“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” – Major General Smedley Butler
While our kids are working on the war against their rights to survive childhood, another war is threatening children by the millions…And the US has been helping it happen. We, the voters, need to step up now.
With a recent personnel change, this problem has just split into two parts.
Part 1 – Mike Pompeo
Trump just tweet-fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and proposed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Tea-Party conservative, torture-supporter and relentless anti-Muslim bigot, in his place. Pompeo is an ally of Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, who has argued that adherence to Islamic law—far from being protected by the First Amendment—should be considered “an impermissible act of sedition, which has to be prosecuted.”
Taking a small historical sidestep for a moment…
A post by James H. Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, described how our Founding Fathers in 1780 made sure that the Constitution afforded “the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians’.” Thomas Jefferson campaigned for recognition of the religious rights of the “Mahamdan,” the Jew and the “pagan.” George Washington said he would welcome Muslims to Mount Vernon (his home) “if they were ‘good workmen.” and “suggested a way for (them) to ‘obtain proper relief’ from a proposed tax levy to aid Christian worship.
Along with anti-muslim sentiments and sub-optimal comprehension of our history and constitutional rights, neither Pompeo nor Trump are big supporters of diplomacy. Instead of acting like the adult-in-the-room we keep hoping for, Pompeo will act as an enabler of Trump’s worst ideas, like destroying the Iran agreement. A Trump/Pompeo mix is like setting a fire in our California backcountry… unpredictable, lethal and hugely destructive and the wrong choice to help us solve the Yemen problem.
Action for Part #1 – Call your senators!
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Sen. [___] to vote “NO” on the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as our new Secretary of State.
(Contact information at bottom.)
Part 2 – Yemen
How did we get dragged into this mess?
- Define our terms: The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was designed specifically to fight the terrorist groups responsible for the September 11 attacks, like al-Quada.
- AUMF run-around: However, for 16 years, presidents have been the using AUMF as an executive-branch permission slip to engage in military actions without oversight of Congress.
- The stage is set: Yemen has been involved in a civil war since 2015, instigated by religious differences, unemployment and food insecurity. What got the attention of the Saudis, and then us, was the Houthis, a separatist group from the south, taking over the capital of Sana’a and the Yemeni government.
- A coalition is born: In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and a coalition of predominantly Arab states, convinced that the Houthis were being helped by Iran to get a foothold closer to their borders, launched a military intervention in Yemen in order to drive the Houthi rebels back from the capital of Saana.
- The U.S. joins in: In November 2015, using the AUMF, Obama stepped up to aid our problematic ally, Saudi Arabia and their coalition by supporting the bombing campaign, as well as including providing tanker aircraft to refuel Saudi coalition jets in midair. The Obama Administration notifed Congress of a $1.3 billion sale of precision guided air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia.
- Humanitarian warnings: Several members of Congress, including Sen. Corker (T-TN) and Sen. Cardin (D-MD) questioned the sales, expressing concern both about violations of humanitarian law and the possibility that the Saudi-led campaign was complicating efforts to combat Al-Qaida. They started to require more assurances that civilians were being protected. (pg. 4: B. Shift to Reduced Sales in 2016)
- We partially withdraw: As civilian deaths mounted, Obama scaled back support in May 2016, halting the sale of cluster bombs and also halting a $400 million transfer of precision guided missiles, citing what one U.S. official called “systemic, endemic” problems with how the Saudi military chose targets in Yemen. The administration admitted that the coalition had “no justification” for a strike that hit a funeral home, killing 100 civilians.
- It isn’t that easy: Former Secretary of State John Kerry said the war in Yemen did not have a military solution.
- We need to rethink this: Obama, at the end of his term, cautioned that in the Middle East “no external power is going to be able to force different religious communities or ethnic communities to co-exist for long.” Across the region, “we have to insist that all parties recognize a common humanity and that nations end proxy wars that fuel disorder.”
So, hard lessons learned. A new Vietnam. So what is Trump doing to help?Embed from Getty Images
- He doubled down: In Jan. 2017, the administration approved a $525 million observation balloon to SA. He then helped sell the Saudis nearly $110 billion in arms on May 19, 2017. Aide Gary Cohn stated that the deals represented “a lot of money. Big dollars. Big dollars.” The weapons sale, one of the largest in history, included tanks, artillery, radar systems, armored personnel carriers, Blackhawk helicopters, ships, patrol boats, Patriot missiles, and THAAD missile defense systems.
- Those pesky laws!: On that same day, the American Bar Association sent the Senate a letter outlining how the U.S. was now in violation of both the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA) and the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) ( 22 U.S.C. § 2151) by selling arms to a country that engages in gross human rights violations domestically and against other countries.
