March 21, 2018
Statement for the Record on S.J.Res. 54
Mr. President, the brutal war in Yemen has raged for three years. At least ten thousand civilians have lost their lives in this conflict. More than eight million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation. The worst cholera outbreak in modern history has afflicted over one million people, including over 600,000 children. Millions more are displaced from their homes. As the years wear on – the cycle of desperation, destruction, and death continues unabated.
Make no mistake: the Houthis and their Iranian backers bear great responsibility for the civilian toll of this war. However, the Saudi-led coalition, with U.S. military support, continues to conduct hundreds of airstrikes each month. According to the United Nations, almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths are the result of these airstrikes.
The administration claims U.S. military support for the coalition, in the form of aerial refueling, munitions sales, and targeting assistance, provides leverage in the conflict. Yet, the Defense Department appears to know disturbingly little about how U.S. military assistance is used on the battlefield – including whether our refueling enables the bombing of civilians. Most critically, with both sides at a total impasse, the prospect of a political settlement is farther from reach now than at the beginning of this devastating war.
In short, U.S. policy in Yemen has been an abject failure. And by continuing our military assistance unmitigated, we are complicit in this tragedy.
This complicity is fueled by President Trump’s unquestioning embrace of the Saudi monarchy, and his apparent inability to use our leverage to place meaningful restraints on the Saudi attacks in Yemen. In addition, more than a year after his inauguration, the President has not put forward nominees to fill key diplomatic posts that would be responsible for addressing this conflict – including the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs or the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has alienated our counterparts at the United Nations. In action and in deed, President Trump has all but ensured the onslaught in Yemen will continue.
I believe it is incumbent on the Congress to hold the Saudi-led coalition accountable and no longer to abdicate our responsibility in decisions of peace and war. S.J.Res.54 reins in the president’s largely unencumbered war-making powers, and ends unconditional U.S. military support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen without an authorization from Congress. For these reasons, I voted against the motion to table this resolution.