As the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen continues to deepen, with the number of cholera cases on track to hit one million by year's end, a new bipartisan bill aims to stop the U.S. from fueling Saudi Arabia's assault on the impoverished and imperiled nation.
Introduced by four lawmakers in the House on Wednesday, the legislation cites the War Powers Resolution, declaring that Congress has never given authorization for U.S. forces to be involved in the conflict so the intelligence and refueling assistance to the Saudi-led coalition's years-long aerial bombings is based on "no provision of law." It also calls the war counterproductive to the stated aim of defeating Al Qaeda.
It calls for removal of U.S. military forces aiding the coalition's campaign within 30 days "unless and until a declaration of war or specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces has been enacted."
"We aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it," Democratic sponsors Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.) wrote in a letter to colleagues, according to Foreign Policy.
The Republican co-sponsors are Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.).
As Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action noted, "Most American taxpayers don't realize they've been footing the bill for mid-air refuelings of Saudi coalition warplanes that regularly bomb civilian targets in Yemen. With U.S. support, the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen has helped give rise to one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes ever, and this resolution offers a chance to end that support."
According to Kawika Martin, "This privileged resolution will force members of Congress to go on record, many for the first time, on the question of whether or not we should be backing a coalition that's demonstrated an intractable disregard for human rights and the most basic laws of war. To vote for continuing U.S. support is to vote for more indiscriminate bombings of schools, marketplaces, and hospitals in one of the world's poorest nations, and at the expense of American taxpayers and U.S. national security interests."
Addressing such bombings, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday said it would send a group of "eminent experts" to Yemen to "carry out a comprehensive examination of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights" committed in the conflict and try "to identify those responsible."
That probe, the mandate of a resolution adopted by consensus, "is a victory for Yemenis whose suffering at the hands of all parties to the conflict has been overlooked by the international community. The resolution offers hope for those seeking justice and can serve as a stepping stone towards accountability," said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International.