- OK, starving kids is bad: In Dec. 2017, Trump felt enough pressure to ask his friends to remove their blockades of Yemeni ports in order to allow critically needed supplies to reach the besieged population of the country, which has been ravaged by civil war and famine.
- “Did you just say that?”: Todd Young (R-IN) sent Trump a letter stating that, by asking his friends to stop committing human rights violations, Trump had unwittingly triggered a legal prohibition on assistance to Saudi Arabi per 22 U.S. Code §2378–1(a) says, “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”
- The Saudis say “make us”: Meanwhile, the March 1, 2018 Critical Threats Report noted that the Saudi-led coalition Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) is hindering humanitarian efforts by diverting cargo away from al Houthi ports, according to the UN.
So how bad is it in Yemen now?
The Yemen civil war has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. At least 10,000 people have died, with more than 40,000 injured—and most of those killed or wounded are civilians. It has caused a massive famine with more than 8 million on the brink of starvation and has created the conditions necessary for the small country to become home to the largest and fastest-growing cholera crisis ever documented in modern history.
Is America now complicit in war crimes?
- Targeting civilians in airstrikes is a war crime. A recent project to track all Saudi airstrikes estimated that a full third have hit civilian sites that were supposed to be off limits, including schools, hospitals, weddings, markets, and sanitation systems. They have blocked efforts at the UN to establish an independent human-rights investigation and when they were listed on a UN annex for killing children in airstrikes, Riyadh threatened to cut funding to the UN. They have tried to excuse the bombing of civilians in a market in 2016 by offering a humanitarian aid package to Yemen that aid groups, like the Norwegian Refugee Council, have noted is insufficient to undo the damage done by the Saudi-led bombing and blockade of the country.
- Using starvation as a weapon against civilians is a war crime. Saudi-led coalition has sealed off key naval ports in a blockade, preventing desperately-needed food, medicine and other assistance from getting into Yemen. The UN has stated that Saudi Arabia—and by extension the United States—is using starvation as a weapon of war.
Is this all one big Vietnam-size nightmare?
- Terrorists love a power vacuum. Although the U.S has been waging a drone war in Yemen for years, the unrelenting chaos of this civil war has allowed terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, our original targets, to gain more power and land.
- Wait a minute – what team are you on? Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been fighting alongside the government and Saudi-led coalition forces against Houthi rebels, which means that the U.S. is arming, supplying, etc. the same side as al-Qaeda and has essentially become their de-facto ally. Awesome!
- Yemen now has a “war-based” economy of “security” payments, militia checkpoint “taxes”, gun-running and bribery. A Yemeni researcher said “…big money is being made and if the war ends the money stops. So why stop now?’
- Nobody has an exit strategy. (atlantic)(aljazeera)
- We’ve made lots of new enemies who hold us responsible for their country’s devastation.
Action for Part #2 – Now what do we do?
Get Congress to do their job. Reassert their constitutional war powers to reduce civilian harm and fully lift the blockade beyond mere rhetoric.”(Yemen Peace Project)
Sample Script for Senators: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Senator Harris to join Senator Feinstein in co-sponsoring a bipartisan War Powers Resolution to force a vote on the Senate floor on S.J.Res. 54 to stop Trump’s illegal and inhumane war in Yemen.
More script if you want it: The current administration can’t call for a political solution and an end to the blockade while literally fueling one side’s war efforts.
Check here for your senator’s status.
Contact your Legislator
Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Rep./Senator Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com
- How can the US bring an end to the war in Yemen (cnn)
- Mike Pompeo at State would enable Trump’s worst instincts (Atlantic)
- What’s really at stake for America in Yemen’s Conflict. (Atlantic)
- Watch members of Congress attempt to explain why they won’t vote on war in Yemen (intercept)
- Saudi Arabia’s arms deals are buying the West’s silence over Yemen, activists allege (wapo)
- Yemen, the graveyard of the Obama doctrine (atlantic)
- The New York Times, “Young Yemeni Girl Is Sole Survivor After Airstrike Topples Her Home,” Aug. 26, 2017.
- Bethan McKernan, “Yemen: almost one death per hour as cholera epidemic spreads like wildfire,” Independent, June 9, 2017.
- Robert Naiman, “Rand Paul: Unconstitutional Saudi War In Yemen Is Not In Our Interest, And Congress Should Vote,” HuffPost, Sept. 18, 2017.
- Joost Hiltermann, “The Houthis Are Not Hezbollah,” ForeignPolicy, Feb. 27, 2017.
- Samuel Oakford, “U.S. Doubled Fuel Support for Saudi Bombing Campaign in Yemen After Deadly Strike on Funeral,” The Intercept, July 13, 2017.