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Aggression Against Yemen
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U.S. should end role in Yemen’s civil war : Publishing Date: 3/17/2018
By LISA SCHIRCH and KEVIN MARTIN : Half a world away, our tax dollars are fueling what the United Nations is calling the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. . Three years into a brutal U.S.-backed, Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war, more than 22 million Yemenis rely on humanitarian aid, more than 8 million, roughly the population of Virginia, are on the brink of starvation.

Now, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent; Mike Lee, a Utah Republican; and Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, have introduced bipartisan legislation to end America’s complicity in this disaster, legislation to force a vote in the Senate to remove U.S. forces from Yemen’s civil war.

For three years, the U.S. has been providing significant military and political support for the intervention. U.S. Air Force pilots are conducting midair refuelings of coalition bombers, U.S. intelligence analysts are sharing targeting coordinates with their Saudi counterparts and U.S. diplomats are whitewashing the regular human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Saudi coalition. Thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen have been attributed to the indiscriminate Saudi-led bombing campaign. The coalition has even dropped U.S.-made cluster bombs over civilian areas, an indisputable war crime.

Even more deadly than the bombings themselves is the coalition’s apparently deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid. The coalition’s blockades of Yemen’s ports regularly prevent or delay the delivery of food, water and medical supplies, and coalition airstrikes on hospitals, food distribution centers, water treatment plants, roads and bridges have made the delivery of the aid that is allowed into the country much more difficult. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some 63,000 Yemeni children died in 2016 of preventable causes usually tied to malnutrition.

Without a doubt, pulling U.S. support for the war would save lives. The Saudi coalition would be unable to fly as many bombing runs, and it would lose much of the political cover provided by the United States that has made the brutal bombing and blockading of Yemen politically viable for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That in turn could force the coalition to negotiate in good faith with Yemen’s Houthi rebels for the first time since the start of the war. Ultimately, the U.S. goal in Yemen should be the facilitation of a diplomatic solution to end the war, not the pursuit of an imaginary military solution to win the war, nor the maintenance of a counterproductive relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Alleviating the humanitarian crisis and advancing prospects for diplomacy in Yemen is more than enough reason to end U.S. support for the war. But for senators considering their position on the upcoming vote, the fact that Congress never authorized the U.S. role in the war is just as relevant.

The War Powers Act, invoked by the Sanders-Lee-Murphy bill, is crystal clear: The president cannot send U.S. soldiers into hostilities or situations where hostilities are imminent without authorization from Congress or an emergency caused by an attack on the United States. The coordination and participation of soldiers in the movement of foreign forces without those conditions, which is clearly what’s happening in Yemen, are also expressly prohibited.

Also relevant for senators is public-opinion polling on the issue. According to a Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy poll published in January, 70.8 percent want Congress to pass legislation to curb overseas military action, 67.4 percent don’t approve of congressional leadership allowing U.S. military involvement overseas without authorization from Congress and 51.3 percent say they would be less likely to vote for the members of Congress if they do not work to withdraw U.S. forces from the war in Yemen.

Because it invokes the War Powers Act, the Sanders-Lee-Murphy bill has a privileged status, meaning it is guaranteed a vote in the Senate and only requires a 51-vote threshold to pass. That vote is expected next week. Virginians concerned with their tax dollars being used to fund this unauthorized, brutal war can take action by contacting U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia and encouraging them to support this vital legislation. Millions of lives and the future of congressional oversight on war are on the line.

Lisa Schirch has been a professor of international diplomacy for 22 years and works around the world on international relations. She lives in Harrisonburg. Kevin Martin is president of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots peace organization. He lives in Silver Spring, Md.
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