The US is helping Saudi Arabia wage a war in Yemen, largely in secret. A congressman from California wants to bring it into the open.
Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, and three other members of the House have co-sponsored a resolution that requires debate on US military involvement in Yemen. In 2015, President Barack Obama supported Saudi Arabia's war effort in Yemen, and President Donald Trump has continued the mission. Khanna, who represents voters in Silicon Valley, says it's time for an open debate over America's role in the Yemen conflict.
"I wish someone had brought up the vote earlier," he says. "We should never have been part of aiding the Saudis in this effort."
On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia and an Arab coalition took sides in the Yemeni war. The Saudi-led coalition brought massive firepower to a complex turf battle... The United States supplied weapons, logistics and intelligence to help its Saudi allies control Yemen's airspace, blockade Yemen's seaports and conduct a bombing campaign called Operation Decisive Storm...
The fight for control of Yemen shows no sign of stopping. The war has killed thousands of civilians, caused widespread food shortages and triggered a cholera epidemic. Yemenis have been plunged into the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"There is a huge difference in being complicit with doing harm and not being able to stop harm," says Khanna. "Right now the problem is that we're complicit with Saudi Arabia's human rights violations."
...The Saudi-led coalition has struck hospitals, schools and marketplaces in scores of well-documented attacks. A year ago, a double-tap strike - so called because coalition planes circled back for a second hit that killed first-responders - destroyed a social hall in the middle of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, where an estimated 2,000 mourners were gathered for a funeral ceremony.
The funeral airstrike in Sanaa killed 100 people and spotlighted the murky US role in the Yemen war. Buried in the rubble of the social hall was the remnant of one of the bombs that destroyed the building.
Journalists and Ansarullah [revolutionaries] officials later identified it as part of a 500-pound "smart bomb" manufactured in the United States.
Humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the Saudi-led coalition for the continuing carnage in Yemen. And while the United States doesn't select Yemeni targets for the Saudi-led coalition, US military advisers do work alongside Saudi air force officers every day, to guide coalition missions.
"We have a limited number of folks there, five or six people," says Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman... But US support for the Saudi-led coalition is broader than that.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other coalition countries wage war with US-made weapons. For example, Saudi and UAE pilots fly fighter jets made by US mega-contractors Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. They drop bombs made by General Dynamics, outfitted with guidance systems from Raytheon. Major Saudi weapons purchases approved by the Obama administration in 2015 are now part of the $110 billion arms sale announced by Trump in Riyadh in May.
Here is a Saudi wish list of US weapons, worth $1.29 billion. The Saudis made the request in 2015 to replenish stocks depleted after bombing Yemen for seven months.
Refueling the war
In addition to arms, the coalition fighter jets are refueled in the air by US Air Force tanker planes, flown by American pilots. In 2015, just days after the war began, Military.com reported that the Saudi-led coalition would purchase fuel for its Yemen operation from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling [EAR] Squadron based in Qatar.
A week later, USA Today confirmed the deal.
Since then, American tanker planes have performed more than 7,500 midair refueling "events" with coalition aircraft, with "about 54 million pounds of fuel off-loaded in support of Saudi operations in Yemen," Air Forces Central Command spokesperson Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com in February.
Khanna wants the US to pull the plug on the refueling program because the operation has never been authorized by Congress.
Khanna's resolution, drawing on the 1973 War Powers Resolution, puts limits on presidential authority to support the Saudi-led coalition without additional Congressional approvals.
The text of Khanna's bill, House Concurrent Resolution 81, spells out the limits of presidential power.
"It's beyond time for the country to stop conducting refueling for missions over Yemen," Khanna wrote in a statement with his co-sponsors. "Congress and the American people know too little about the role we are playing in a war that is causing suffering for millions of people and is a genuine threat to our national security."
Khanna, like many critics of the war, says the US should not be helping Saudi Arabia bomb targets in Yemen. "The United States has no national security interest," he says, "and we certainly shouldn't be a participant in a coalition-led bombing raid that is violating basic human rights."
...A UN report released Friday held the Saudi-led coalition responsible for killing or injuring 683 children just last year.
"The US government knows what Saudi did," says Sanaa activist and humanitarian worker Ahmad Algohbary. "It knows that children were killed by its bombs, but they [are] still selling and fueling the jets." Algohbary doubts that a Congressional debate will halt US support for the Saudi government. "If the death of children didn't stop them from selling weapons, what else will?"
Alghobary distinguishes the US government from US citizens. "I love American people, and I met with a lot of them in Yemen," he says, "but I actually hate US government policy."...
Source: PRI, Edited by website team