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starving Yemeni child

A three-year-old child who suffers from severe acute malnutrition stands on a hospital bed shortly after being admitted to a facility in Yemen. (Photo: Giles Clarke, U.N. OCHA/Getty Images)

Millions on Brink of Death in Yemen, But Members of Congress Can't Be Bothered With Questions

U.S. lawmakers brush off questions from Intercept reporter about military support for Saudi-led coalition while blockade continues to cut off starving Yemenis from necessary food aid

Jessica Corbett

Despite warnings about the intensifying humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged Yemen, members of the U.S. Congress dodged questions from an Intercept reporter this week about why lawmakers haven't voted on U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition that is bombing the impoverished country while also imposing a blockade of urgently needed aid.

Lee Fang, a journalist with The Intercept, partnered with NowThis to a produce a video that shows him attempting to question members of Congress on Capitol Hill as part of a report published earlier this week about U.S. support for the war in Yemen and the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) that passed Congress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and which U.S. President Donald Trump and his predecessors have used to justify military actions around the globe without explicit permission from lawmakers.

As Fang notes in his related article, while the coalition battles Houthi rebels, "Saudi Arabia relies heavily on the U.S. military for intelligence sharing, refueling flights for coalition warplanes, and the transfer of American-made cluster bombs, rockets, and other munitions used against targets in Yemen"—which continues in spite of the fact that "coalition warplanes have repeatedly struck crowded markets, hospitals, power plants, and other civilian targets."

Fang writes:

Congress, however, has never authorized U.S. support for the war, which has caused 10,000 civilian deaths and has spiraled in recent months into one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century.... For 16 years, the executive branch has pointed to the AUMF as legal justification for its involvement in conflicts across the Middle East and Africa, a strategy that is legally questionable. But the use of the AUMF in the Yemeni context is especially bizarre given that the AUMF's target is Al Qaeda, and the group AQAP—Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—is fighting alongside the U.S.-Saudi coalition against the Houthi rebels.

Although several members of Congress brushed off Fang's questions, some expressed frustration with the AUMF, and pointed to a recent bipartisan legislative effort to terminate U.S. involvement, which was quashed by lawmakers who support the Saudi-led coalition.

Meanwhile, about 20 humanitarian agencies and the U.N. are warning of a "nightmare scenario," as Common Dreams reported Wednesday, after the Saudi-led coalition closed all air, land, and sea ports to the country, cutting off millions of civilians from life-saving aid.

"There are over 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance; seven million of them, are facing famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive," according to the agencies.

"It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year, where tens of thousands of people were affected. It will not be like the famine which cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011," warned Mark Lowcock, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, speaking to reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York. "It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims."

Lowcock, who visited Yemen last month, noted that "humanitarian access through the ports was inadequate even before" the blockade was announced, and said the U.N.'s World Food Programme feeds about seven million Yemenis per month. In addition to the millions who are starving, Yemen is also facing a cholera epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.


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