Give Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan credit for consistency. Ryan, who has made a career railing against assistance for society’s most vulnerable, clearly is no more capable of empathizing with his fellow citizens than he is with millions of Yemeni civilians who today find themselves, through no fault of their own, under a savage siege by the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The joint Saudi-Emirati enterprise has, for years now, been on the receiving end of assistance from the United States in the form of intelligence and refueling missions.
The toll the Saudi-led, US-assisted war has taken on the civilian population in Yemen is nearly unprecedented in modern times. According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, “Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis…more than 22 million people—three-quarters of the population—need humanitarian aid and protection.”
Indeed, one UNICEF official recently told NPR that the war on Yemen is devolving into a “war on children,” in which one Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes. In fact, according to NPR, “More than 400,000 children are starving. Another 1.5 million are acutely malnourished and need aid to survive.”
Bipartisan attempts to halt US involvement in this massive crime have been undermined by Speaker Ryan’s Republican caucus, the most egregious instance having occurred Wednesday, when California Congressman Ro Khanna’s bill, House Concurrent Resolution 138, which would have directed the president to end US military involvement in the war on Yemen, was effectively defeated on the floor of the House.
The defeat of Khanna’s bill, which had 81 co-sponsors, was brought about by a cowardly maneuver by Rules Committee chairman Republican Pete Sessions, who allowed the addition of an amendment to the so-called “Manage Our Wolves” act that stripped Khanna’s bill of its “privileged” status, meaning the committee was able to bar the bill from a full floor vote.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was quick to condemn the move. A statement released by her office read, in part: “The conflict in Yemen has gone on for far too long, leaving a permanent stain on the conscience of the world. Yet, House Republicans just took sweeping, unprecedented action to undermine Congress’ solemn, long-established prerogative to limit the President’s war powers.” For his part, Khanna rightly accused House Republicans of “abdicating congressional oversight duties on their way out of power.” Khanna vowed to continue to fight “to end U.S. involvement in the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history.”
What possible interest could the House Republicans (plus six Democrats: Representative Gene Green, Representative Anna Eshoo, Representative Jim Costa, Representative Collin Peterson, Representative Filemon Vela, and Representative Vincente Gonzalez) have in continuing to give sanction to US military involvement in what amounts a genocidal war waged in the name of Sunni supremacy on the Saudi peninsula?
Look no further than the money.
The State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs perversely boasts that “Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest foreign military sales (FMS) customer, with over $114 billion in active cases.” And the extent of the Saudi shopping spree is indeed impressive and includes such highlights as:
- The signing of a $110 billion agreement to pursue Saudi Armed Forces modernization by President Trump and King Salman (May 2017)
- The continuation of a naval blanket order training program for an estimated cost of $250 million. (May 2017)
- The continuation of a blanket order training program that includes flight training, technical training, professional military education, specialized training, mobile training teams, and English language training, valued at $750 million. (June 2017)
- $6 billion for Saudi Arabian eastern fleet modernization. (October 2017)
- The potential sale of 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launchers, 360 THAAD Interceptor Missiles, 16 THAAD Fire Control and Communications Mobile Tactical Station Group, seven AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars, and associated support equipment, for an estimated cost of $13.5 billion. (October 2017)
In spiking Khanna’s bipartisan bill to end American support for the war, House Republicans have put the interests of defense contractors and our dubious Gulf state “allies” ahead of millions of suffering and vulnerable Yemenis.
One day, perhaps, history will judge.