I wrote this as a draft oped a week ago, but I didn’t want it lost in the shuffle. In between voting or knocking on doors, call your U.S. House rep, and ask them to support House Resolution 138, to pull the U.S. out of the Saudi War in Yemen. If you live in #MA3, it’s all the more important that you call Rep. Tsongas, because she is on the House Armed Services Committee and if she acts, others will follow.
Let’s Pull Out of the Saudi War in Yemen
As you read these words, somewhere in the world, probably on a dark warehouse-like watch floor, a U.S. service-member is following the orders of her elected political leadership to help the Saudi government prosecute its brutal war in Yemen. She is examining supply routes or analyzing surveillance data. Sometime later, perhaps when you are watching the Sox, or maybe in a few days while you are on your endless commute, a bomb will explode somewhere in Yemen. The bomb may have even been manufactured in the United States. People will die, others will be injured. Unfortunately, given the Saudi military’s consistent failure to limit civilian casualties in Yemen, there is a decent chance that innocent civilians, including children, will die in the blast.
In the last few weeks, many Americans have been justifiably horrified by the news that the Saudi government probably tortured and murdered Saudi journalist (and U.S. resident) Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Politicians of both parties, horrified by this crime against human dignity and international law, have rightly called for the U.S. to suspend our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and to consider other forms of pressure against the Saudi government. But they should feel more and must do more.
These politicians and all Americans should be horrified by the fact that we, the United States of America, are aiding the Saudis in far greater horrors in Yemen. Congress must end our military support to this war, now.
In a world with too many terrible conflicts, the war in Yemen has sadly managed to over-achieve in human suffering since 2015. According to the World Health Organization, the conflict in Yemen has killed over 9,000 people and injured over 52,000. The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) estimates that 5,000 children have been either killed or injured in this war. 400,000 children are extremely malnourished and need immediate assistance to survive, while millions of people have been displaced, lack access to clean water, and are at high risk for disease and starvation.
As a former intelligence professional, I am familiar with why our government first intervened in Yemen under President Obama and why President Trump has escalated our involvement. Iran supports the Houthi rebels that the Saudis are fighting, and Iranian domination of Yemen is not in U.S. interests. In addition, we do not want the ISIS element in Yemen — which does exist and is hostile to the U.S — to have a safe haven to plan attacks on the U.S. or our allies. Finally, Saudi Arabia is a treaty ally, and they asked for our help.
However, these disconnected reasons to enter the conflict and our unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia does not constitute a strategy. Three years of conflict shows there is no realistic path to military victory in Yemen. Whatever our intentions, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen — and our role in fueling it — will make terrorist recruitment in Yemen easier for years to come, notwithstanding any temporary gains by capturing or killing individual terrorist leaders. Furthermore, our unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia in this war undermines our leverage to push for an eventual political settlement in Yemen, or to discourage Saudi human rights abuses in Yemen and elsewhere— we have in fact emboldened the Saudis to believe they can act in defiance of international law with impunity, as they did when they killed Jamal Khashoggi.
It’s time to void the blank check of U.S. military and political support we’ve given the Saudis for too long.
We that live in Massachusetts’ 3rd are fortunate to be represented in Congress by U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas, who is uniquely positioned to lead on this issue. Congresswoman Tsongas should join 51 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress and sign on to House Resolution 138, which would invoke Congress’s powers under the War Powers Act, and direct President Trump to get the U.S. military out of this war. If our Congresswoman signs on, it will encourage others to follow her. She is from an Air Force family, and sits on the House Armed Services Committee. She understands better than many what the real costs of war are, and why the U.S. military and intelligence services must be used deliberatively, in line with a strategy and our moral principles.
Sadly, even if Congresswoman Tsongas signs on, there is little chance of this bill passing during this session of Congress, given that we are in the final throes of midterm election season, though there may be opportunity in a lame duck session after the election. Accordingly, I call on the candidates campaigning to succeed her – Rick Green, Mike Mullen, and Lori Trahan – to all commit to supporting this bill in the next Congress should they be elected. Their unity on this issue would be a powerful message that there are still some issues where we as Americans can all come together and speak in unison. This war is not who we are. We demand this not be done in our name.