Click here to view video of Murphy’s remarks.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) – a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-author of a bipartisan joint resolution to end unauthorized U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen – demanded that Congress act now to pass the resolution and withdraw from military campaigns in Yemen. For the first time ever, the Senate is expected to vote to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from unauthorized hostilities later this afternoon.
“It is time for Congress to step up and do our constitutional duty. There's zero evidence that U.S. participation in this coalition has made things better. If we continue to support this bombing campaign, nothing will change except more people will die, except more civilians will be hit by the bombs that we help to drop, except that Al Qaeda will continue to control big portions of [Yemen],” said Murphy. “If you care about taking on Al Qaeda, taking on ISIS, then you should support debating our resolution because all of the evidence suggests that the continuation of this civil war inside Yemen is making both more powerful. By voting to stop debate, by voting to table this motion and refrain from proceeding to a conversation about this topic, we are signaling in a very clear way to the administration and to the American public that we are not interested in exercising our Article 1 authority on the issue of war making.”
Murphy has been a vocal critic of U.S. support for military campaigns in Yemen that have led to devastating humanitarian consequences and a security vacuum that has empowered terrorist groups. Ahead of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohamed bin Salman’s visit to the White House on Tuesday, Murphy wrote to President Trump asking him to urge the Crown Prince to end the Saudi-led war in Yemen and address other critical human rights issues.
Full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
Thank you, Mr. President.
I'm grateful to be able to join for a few moments with the cosponsors of this resolution, Senator Lee and Senator Sanders. It is important to pick up on what Senator Lee was just putting down—the notion that this is a limited resolution that speaks to our participation in an unauthorized, illegal partnership with the Saudis to bomb the country of Yemen. It does not affect our partnership with Saudi Arabia and others in the Gulf Region to continue to confront terror, to continue to confront Al Qaeda.
A specific carve-out of this legislation allows for 2001 AUMF authorized activities to go forward. But it is also important to note that if you care about that priority – taking on Al Qaeda, taking on ISIS in the region – then you should support debating our resolution because all of the evidence suggests that the continuation of this civil war inside Yemen is making AQAP, the arm of Al Qaeda that has the clearest intentions to attack the homeland and ISIS both, more powerful.
AQAP controls much more territory inside Yemen than they did at the beginning of this civil war. And if you take the time to meet with Yemeni Americans, they will tell you that inside Yemen, this bombing campaign is not perceived as a Saudi bombing campaign. It is perceived as a United States-Saudi bombing campaign. What we are doing is radicalizing the Yemeni people against the United States. Add to this new information that suggests that some of our partners in the coalition, though not directly working with Al Qaeda, are starting to arm some very unsavory Salafi militias inside Yemen that are filled with the type of people – the type of extremist individuals – that could easily turn, take the training they've received from the coalitions, the weapons they've received from the coalition, against the United States. So if you care about the mission against terrorism, then you should support debating our resolution.
But just to recap the reasons why we are here today, we need to have a debate on the lack of authorization for military force because it is time for Congress to step up and do our constitutional duty. The administration told us that in their letter to us, that we do not have the authority as the United States Congress to weigh in on military activity waged by the administration unless there are two armies firing at each other on the ground in an area of conflict. That is the administration's definition of hostilities. And admittedly, that is a definition that's been used by Democrats and Republicans. This is not exclusive to the Trump administration.
The problem with that is it would allow for the United States, through executive decision only, to wage an air campaign against a country that wipes it out without any say from the United States Congress. Clearly, what is happening in Yemen today meets the definition of hostilities. We have shown pictures on this floor before of entire cities that have been wiped out. 10,000-plus civilians have been killed, the largest outbreak of cholera in the history of the world in terms of what we have recorded. That is hostilities, and the United States is clearly engaging in those hostilities because we are helping with targeting, refueling the planes, supplying the munitions. So if we cede to unlimited executive authority with respect to this engagement, there is no end to that.
Lastly, let me just speak as to what's happening on the ground. There's zero evidence – zero evidence – that U.S. participation in this coalition has made things better. Civilian casualties are not getting better. The day after Christmas, over 60 civilians were killed in a series of airstrikes. Reports are that last month, the Saudis engaged once again in something called double tapping, in which they target an area where civilians live, they wait for the emergency responders to arrive, and then they hit again – something that is not allowed by international humanitarian law. The humanitarian catastrophe itself is getting worse, not better. And maybe most importantly, the battle lines inside Yemen are not changing.
The Saudis have been telling us for years, just stick with us, stick with us. If you keep on helping us bomb the Yemeni people, we will win this war, we will get back control of Hodeida and of Sana'a. That is not happening. Near the beginning of this war, the Houthis controlled about 70% of the population inside Yemen. Today, the Houthis control about 70% of the population inside Yemen.
If we continue to support this bombing campaign, nothing will change except more people will die, except more civilians will be hit by the bombs that we help to drop, except that Al Qaeda will continue to control big portions of that country. And so while Senator Lee notes that this resolution is actually not on the merits of our engagement there, it is on whether or not we have legal justification to be there, let's admit that if you do consider the merits, other than backing the play of our historic ally, there is nothing to suggest that our participation there is making things better, rather than worse.
By voting to table the consideration of this resolution, you are voting to stop a debate, a conversation from happening in the United States Senate about whether or not proper authorization exists. So let's be honest about what this first vote is.
This first vote is, do we want to talk about whether or not there is authorization to perpetuate this war? And by voting to stop debate, by voting to table this motion and refrain from proceeding to a conversation about this topic, we are signaling in a very clear way to the administration and to the American public that we are not interested in exercising our Article 1 authority on the issue of war making.
[Voting to table the consideration of this resolution] is to send a very clear signal to the administration that we are not interested in having a debate here about questions, complicated questions of legal authority for serious military engagements overseas.