WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday made a motion for the Senate to vote on his amendment to the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill that would cut off U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s war in Yemen until the Secretary of Defense certifies that the coalition’s air campaign is not violating international law and U.S. policy related to the protection of civilians. Republicans objected.
Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Murphy urged his colleagues to take action, noting the devastating humanitarian consequences and threat to our own national security interests of U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military actions in Yemen. “The very people that want to kill us are getting stronger every single day inside Yemen,” said Murphy.
“At some point we need to believe our eyes rather than the reports we get from the administration that the targeting is getting better and that without the United States in these targeting centers, without the PGM's, without the refueling missions, that the targeting would be worse, that the civilian casualties would be worse,” Murphy continued.
The full text of Murphy’s speech is available below:
Included in the underlying appropriations bill are funds to continue the U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign inside Yemen. I will speak about an amendment that I have that would stop the U.S. support for this campaign pending a determination by the administration that we are in compliance with U.S. And international humanitarian law regarding the targeting of civilians. And so, at this point, I would ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up amendment number 3793.
I'm of course disappointed by the chairman's objection but I take his commitment to work on this issue to heart. I look forward to doing that. I'd like to speak for a moment about the amendment and about the reason why I was very hopeful, and remain hopeful, that we may get the chance to vote on this before the consideration of this bill is passed. Because in this legislation is substantial funding in order to perpetuate a bombing campaign inside Yemen that is making this country less safe. And I would argue that since this bill was debated in the appropriations committee, some new information, some horrifying new information has come to light that should cause us to reconsider whether this is something that is so urgent that we need to deal with it now, this week, that it can't wait.
Mr. President and my colleagues, these pictures unfortunately are a dime a dozen. You could find any number of them every single day coming out of this theater. This picture in particular is of a community center that was bombed by the Saudi and UAE-led coalition that the United States finances and supports. Inside this community center a funeral was occurring when it was ostensibly targeted and bombed by the United States, the Saudis, and the UAE this is a horrifying scene in and of itself, but to know that a funeral was occurring there makes it even worse. What we now know is that the targeting of civilians inside Yemen is getting worse, not better. The new information that I spoke of is something I think that is on the minds of many of my colleagues, information that last week the Saudi-U.S. Coalition hit a school bus in northern Yemen intentionally. The Saudis' initial reaction was that it was a legitimate military target. There's no way a school bus is a legitimate military target. That school bus was carrying dozens of children, dozens of children that are now dead because of a 500-pound bomb made in the United States and sold to the coalition. And over the course of this year, the targeting inside Yemen has gotten more catastrophic and more catastrophic.
On June 11 a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment facility located in the center of a humanitarian compound with no military value was hit. There's no way that that's a mistake. Everyone knew about this humanitarian compound with a cholera treatment facility inside it, and the Saudi coalition bombed it anyway. No way that's a mistake. No way that's a military target. That is an intentional bombing of a cholera treatment facility. Two weeks later, on July 24, a UNICEF water treatment facility was hit. I'll talk a little bit about the cholera epidemic in Yemen in a moment, but the reason that there is a cholera epidemic, the biggest in recorded history, is because of these water treatment facilities which are being taken down by the Saudi-led coalition. Another one hit on the 24th. On the 28th a water main supply is hit for Yemen's most important port city. And then on August 9, as I mentioned, the school bus full of children. Kids 1 years old to 11-year olds, 44 children died, many were left without arms, legs or other injuries. There was a video and photos of the wreckage and the coalition -- of the wreckage and the coalition initially denied that there were children on the bus, and they still claim that it was a legitimate military target.
The United States is a key player in this bombing campaign. The United States has personnel that sits in the targeting center when decisions are made as to what sites on the ground will be bombed. The United States pays to put planes in the air, to refuel the fighter jets flown by the Saudis and the Emiratis and the United States sells the coalition, the bombs that are used. We, in fact, have authorized, I've taken votes on in this Congress several sales of precision-guided missiles. We sell them, PGM's, because we believe they will make fewer mistakes. And that probably is right. They are probably making fewer mistakes with the PGM's. The problem is their targets are school bus, funerals, water treatment facilities, and water they can more effectively hit their civilian targets with the bombs that we are selling.
So my amendment, which was objected to, would simply say that we should not continue to fund this bombing campaign until we have a certification from the administration that the campaign comports with international and U.S. humanitarian laws, humanitarian laws that the United States has signed on to. These laws effectively say that bombing campaigns such as this need to be proportional to the threat, but most importantly, that they need to refrain from targeting civilian populations. At some point we need to believe our eyes rather than the reports we get from the administration that the targeting is getting better and that without the United States in these targeting centers, without the PGM's, without the refueling missions, that the targeting would be worse, that the civilian casualties would be worse. It is hard to imagine it being any worse than it is today. It is hard to imagine anything worse than school bus and water treatment facilities and cholera treatment centers being targeted by this coalition. And so at some point we have to believe what we are seeing rather than what we are being told by the administration. There's been a 37% increase in civilian casualties from airstrikes in 2018 compared to 2017. 70% of the civilian deaths inside Yemen are caused by these coalition air strikes. I can spend time talking to you about the atrocities that the Houthis have committed who are on the other side of this civil war. But the fact of the matter is the majority of the civilian casualties are caused by the side that we are supporting. That we are supporting.
