We Could Ground Saudi Arabia’s Airforce Tomorrow and End The Crisis in Yemen

 In Humanitarian Crisis, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Youth

Every seventy-five seconds a child dies from starvation in Yemen. Seven million are on the brink of starvation. 

It’s not only a tragedy, it’s a completely unnecessary tragedy. 

It’s unnecessary because this humanitarian crisis, like the crisis in Afghanistan, is “human-made.” It’s made, largely, by the war and blockade in Yemen. 

Since March of 2015, Saudi Arabia has locked Yemen down through a blockade across land, sea, and air which has, in violation of international humanitarian law, severely restricted the flow of food into the country’s ports. Peace talks are stalled as the conflict escalated even further last week. In January, in one of the deadliest attacks in the war, the Saudi-led coalition used drones and missiles in an indiscriminate airstrike that killed at least 82 people. Hundreds were injured, many trapped under the rubble. Internet access across the country was severed for days, further complicating any measures to provide basic humanitarian support and communication between hospitals, schools, and other essential businesses. 

The world can’t afford to turn a blind eye to this deteriorating humanitarian crisis. If something so disturbing was happening in your own backyard, wouldn’t you raise your voice against it? 

As the tragedy is ready to enter its seventh year, it’s time for an urgent withdrawal of U.S. support to Saudi Arabia once and for all.

Saudi Arabia’s Well Funded Military Can’t Function Without the U.S.

The Saudi military is the sixth-largest in the world – spending levels are right between those of the U.K. and Germany. But it is U.S. military sales and personnel, maintenance expertise, intelligence, and logistical support that keeps this advanced military functioning. As Congressmember Ro Khanna put it: “We could ground the Saudi Air Force to a halt tomorrow if we stopped supplying them with tires and parts. Instead, we continue to authorize arms sales to the Saudis.” Without that support, the hospitals, food trucks, farms, and other vital civilian infrastructure we’ve destroyed might still be standing. But that military support is continuing and two huge arms sales have been approved by the Biden administration despite promises to cut off arms transfers. 

The grave data points a finger squarely in America’s direction: seventy-three percent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports are from the United States. Between 2015 and 2020, the U.S. sold over $64.1 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Beyond Complicity – US Involvement is Unconstitutional

Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the power to raise and support armies is reserved for Congress. No Congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) has been issued for Yemen. U.S. support to Saudi Arabia is therefore in violation of Article I of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which grants Congress the power to declare war and authorize US military involvement abroad. 

Invoking The War Powers Resolution (WPR) would stop U.S. support for this war cold by letting the administration know that Congress considers this to be “the introduction of the United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances” (Sec. 2(a) of the war powers law.) The WPR was first introduced in 1973 in response to President Richard Nixon’s secret bombings of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. It’s Congress’ most powerful tool available to end U.S. military intervention. 

This effort will not be uncontroversial, and that’s where you and I come in. The Biden administration will argue that the U.S. is not a party to the war (despite U.S. personnel and equipment being essential to the war’s conduct.) Politically, it was a piece of cake for Democrats to oppose this war under Trump. It will take a lot more political courage to force the current president’s hand.

The war has killed and injured over 18,400 civilians and numbers are mounting. If you include indirect impacts like famine and destruction of civilian health infrastructure the ​​UN estimated that roughly 377,000 have been killed

Sometimes the media frame crises like this one as if they are unavoidable and organic results of a cruel and chaotic Hobbesian world we live in. But this crisis is a symptom of a fundamental failure of a “military-first” approach to security policy. War profiteering is on auto-pilot and congressional oversight has broken down – creating life-threatening impacts for millions of Yemenis. Our approach fundamentally needs to change. As Cori Bush (D-MO-01) recently stated: “The future of our country’s foreign policy must be explicitly anti-war. No more bloated defense budgets that line the pockets of military contractors. No more drone strikes and bombs. No more death and destruction. We must invest in humanity both at home and abroad.” 

Enough is Enough

Millions of concerned citizens around the world, including Peace Action supporters and affiliates, will continue to push for Congress to withdraw all support for this horrific war. On March 1, international humanitarian activist communities will come together for a day of action and vigils. 

President Biden promised to end US involvement in the war in Yemen on the campaign trail and as president. Yet recent airstrikes show that the gross violations of human rights are continuing. Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Peter DeFazio are leading a new call asking the president to follow through on this promise and end US complicity in the blockade. Ahead of the seventh anniversary of this war, they will work within Congress to pass a new Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unconstitutional US participation in this war. 

Peace Action and coalition allies encourage activists across the nation to participate in direct action and lobbying efforts with their senators. Starting now, we can all pressure members of Congress to call on the administration to support an upcoming War Powers Resolution which will terminate unauthorized US involvement in yet another endless war and increase humanitarian aid. Dial the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask your Representative to support efforts led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Peter DeFazio to end US support to the Saudi-led war on Yemen by supporting a war powers resolution and to replace military intervention with humanitarian aid.

On March 1, we will rally at Congressional offices to push for a War Powers Resolution and ask for an end to the blockade.

You can see a list of these rallies here

Years of Activism on Yemen has Created Opportunities for Change

Seven years on, momentum is building to end the US support sustaining this tragic conflict. In 2021, the house version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act saw the passage of a Ro Khanna amendment to end US support of Saudi military operations related to the war. While the amendment was stripped from the final bill by leadership, the vote to pass it demonstrated political support for an end to the war. 

Peace Action has advocated for the withdrawal of all support to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war – now we’re asking you to take action and keep the pressure on. Let’s stop the unnecessary, human-made suffering once and for all. Join the movement on March 1st. 

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