As conflict swirls over the recent U.S. bombing in Syria, more than 50 bipartisan lawmakers have demanded President Donald Trump seek approval from Congress before expanding U.S. military action in another Middle East theater: Yemen.
The letter sent this week came in response to reports that the Trump administration is considering a proposal to directly engage the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia's war against the Houthis in Yemen, including a planned United Arab Emirates-led attack on the Yemeni port of Hodeida, currently held by Houthi rebels.
"Such an attack could push the country into full-blown famine, where nearly half a million children in Yemen are facing starvation," said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who led the letter campaign along with Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
As Common Dreams reported in March, the U.S.-supported war in Yemen has already led the country to what one journalist described as "the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world."
Furthermore, "Direct U.S. hostilities against Yemen's Houthis would run counter to your pledge to pursue a 'disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy' that protects American families in 'every decision'," reads the letter to Trump. "Indeed, according to U.S. defense officials, the U.S.-backed Saudi war against Houthis in Yemen has already 'strengthened al Qaeda there' and poses 'a serious threat to U.S. security'."
The lawmakers, who garnered 50 additional signatures for their missive, note that "Congress has never authorized the actions under consideration."
In turn, they write:
Engaging our military against Yemen's Houthis when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers clearly delineated in the Constitution. For this reason, we write to request that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provide, without delay, any legal justification that it would cite if the administration intends to engage in direct hostilities against Yemen's Houthis without seeking congressional authorization.
As U.S. Representatives, we take seriously the right and responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force, or to refuse to do so, as mandated by the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution. We expect that any direct military actions pursued by the administration against the Yemeni Houthis be brought before Congress for consideration and authorization for approval before they are executed.
"President Trump does not have the authority to send U.S. forces to battle the Houthis in Yemen, period," said Lieu. "Once again, the administration appears ready to ramp up U.S. involvement in a complicated civil war without a clear strategy in place or the necessary authorization from Congress. A unilateral decision for direct U.S. involvement in Yemen would be met by swift, bipartisan opposition."
The letter, and a full list of signatories, is here (pdf).
Just Foreign Policy, which supported the signature campaign along with other anti-war organizations, is now urging constituents to demand their lawmakers invoke the War Powers Resolution when they return from recess on April 25, "to explicitly prohibit military escalation in Syria and Yemen."
"I can't promise you that we can stop this catastrophe," wrote Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy last month. "But we used this exact same mechanism less than four years ago and were successful in stopping U.S. military action," he continued, referring to the 2013 effort to stop then-President Barack Obama from bombing the Syrian government. "Given that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children hang in the balance, isn't it worth a try?"