On September 21, Congress approved a new US$1.15 billion arms package to Saudi Arabia to continue bombing Yemen. The Obama administration has already sold about US$100 billion worth of weapons and military equipment to Riyadh, including the internationally banned cluster bombs.
Despite 64 lawmakers submitting a resolution to block the sale, the Senate rejected the resolution with a vote of 71 to 27.
Before the vote, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif) who spearheaded the bill, slammed that it was “morally outrageous for US to continue its direct assistance in the slaughter of civilians by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) likewise had scathing words regarding arming Riyadh that was “involved in the financing of terror including 9/11”, commits human rights abuses, bombs hospitals and schools, and creates millions of refugees for Europe and the US while refusing to take in any.
Sunjeev Bery, Mideast director for Amnesty International USA, said the recent Senate vote was “the latest example of a growing trend of dissent in Congress when it comes to the United States military alliance with Saudi Arabia.”
However, while some members of Congress are convinced about their reasons for dissent, it is not clear the Senators who approved the arms package understood fully what they were supporting or knew where Yemen is located.
When asked why they voted against blocking the deal, some senators remarked that the Strait of Hormuz would be threatened if Houthi rebels take over all of Yemen. But the shipping bottleneck actually separates Iran and an Omani peninsula, not Yemen, which is hundreds of miles south of Oman and borders the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The misidentification came from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who brought up the strait as an issue of concern should Iran-friendly Houthis take over Yemen.
Senator McCain asked Senator Corker if that would “Indeed pose a threat to the Straits [sic] of Hormuz, where they are already harassing American naval vessels?” to which Corker responded: “It creates greater instability in a region that already has had tremendous amounts of it. But no question, I mean, it borders the strait and again it puts more of that in Iranian hands.”
Senator Paul, who led the arguments for the other side, did not correct the misidentification, but rebuked Congress for abdication of responsibility and oversight by just rubber stamping another illegal and unconstitutional war in a Mideast country without a thorough debate.
Unfortunately, White House warmongering coupled with Congressional ignorance and abdication of duty has human consequences.
In a September 23 Atlantic article, a CENTCOM spokesperson revealed that US tankers refuel Saudi jet fighters regardless of what a jet’s target is (e.g., whether it’s a school, hospital, residential area, or military target), or whether the mission has been planned and extensively vetted.
According to US officials, the Pentagon had put a bridge on a no-strike list due to its importance to the humanitarian response there, but the Saudis ignored it. A few days after the bridge strike, a CENTCOM spokesperson said the US continued to refuel Saudi jets like the ones that hit the bridge, and will continue to refuel with no questions asked if Saudis decide on more bombing missions.
Knowing someone is guilty of committing murder, yet deciding to sell additional guns and ammunition to commit more murder, is a crime in itself. The Obama administration would need to reflect on the gravity of its role in enabling and supporting Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
Now with over 10,000 dead and 12 million Yemenis needing desperate life-saving assistance, Yemen is a humanitarian disaster. Moreover, they see the merciless bombardment and destruction of their country as a US war against them, not a Saudi War, thereby creating new US enemies.
The devastation and famine in Yemen is largely ignored in US press, but BBC on September 22 published an article and video that provided a small peek into the human misery and suffering, especially of Yemeni children, that US has inflicted upon this helpless and forgotten country.
With the ignorance and abdication of accountability by the US government and replenishment of new weapons to continue the slaughter, Yemenis see no end to this suffering as their children are slowly becoming extinct.
Along with this, it seems US has also abdicated its moral legitimacy and standing to be a leader of the free world.
Article first published in Asia Times on October 4, 2016.