U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut continues to play a leadership role in fighting to end the nation’s complicity in the humanitarian disaster that continues in Yemen. The Democrat’s latest legislative initiative, introduced with bipartisan support, is again evidence of that.
Many Americans remain unaware of the blood on U.S. hands for its continued support of Saudi Arabia's attacks on its neighbor, a campaign that has moved far past any strategic advantage into making death and suffering the goal.
Support for the Saudi campaign spans two administrations. It began four years ago when Saudi Arabia, backed by weapons and logistic support approved by the Obama administration, began its military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict is tightly connected to the intra-Islamic divisions in the region and the geopolitical struggles over regional dominance.
The Houthi are backed by the Iranian regime, Saudi Arabia’s chief adversary in a regional power struggle. As is seemingly always the case in the Middle East, the Houthi is a movement that folds together religious, political and military elements. The movement’s expressed lofty goals are to combat the economic disadvantages its sect faces and to create democratic governance, but its slogan points to uglier motives, "God is great, death to the U.S., death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam."
In trying to crush the Houthi uprising, the United States has provided the Saudis with intelligence and arms. When a Saudi bomber dropped ordinance on a school bus killing more than 40 children, it did so with an American-produced bomb.
Whatever the motivation at the start, it has turned into a slaughter, with millions of innocents with no political agenda caught up in the suffering. The latest United Nations report estimated 24 million people, about 80 percent of Yemen’s population, need humanitarian assistance but it's now blocked by the military campaign, with mass starvation and the spread of disease threatening thousands of lives. More than 50,000 people have already been killed.
In March, the Senate, again with Murphy playing a key role, voted 54-46 to cut off U.S. military support for the continuing Saudi-led assault on Yemen. That was followed in April by the House of Representatives voting 247-175 in favor. Both measures received bipartisan support.
There was not enough support, however, to override the veto by President Trump that followed.
Then last month the president declared a national emergency — an outrageous stretch — to sidestep Congress and authorize the sale of another $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the conflict, the United Arab Emirates.
It is that abuse of presidential power that Murphy seeks to counter with a resolution introduced Monday and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.
Drawing upon provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act, the resolution would direct the administration to provide a report on the human rights practices of the countries receiving the arms sales. Based on that information, Congress could then vote to terminate or restrict assistance, not only for the sale authorized by the president but also for future arms sales.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has 10 days to put the resolution’s request for information before the committee for consideration. A failure to do so would allow the sponsors to present the matter to the full Senate.
It is a deft legislative move that again provides Congress with the ability to reassert its authority over the purse and whether to involve the United States in foreign wars. The continuing support that enables the Saudi Kingdom to carry out atrocities in Yemen is undermining the ability of the United States to speak with any moral authority on humanitarian matters.
The Trump administration’s unwillingness to put checks on Saudi conduct in the war, its turning a blind eye to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents, is as perplexing as it is troubling.
Congress should back this and all reasonable attempts to block U.S. involvement in the carnage.