Web Only / Features » March 20, 2018
15 Years After the Invasion of Iraq, Here Are the Dems Who Just Voted for Endless War in Yemen
Senators voted today to table a measure that would withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led onslaught.
"It seems that many have not learned from prior decisions to wage unjustified war and have, once again, condemned millions of people to unspeakable suffering."
Just one day after the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 10 Democrats voted to indefinitely stall a bill that would have withdrawn U.S. support from the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
The 10 Democrats helped Republicans table S.J.Res.54, which was introduced in late February by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). The bill invokes the 1973 War Powers Resolution to force the Senate to hold a vote on withdrawing the U.S. military from the unauthorized war.
Some peace activists argue that the legislation does not go far enough, as it stipulates an exception for forces “engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces,” which still leaves room for U.S. military operations in the country. A classified number of U.S. troops have been deployed to fight Al Qaeda, which has gained significant territory since the Saudi-led war began, with evidence that forces affiliated with Al Qaeda have even fought alongside U.S. coalition partners. Despite this carve out, advocates say the bill would have meaningfully rolled back the U.S. role in the Saudi-led onslaught and brought immediate relief to Yemenis living under the threat of U.S.-manufactured bombs.
The Senate voted 55-45 on Tuesday afternoon to table the measure, meaning that the bill will not make it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and instead will be set aside for an indefinite period of time. While some senators cited concerns with the procedural steps invoked in the bill, the vote to table effectively amounts to a green-light for ongoing U.S. support for the war. The following Democrats voted in favor of tabling the measure:
- Chris Coons (DE)
- Catherine Cortez Masto (NV)
- Joe Donnelly (IN)
- Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
- Doug Jones (AL)
- Joe Manchin (WV)
- Bob Menendez (NJ)
- Bill Nelson (FL)
- Jack Reed (RI)
- Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
“The 45 Senators who voted in favor of S.J.Res.54 today made a strong statement that U.S. support to the Saudis is not unconditional,” says Shireen Al-Adeimi, who was born in Yemen and now lives in Cambridge, where she has been organizing independently to build support for the Sanders-Lee bill. “However, this is by no means a celebration, as the 55 who opposed the bill have ensured that millions more Yemenis will suffer needlessly.”
For almost three years, the U.S. military has provided arms, intelligence and refueling support to back the Saudi-led bombing campaign. While no one knows exactly how many Yemenis have died as a result, the United Nations determined in June 2017 that bombs have killed at least 4,971 civilians and wounded 8,533. Other reports have estimated more recently that the coalition has killed at least 10,000 people.
The Saudi-led coalition—which includes the United Kingdom and Gulf allies—is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths, targeting hospitals, weddings, schools and funeral processions. The coalition’s naval blockade, abetted by U.S. vessels, has choked off food and medical equipment to the country, driving a famine and the largest recorded cholera outbreak in world history. According to UNICEF, an average of five children a day have been killed since the war began, and “more than 22 million people—and nearly all children—are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.”
While the U.S. role in the war began under former President Barack Obama, the Trump administration has eagerly picked up the baton—and aggressively pressured senators to reject the bill. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) recently submitted an alternative, weaker bill that would not immediately end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition and is widely opposed by anti-war organizations which consider the legislation a red herring.
Meanwhile, many Democrats who champion themselves as part of the “resistance”—including Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York—declined to come out early on in support of the bill, missing an opportunity to build political support for the effort.
“The fact that 10 Democrats decided to table this resolution speaks volumes,” Matt Howard of about Face: Veterans Against the War tells In These Times. “It lets us know loud and clear that they are complicit in the continued humanitarian disaster in Yemen and aren’t ashamed of that fact.” Howard is part of a grassroots coalition that backed the Sanders-Lee bill, including Just Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice and other organizations.
Some from that coalition say that the vote was far closer than they were expecting, and achieved the goal of creating a public discussion about an often-ignored war while forcing lawmakers to reveal where they stand. “This resolution was designed to do two things: send a clear message to the Saudis that the war needs to end now, and force Congress to vote on a war that we pretend we’re not involved in,” Stephen Miles of Win Without War tells In These Times.
The vote came the same day that President Donald Trump welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Oval Office by championing numerous multi-million-dollar U.S. arms deals, saying of the price tag, “That’s peanuts for you.” It follows another political effort in June 2017 to halt a $510 million U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia. That push narrowly failed after Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana voted in favor of the sale.
It is fitting that the Yemen vote comes on the 15th anniversary of the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is now widely recognized as a historic atrocity. The Iraq War directly killed more than one million Iraqis and continues to unleash cycles of violence throughout the region. In October 2002, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly—77 to 23—to authorize President George W. Bush to use force in Iraq. Many of those who voted in favor of the invasion later said they regretted the decision. The following Democrats voted “yea” to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq:
- Max Baucus (MT)
- Evan Bayh (IN)
- Joseph Biden (DE)
- John Breaux (LA)
- Maria Cantwell (WA)
- Jean Carnahan (MO)
- Thomas Carper (DE)
- Max Cleland (GA)
- Hillary Clinton (NY)
- Thomas Daschle (SD)
- Christopher Dodd (CT)
- Byron Dorgan (ND)
- John Edwards (NC)
- Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Thomas “Tom” Harkin (IA)
- Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (SC)
- Tim Johnson (SD)
- John Kerry (MA)
- Herb Kohl (WI)
- Mary Landrieu (LA)
- Joseph Lieberman (CT)
- Blanche Lincoln (AR)
- Zell Miller (GA)
- Bill Nelson (FL)
- Benjamin “Ben” Nelson (NE)
- Harry Reid (NV)
- John Rockefeller (WV)
- Charles “Chuck” Schumer (NY)
- Robert Torricelli (NJ)
“It seems that many have not learned from prior decisions to wage unjustified war,” says Al-Adeimi, “and have, once again, condemned millions of people to unspeakable suffering.”
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Sarah Lazare is web editor at In These Times. She comes from a background in independent journalism for publications including The Intercept, The Nation, and Tom Dispatch. She tweets at @sarahlazare.