The US House voted, 366-30, on Monday night to pass a resolution condemning civilian deaths, starvation and the spread of disease in Yemen, admitting that much of the responsibility for that humanitarian crisis rests with the US because of its support for a Saudi-led military intervention and noting that the war has allowed al-Qaeda, Daesh [Arabic acronym for "ISIS" / "ISIL" and other groups to thrive.
The resolution has no practical consequences. The US, will continue refueling Saudi and United Arab Emirates planes bombing Yemen and providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, a policy launched by former President Barack Obama and continued under President Donald Trump.
But for the handful of lawmakers trying to end 2½ years of US support for the Yemen war, and the antiwar activists and humanitarian groups aligned with them, it's a seminal moment - a sign even the most reluctant in Washington can be pushed to consider Yemen, where close to 21 million people need some form of aid, and acknowledge the ugly truths about Saudi and American actions there.
"The shift in our foreign policy is not going to happen overnight," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has led the House fight against the US role in the war, told HuffPost prior to the debate. "I think that this debate has made many more members of Congress aware that we are engaged in refueling, made them aware that there is a civil war going on in Yemen. If I'm looking at something from a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of shifting US foreign policy, maybe this is a 2. But it is a 2."
To Khanna, the vote is important for two reasons: It is the first time the House has acknowledged the US role in the conflict, and it notes that US involvement against parties in the Yemeni civil war is not permitted by either of the two military force authorizations Congress passed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Activists spotted another win in the hour-long debate before the vote: Hawks, particularly Republicans, not only spoke in favor of the resolution but also began to echo some of the criticisms of the US-backed coalition.
"The purpose of this resolution is to pressure the Saudis to take those steps to reopen access to those ports," Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the reliably pro-Saudi chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the Saudis' decision last week to block all humanitarian and commercial transport to Yemen, where more than 20 million people need some form of aid, and then only partially lift the ban Monday. "That is what we're doing."
The resolution is the product of a long fight for Khanna. In September, he launched an effort with Reps. Mark Pocan [D-Wis.], Walter Jones [R-N.C.] and Thomas Massie [R-Ky.] to force a House vote on the U.S. role in Yemen using the War Powers Resolution - a move that could actually compel the executive branch to pull out of the conflict and would at the very least force lawmakers to consider the war in high-profile, high-stakes fashion.
Activists are now turning their attention to the Senate, where they hope to see a measure similar to Khanna's initial effort. Senators have already signaled their growing disapproval with the Saudi-led coalition's actions with votes on arms sales and other measures.
"My message to activists would be let's get more people," Khanna told HuffPost, referring to both co-sponsors for his original bill in the House and senators. "Look at what we've achieved in three months."
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team