Sanders, allies try again to end U.S. backing for Saudi war in Yemen
Sa'ada, Yemen, reduced to dust. | Phillippe Kropf / UN OHCA

WASHINGTON—Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee are going to try, once again, to yank U.S. backing for the Saudis’ horrifying war in Yemen.

And this time, armed with public polls against the conflict and increasing outrage—from conservatives as well as progressives—against the Saudi regime, the independent senator from Vermont, the Democrat from Connecticut, and the Republican from Utah may succeed. The new vote may be as soon as Nov. 28, and they want constituents to call their senators.

Sanders, Murphy, and Lee again intend to force a Senate vote on S. J. Res. 54, invoking the 45-year-old War Powers Act to force the U.S. to get out of Yemen by withdrawing Trump administration backing and military aid for the Saudi regime’s war there. When the three tried in March, they lost, 44-55.

Since March, the war, and the accompanying horrors of Saudi bombing intensified. In the last seven months, they include massacres—from U.S.-supplied bombs—of more than 40 Yemeni schoolchildren out for a picnic and of 22 people attending a wedding.

Overall, the toll includes 14 million people on the brink of famine, three million refugees, and at least 75,000 Yemeni children who have starved to death, all as a result of the war conducted by the Saudi leader, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, against the Iranian-backed Houthi forces.

In addition, the prince ordered the murder and dismemberment, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, of outspoken dissident journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Still, it’s the war itself—and its atrocities—that led the three lawmakers to try, try again to yank the U.S. out of it and out of backing the Saudis and their prince, also known by his initials, MBS.

“I think the American people and Congress are now saying let us end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” Sanders said in announcing the three intend to push for a new vote.

“I think we now have a chance to get a majority of the United States Senate,” the Vermonter said on Face The Nation. “I think people are looking at the horrific humanitarian disaster now taking place in Yemen. There was a recent report that over the last number of years some 75,000 children have died of starvation.”

“This is a country dealing with cholera. A country dealing with a terrible level of famine,” he continued.

“U.S. participation in this conflict is unauthorized and unconstitutional and must end completely,” he added just after Election Day. “I will soon bring Senate Joint Resolution 54 back to the floor for another vote, so the Senate can compel an end to U.S. participation in the Yemen war as a matter of law, not simply as a matter of the president’s discretion.”

Lee, the conservative-to-libertarian Republican from Utah, cited the same constitutional reasons for getting the U.S. out of Yemen.

“Our involvement in Yemen is a clear violation of Article 1 of the Constitution which gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war,” he explained. “In 1973, Congress did pass the War Powers Act which does give the executive branch the ability to use the U.S. armed forces in cases of emergencies and only for a limited time. But Yemen is not an emergency, and it has not been constrained by any time restrictions.

“For far too long, Congress has neglected our constitutional responsibility to oversee military intervention, and our continued involvement in Yemen is both unconstitutional and immoral. I hope to fix this by yet again calling on a vote, and this time passing, the Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution which would remove U.S. forces from Yemen.”

Murphy faulted President Donald Trump and his support for the Saudi government in general and MBS in particular, for continuing U.S. participation in the war.

This time, the three lawmakers picked up backing from the right as well as the left.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the International Rescue Committee found more than three-fourths of 1,168 respondents favored U.S. withdrawal from the Yemeni war. That included more than half of self-described conservatives. The poll also showed 58 percent did not know the U.S. sold weapons to the Saudis for the war and 64 percent did not know about the bombing of civilians, including the schoolkids and the wedding party.

“What is happening to these children is a moral abomination. When Congress is back in session, I’ll be pushing for a vote to end our involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” Murphy tweeted after the picnic bombing.

Calls for a ceasefire “can only hold with the backing of the U.N., and an end to the U.S.’ own military support to the coalition. Otherwise, peace will not only be unrealistic but impossible,” said David Miliband, the IRC president. Other calls for U.S. withdrawal came from PeaceAction, WinWithoutWar, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. U.S. Labor Against The War did not issue a specific statement on Yemen, but it posted last year’s AFL-CIO Convention anti-wars resolution.

Anti-Yemen-War demands also came from the right.

“The partnership between Trump and the (Saudi) crown prince has proven to be one of the more toxic and dangerous pairings of international leaders in recent history,” Daniel Larison wrote in The American Conservative, the web magazine of the American Conservative Union. “Trump has staked his entire regional policy on backing Saudi Arabia, and as the architect of the disastrous intervention the crown prince is deeply invested in continuing the war on Yemen.”

“Between the two of them, the administration won’t put any meaningful pressure on Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government won’t give up on a war they can’t win. Congress will have to apply the pressure Trump won’t, and the only way the Saudi government will abandon its failed war is if there is much more international pressure than there has been.

“Administration officials feigned interest in bringing the war to a conclusion, but their actions tell a different story. If they wanted to see the war brought to an end, they would not be worried Congress is acting to withdraw all U.S. support from the Saudi coalition, but that is exactly what worries them.”

Individuals also spoke out, as did progressive House Democrats Barbara Lee of Oakland—the only representative to vote against George W. Bush’s 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force after the al-Qaeda attacks—Mark Pocan of Madison, Wis., and Peter DeFazio of Portland, Ore. Pocan co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“As many of us celebrate Thanksgiving, the U.S. is participating in a Saudi war that is starving 14 million Yemenis to death. Thanks, @chrislhayes, for educating the American public about our Congressional efforts to stop illegal U.S. involvement in this senseless conflict,” tweeted Pocan, one of Capitol Hill’s few active union member lawmakers.

Yasser Arrabyee tweeted to Murphy: “If the Saudis get away with their crimes in Yemen, they can get away with any crimes, anywhere, anytime. The murder of Khashoggi is just the beginning. What the Congress knows about the Saudi crimes is just a drop in the ocean. Vote to stop Saudi war.”

“Please don’t give up on this until we stop supporting this atrocious war,” tweeted Geoff Free.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.