Congress should do its job and end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen

March 20, 2018

Over the past week, Republican leaders and officials from the Pentagon and State Department have worked hard to scuttle an effort by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, to force a vote on American support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

Since 2015, the Saudis have committed a litany of atrocities in Yemen with American military support and American weapons.The Saudis have bombed hospitals and funerals, and blocked food and medicine to a country ravaged by food shortages and a cholera outbreak. Last year, Human Rights Watch documented one incident in which Raytheon-made weapons were used by the Saudis to kill 31 civilians and injure 42 more.

All of this has been done with American support, but no formal congressional authorization.

Sanders, Lee and Murphy seek to put an end to this unauthorized military involvement, invoking the War Powers Resolution in an effort to force a vote perhaps as early as this week.

This has prompted, among others, Defense Secretary James Mattis into pleading with congressional leaders to let the military continue without authorization. According to the New York Times, “Top Pentagon and State Department officials rushed to Capitol Hill last week to warn senators in a closed, classified briefing that approving the Senate measure could seriously damage relations with Saudi Arabia.”

Congress shouldn’t let Pentagon and State Department officials dictate what they do or don’t do. The Constitution unambiguously grants Congress, not the executive branch, the power in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 to declare war. While Congress has largely ceded this responsibility in favor of blank checks to the executive branch, it’s time that Congress reassert this authority.

With S.J. Res 54, Congress has the opportunity to end American complicity in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today and perhaps begin the process of scaling back unauthorized American military entanglements around the word.

Americans across the political spectrum – from conservatives who actually value the U.S. Constitution to anti-war liberals – should demand an end to unauthorized U.S. military support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

American military resources should not be deployed without congressional authorization. We should not be involved in conflicts just because the executive branch and the Pentagon want to be. And we should not be involved in aiding tyrannical governments, especially when they’re committing such egregious human rights violations as the Saudis are in Yemen, with or without congressional authorization.

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