Stop the un­con­sti­tu­tional war in Ye­men

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Imag­ine that the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Wash­ing­ton State — 7.3 mil­lion peo­ple — were on the brink of star­va­tion, with the port city of Seat­tle un­der a naval and aerial block­ade, leav­ing it un­able to re­ceive and dis­trib­ute count­less tons of food and aid that sit wait­ing off­shore. This night­mare sce­nario is akin to the ob­scene re­al­ity oc­cur­ring in the Mid­dle East’s poor­est coun­try, Ye­men, at the hands of the re­gion’s rich­est, Saudi Ara­bia, with un­yield­ing United States mil­i­tary sup­port that Congress has not au­tho­rized and that there­fore vi­o­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion.

For nearly three years, the United States has been par­tic­i­pat­ing along­side a mil­i­tary coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates in a bru­tal mil­i­tary cam­paign in Ye­men. The United States is sell­ing the Saudi monar­chy mis­siles and war­planes, as­sist­ing in the coali­tion’s tar­get­ing se­lec­tion for aerial bomb­ings and ac­tively pro­vid­ing midair re­fu­el­ing for Saudi and United Arab Emi­rates jets that con­duct in­dis­crim­i­nate airstrikes — the lead­ing cause of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. Mean­while, the Saudi coali­tion is starv­ing mil­lions of Ye­me­nis as a grotesque tac­tic of war.

This is hor­ri­fy­ing. We have there­fore in­tro­duced a bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional res­o­lu­tion to with­draw American armed forces from these unau­tho­rized hos­til­i­ties in or­der to help put an end to the suf­fer­ing of a coun­try ap­proach­ing “a famine of bib­li­cal pro­por­tions,” in the words of Jan Ege­land, the head of the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil. After all, as For­eign Pol­icy has re­ported, the Saudi coali­tion’s “daily bomb­ing cam­paign would not be pos­si­ble with­out the con­stant pres­ence of U.S. Air Force tanker planes re­fu­el­ing coali­tion jets.”

How did we get to this point?

In March 2015, the United States in­tro­duced its armed forces into the Saudi regime’s war against Ye­men’s Houthis, a group that rapidly took con­trol of Ye­men’s cap­i­tal, Sana, and even­tu­ally most of the coun­try’s cities, by al­ly­ing with forces loyal to an ousted for­mer pres­i­dent, Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh.

Al Qaeda has been re­ferred to by The As­so­ci­ated Press as a “de facto ally” of Saudi Ara­bia and its coali­tion in their shared bat­tle against the Houthis. This raises the ques­tion: Whom are we ac­tu­ally sup­port­ing in Ye­men?

American in­volve­ment in this unau­tho­rized con­flict against the Houthis was pur­sued by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses — “a way of re­pair­ing strained ties with the Saudis, who strongly op­posed the July 2015 nu­clear deal with Iran,” as For­eign Pol­icy put it.

There’s a good rea­son that the Con­sti­tu­tion re­serves for Congress the right to de­clare war — a clause taken in mod­ern times as for­bid­ding the pres­i­dent from pur­su­ing an unau­tho­rized war in the ab­sence of an ac­tual or im­mi­nent threat to the na­tion. Clearly, the founders’ in­tent was to pre­vent pre­cisely the kind of dan­ger­ous course we’re chart­ing.

The American role

The State Depart­ment found that the Saudi war against the Houthis has al­lowed Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula and the Is­lamic State’s Ye­men branch “to deepen their in­roads across much of the coun­try.” In other words, the power vac­uum left by the war has made Al Qaeda’s dead­li­est branch stronger than ever — yet there’s never been a public de­bate over the American role in deep­en­ing that threat to our own na­tional se­cu­rity.

Four decades ago, as a bloody United States mil­i­tary cam­paign across Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia and Laos drew to a close, Congress over­rode Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s veto to en­act the War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion of 1973, re­flect­ing the leg­is­la­ture’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­front ex­ec­u­tive over­reach as a co­equal branch of gov­ern­ment. Now we con­gress­men are in­vok­ing a pro­vi­sion of that 1973 law, which de­fines the in­tro­duc­tion of armed forces to in­clude co­or­di­nat­ing, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the move­ment of, or ac­com­pa­ny­ing for­eign mil­i­tary forces.

That law af­fords our bill “priv­i­leged” sta­tus, guar­an­tee­ing a full floor vote to re­move unau­tho­rized United States forces from Saudi Ara­bia’s war against Ye­meni Houthis. In do­ing so, we aim to re­assert Congress’s sole con­sti­tu­tional author­ity to de­bate and de­clare war.

This res­o­lu­tion may cre­ate dis­com­fort for some of our col­leagues who have been con­tent to cede Congress’s over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the White House and Pen­tagon in re­cent decades. But now more than ever, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives must serve as a coun­ter­weight to an ex­ec­u­tive branch that has long run roughshod over the Con­sti­tu­tion — es­pe­cially at a time when our pres­i­dent has threat­ened, in front of the United Na­tions, to “to­tally de­stroy” an en­tire coun­try, North Korea.

Ex­er­cis­ing our con­sti­tu­tional duty is the key to al­le­vi­at­ing the catas­tro­phe that’s en­gulf­ing Ye­men.

The United Na­tions Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs de­clared last April that “Ye­men is the largest hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the world,” and in Au­gust the char­ity Save the Chil­dren warned that one mil­lion mal­nour­ished Ye­meni chil­dren were at risk of con­tract­ing cholera. Nowhere else on earth to­day is there a catas­tro­phe that is so pro­found and af­fects so many lives, yet could be so easy to re­solve: halt the bomb­ing, end the block­ade, and let food and medicine into Ye­men so that mil­lions may live.

We be­lieve that the American peo­ple, if pre­sented with the facts of this con­flict, will op­pose the use of their tax dol­lars to bomb and starve civil­ians in or­der to fur­ther the Saudi monar­chy’s re­gional goals. Our House res­o­lu­tion is a first step in ex­pand­ing democ­racy into an arena long in­su­lated from public ac­count­abil­ity. Too many lives hang in the bal­ance to al­low this American war to con­tinue with­out con­gres­sional con­sent. When our bill comes to the floor for a vote, our col­leagues should con­sider first the so­lu­tion pro­posed by the direc­tor of UNICEF, An­thony Lake, for stop­ping the unimag­in­able suf­fer­ing of mil­lions of Ye­me­nis: “Stop the war.”

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