose a crippling blockade on food imports as a tactic of war, I'm compelled to join my friend Ro Khanna in asserting our constitutional duty to withdraw U.S. forces directly engaged in this senseless, unauthorized conflict. As 7 million Yemenis face starvation, I urge Congress to vote yes on our resolution and help bring an end to the U.S. role in Yemen’s unimaginable catastrophe."

Ted Lieu, who's co-sponsoring this bill, has been one of the most consistent critics of U.S. policy in Yemen going back into Obama's time. Last night he told us that "The Founders rested the authority to declare war with Congress for good reason. They knew that the nation would be much less likely to be entangled in foreign conflicts if decisions of war and peace were left to the branch most accountable to the people.  But since the end of the Second World War, that power has been eroded and ceded to the executive branch. Until we get to today-- when the US military can be engaged in hostilities across the globe without congressional authorization. I have been saying for more than 2 years that the US military should not be supporting what amount to an unauthorized war that has resulted in possible war crimes. Far too many civilians have been targeted and killed in this conflict. Furthermore, what is the vital US national security in this conflict? Neither this Administration nor the last has been able to answer that fundamental question and make the case for why we should provide US support to this effort. We should not be supporting allies in armed conflict if we do not have absolute confidence in our partner’s willingness and ability to avoid civilian casualties."

Goal ThermometerDerrick Crowe used to work in Congress but now he's running for Congress, in an Austin-San Antonio seat occupied by Trump rubber-stamp Lamar Smith. I first met Derrick years ago when he was making films about ending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Today he told me that "If Congress doesn't start standing up for its prerogatives, it might as well give up on being a coequal branch of government alongside the courts and the executive branch. The authors of this bill are correct. There is no national interest whatsoever in helping Saudi Arabia fight a proxy war in Yemen. We need to be focused on helping to mitigate the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, not funding military adventures by countries who do not share our democratic values."

Jared Golden, is a Marine veteran who saw active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently the Majority Whip of the Maine state House. He's the progressive candidate running for the Maine congressional seat held by Republican Bruce Poliquin and last night he told us that he believes "that Congress needs to take back its responsibility to declare war and provide oversight over it. Congress needs to stop acting as a rubber stamp for the President, any President, in regard to wars overseas. They owe that to the American people and most importantly to the men and women in uniform who do the fighting. When we put their lives on the line, it better be for American interests and security."

James Thompson, a congressional candidate in Kansas and another progressive vet, backs this effort by Khanna and Pocan. "The President may be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but only Congress has the power to declare war, and only Congress can allocate money for war. Consequently, our involvement in military operations without the consent of Congress is illegal. For many presidential administrations from both sides of the aisle, Congress abdicated its checks and balances role regarding the use of our military and allowed an unauthorized expansion of Presidential power. We should only be involved in conflicts unilaterally if American lives or land is at stake. All other military engagements should be done with a coalition of forces. Saudi Arabia can handle its own affairs without U.S. support since we do not have an American interest at stake, and in fact, our involvement in the Yemen war only serves to fuel terrorist propaganda. Our Congress must zealously guard their war-time powers because American resources and, more importantly, lives are literally at stake and should not be given needlessly."

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At 10:35 PM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

And yet, the Senate just appropriated $80 billion more than last year for the military with only 8 senators voting no.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shout-out to my Sen Chris Murphy (D-CT) for being the first to call out the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for it's genocidal war in Yemen, several months ago in a speech on the Senate floor.

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... um... congress has yet to declare war on ANYONE... since 1941.
So... how many wars have they tacitly affirmed (by not impeaching the unitary who sent our boys to die) since then?

all of them.

They need to either grow a pair and reclaim their CONSTITUTIONAL duty to declare war or declare themselves moot and all go the fuck home in shame.

And America and americans have never shrunk from genocide. From Germany (prior to our entry) to now, all genocides worldwide have occurred without any American impedence. None. We don't WANT genocides (of "them") to stop.


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