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Public Pressure Could Halt US Support of Yemen War

By       Message Marjorie Cohn       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   12 comments

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From Truthout

From youtube.com: Children in Yemen are at the risk of dying {MID-334267}
Children in Yemen are at the risk of dying
(Image by YouTube, Channel: James Lee)
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US tax dollars are supporting Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, which has already claimed the lives of some 85,000 children, and 12 million more people are likely on the brink of starvation. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, "the starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it."

The United States has long been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have provided considerable military support to the Saudi war in Yemen.

But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has finally spurred both Democrats and Republicans to take steps to end US military involvement in Yemen.

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On November 28, the Senate voted 63-to-37 to advance a resolution that would direct the removal of US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. However, S. J. Res. 54 carves out an exception for continued US-supported military measures against "al Qaeda or associated forces" that could be twisted to rationalize nearly any military assistance Donald Trump provides to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

S. J. Res. 54 Purports to End US Military Involvement in Yemen

Senators plan to debate S. J. Res. 54 this week. The bipartisan resolution, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) with 18 co-sponsors, invokes the War Powers Resolution. Enacted by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War, the War Powers Resolution permits the president to introduce US Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities only after Congress has declared war, or in "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces," or when there is "specific statutory authorization."

The War Powers Resolution defines the introduction of US Armed Forces to include:

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"... the assignment of members of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities."

S. J. Res. 54 states, "activities that the United States is conducting in support of the Saudi-led coalition, including aerial refueling and targeting assistance, fall within this definition."

Trump Denies US Forces Are Engaged in "Hostilities"

Donald Trump has pledged to veto the resolution, denying that US forces are involved in "hostilities" for purposes of the War Powers Resolution. On November 28, the Trump administration issued the following Statement of Administrative Policy:

"The fundamental premise of S.J. Res. 54 is flawed -- United States forces are not engaged in hostilities between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi forces in Yemen. Since 2015, the United States has provided limited support to member countries of the Emirati and Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence sharing, logistics, and, until recently, aerial refueling... No United States forces have been introduced into hostilities, or into situations where hostilities are clearly imminent, in connection with ongoing support to the Saudi-led coalition. As a result, this United States support does not implicate the War Powers Resolution."

After stating that US Armed Forces "assist in aerial targeting and help to coordinate military and intelligence activities," S. J. Res. 54 cites Defense Secretary James Mattis's December 2017 statement: "We have gone in to be very -- to be helpful where we can in identifying how you do target analysis and how you make certain you hit the right thing." US targeting assistance enables the coalition to kill Yemenis more efficiently.

Nevertheless, tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed in bombings by the Saudi-led coalition, many using some of the billions of dollars' worth of US-manufactured weapons. And late last year, a team of US Green Berets secretly arrived at the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia to help in the war.

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Loophole in S. J. Res. 54 Actually Authorizes US Military Involvement in Yemen

In S. J. Res. 54, Congress "directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities" in Yemen "except United States Armed forces engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces."

The only US combat troops on the ground in Yemen are allegedly targeting Al Qaeda forces. But, according to the ACLU, "military officials have already claimed they do not know the mission of each Saudi aircraft refueled by the US."

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)
 

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