In the space of the last four months, civilian casualties of Saudi Arabia’s savage war on Yemen have increased 164 percent, this according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. In June Saudi Arabia launched an offensive to retake the Yemeni port of Hodeida, in the process claiming the lives of roughly 166 people each month, with tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.
In addition to the slaughter, the Hodeida offensive has cut off the main road to the country’s capital, Sana’a, by which humanitarian aid is delivered to that city’s 8 million inhabitants. And this week United Nations UN under secretary for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, warned that the dramatic increase in the price of staples such as grain may result in a widespread famine.
Now in its fourth year, the war on Yemen has been led by Saudi Arabia, joined by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is materially supported by the United States and Great Britain. It has resulted in what the UN has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, more than 22 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid and protection.
The statistics gathered by the UN are staggering: Over the last three years, per capita GDP has declined by over 60 percent; less than 50 percent of Yemen’s health facilities are functioning; and 60 percent of the population is food insecure.
None of these grim statistics seem to have made much of an impression on the Pentagon’s planners, nor on the Trump administration, which has taken a posture toward the kingdom’s young ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, that can only be described as supine.
But some members of Congress are beginning to treat claims, such as those made by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that the Saudis are doing “everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life,” for what they are. And so, for the second time in just under 2 years, progressive members of the House have introduced a privileged resolution that would end US military participation in the Saudi-UAE war against Yemen.
The resolution, HConRes. 138, would invoke the War Powers Act of 1973 to force a floor vote on whether to “direct the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen, except United States Armed Forces engaged in operations authorized under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force not later than 30 days after the date of the adoption of this concurrent resolution unless and until a declaration of war or specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces has been enacted into law.”
What is notable about the current effort by progressives to halt US involvement in the war is that they are now being joined not only by the handful of principled anti-war Republicans like North Carolina’s Walter Jones and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie, but also by members of the House Democratic leadership like House whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and the reliably hawkish ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel of New York.
Noting the change, Congressman Ro Khanna, in a statement released by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that “This time around, our coalition to end the war has expanded and the call for withdrawing US involvement is louder. This policy started by a few original cosponsors of our War Powers resolution is now…a mainstream position within the Democratic Party.”
“In fact,” continued Khanna, “44 US Senators, including the Democratic Leader and Whip, voted in favor of a similar War Powers resolution. I am confident the House Republican leadership will allow this resolution to come to a vote and that members of the House will hear from their constituents in support of our position against this unauthorized war contributing to Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe.”
Let’s hope that Khanna’s confidence is justified and House Speaker Paul Ryan does the right thing and allows a vote on this much-needed resolution to end US participation in Saudi Arabia’s criminal war on Yemen.