End the War in Yemen

Nov 30 2018

Eight months ago, the Senate voted to table a resolution that would have forced the president to either: a) end United States cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen; or b) submit a formal declaration of war to Congress.

That resolution was tabled by a vote of 55-44.

This Wednesday that same resolution survived a vote to be added to the Senate calendar, 63 to 37. A final vote on the resolution is set for next week. The chance to end the war in Yemen is in sight.

The inhumanity of the war is staggering: since 2015, more than 10,000 civilians have died and 40,000 have been wounded. In an attack just a few months ago, a bomb was dropped on a school bus that killed 40 young boys who were on a school trip and wounded another 56 children.

But what few Americans knew until recently is that the U.S. military has actually been making the crisis worse by helping one side bomb these innocent civilians.

So how did we get entangled in this crisis to begin with?

In March of 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a war against Houthi rebels shortly after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government in the capital city of Sanaa.

The Obama administration, without consulting Congress, quickly authorized U.S. military forces to provide “logistical and intelligence support,” including midair refueling, surveillance, reconnaissance information, and target selection assistance.

In other words, we have been supporting and actively participating in the activities of war.

But Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress shall have the power to declare war.

Congress. Not the President, not the Pentagon, not someone else within the Executive branch, but Congress. The Founders could not have been clearer about this.

And they did so with good reason: the Founders set up our system of government in such a way as to protect the people from excessive concentration of power in the hands of the few. We know from experience under British rule that bad things happen, especially at the national level, when too few people exercise too much power. And nowhere is this more evident than in the power to declare war.

So the Founders placed the war power squarely in the legislative branch: the branch where honest, open, and public debate is supposed to happen; and the branch that is held most accountable to the people through elections at the most regular intervals.

As Alexander Hamilton points out in Federalist Paper 69, this power would not be exercised by the executive branch so as to make it less likely to be abused, like it was when the King of England acted in and of himself to send his country – and ours, for that matter – to war.

The situation in Yemen now poses a true humanitarian crisis. The country is on the brink of rampant disease and mass starvation: an estimated 15 million people don’t have access to clean water and sanitation; and 17 million don’t have access to food. More innocent lives are being lost by the day.

My position on this has not changed for the past eight months. But with the taking of another innocent life, that of American resident Jamal Khashoggi, the circumstances have only further deteriorated.

Intelligence suggests that, despite his repeated denials, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself ordered the murder. Saudi Arabia’s moral depravity has only been made plainer.

This is not an ally that deserves our support or military intervention, especially when our own security is not on the line. On the contrary, to continue supporting them in this war would be bad diplomacy and undermine our very credibility.

U.S. intervention in Yemen is unauthorized, unconstitutional, and immoral. And we must not – we cannot – delay voting to end our involvement and our support of Saudi Arabia any further.

We owe it to the American people who put their sons and daughters in harm’s way to defend us; we owe it to their parents and families; and we owe it to ourselves, who have taken an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States