And let me lastly make the case to you that even if you don't buy the unconscionable nature of targeting civilians with U.S. support, this bombing campaign is making the United States less safe every single day. What we know is that AQAP is the most lethal arm of Al Qaeda. It has the greatest capacity to hit the American homeland. It has gotten nothing but stronger inside of Yemen since the civil war started. And there are new reports that our coalition partners, the Saudis and UAE, have been cutting secret deals with these terrorist organizations, not killing them or defeating them. Just cutting deals with them to push them out of the way. New reports that the UAE. Is aligning itself with radical militias inside Yemen, maybe not groups that are technically labeled ISIS or AQAP but groups that trade back and forth with these groups that are aligned with the UAE And the Saudi coalition on the ground. The very people that want to kill us are getting stronger every single day inside Yemen. Every single day that this civil war goes on. We've been told by the Saudis and the UAE that if we keep on backing their play here, eventually there will be a political settlement. We are getting further and further away from a political settlement every single day. They are going after Hudaida now the humanitarian port. Let me tell you, the Houthis are going to fight to the end to protect Hudaida never mind if there is an assault on Sanaa. The campaign is not expediting a political end. It is prolonging the misery and giving more opportunity for our mortal enemies there, the terrorist groups to get stronger and stronger.
Lastly the rationale we're given is we have an interest here because the Iranians are backing the Houthis. No doubt, no doubt the Iranians are backing the Houthis. No doubt we have an interest in trying to push back against growing Iranian interest in the region. Every day we participate in this campaign the Iranians go in harder and stronger. The military campaign which postpones the political settlement is just making the Iranian presence in Yemen worse. They have more advanced weapons than ever before inside Yemen including short-range ballistic missiles because they are readying to defend Hudaida, they are readying to defend Sanaa. Just remember that when things like this happen, when things like this happen, it is not that the Yemenis who survive blame the Saudis or Emiratis. They blame the United States. The world blames the United States. We are radicalizing a generation of Yemeni children against us and that will have implications for U.S. National security for years to come.
22 million people inside Yemen today require humanitarian assistance. 75% of the country cannot live without humanitarian assistance. Eight million people are on the brink of starvation, meaning they have one meal a day. One meal a day. And one million have been affected by cholera. And we are, by the way, according to W.H.O., on the brink of the third cholera outbreak in that country in the last year and a half because we continue to bomb water treatment facilities. The bombing, the humanitarian catastrophe, it just shouldn't be on our conscience as a nation to be part of something like this, but it is making our country less safe every single day. Every single day that we continue this unchecked, unconditional support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign, we're making Iran stronger in the region, we are postponing a political settlement and we are radicalizing the Yemenis against us driving them to AQAP and to ISIS.
I'm going to continue to try to convince my colleagues to allow us to take a vote on this amendment. I reiterate what this amendment says. It actually doesn't cut off support for this campaign. If I were king, I would cut off American support for this bombing campaign. I would. But I understand that that's not where all of my colleagues are, and so I'm offering an amendment to say simply that we should require the administration to certify that civilians aren't intentionally getting targeted in contravention of U.S. Law before we continue to support this funding. I really do think that if we took a vote on this, we would get the majority of the body to support the idea that a certification that civilians are not being targeted is a worthwhile precondition to continuing funding for this brutal, brutal military campaign. I will continue to press this. I appreciate the support that I've gotten from many Republicans, a growing number of Republicans are supporting the idea that as the facts change, we need to change our approach here. And I will just finally, finally note before I wrap up here that we have come together on an amendment to the authorization bill that we thought moved the ball forward here. We did actually in the authorization bill require that the administration make some of these basic certifications before continuing to fund the refueling missions. In the president's signing statement, he effectively told us that he would ignore that section of the authorization bill because he did not think it was in the authorizing power of the United States Congress to put those conditions on the refueling missions. I disagree. I think that is clearly within our authorizing power but there is no way the president can object to conditions of appropriations because appropriations is unequivocally within the power of the United States Congress. And so, given the fact that we all came together on these conditions under the leadership of Senator Reed and Senator Corker and Senator Shaheen, amongst others, this is simply reiterating what we did on the authorizing bill in the appropriating bill. To make sure that we are doing our due diligence as the United States Congress to make sure that this kind of horror isn't undertaken unnecessarily with U.S. Funds. I yield the floor.