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Sanders Introduces Bill to End Catastrophic US War in Yemen

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Three years of U.S.-Saudi war has turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee introduced a bipartisan bill to end the U.S. role in the war – Ben Norton reports.

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BEN NORTON: U.S. senators have introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to end the United States’ role in the devastating Saudi war in Yemen, which has created the largest humanitarian catastrophe on the planet.

The campaign behind the bill is being led by Vermont’s progressive independent Senator Bernie Sanders. He introduced the legislation at the press conference on Wednesday, February 28.

BERNIE SANDERS: For far too long, Congress, under Democratic and Republican administrations, has abdicated its constitutional role in authorizing war. The time is long overdue for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority.

BEN NORTON: The bill cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which gives Congress oversight over wars waged by the Executive Branch.

Senator Sanders’ office stressed that the legislation is historic, as it “will force the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. armed forces from an unauthorized war.”

BERNIE SANDERS: We believe that, as Congress has not declared war or authorized military force in this conflict, the United States’ involvement in Yemen is unconstitutional and unauthorized, and U.S. military support of the Saudi coalition must end.

BEN NORTON: Since March 2015, the United States has helped Saudi Arabia wage a relentless bombing campaign and enforce a crippling blockade of Yemen.

In an effort to beat back Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Washington has sold the Saudi monarchy billions of dollars in weapons, which have been used to indiscriminately attack civilian areas in the country, the poorest in the Middle East.

The U.S. has played a direct role in the war, refueling Saudi warplanes, providing military intelligence, helping to enforce the blockade, and even placing American military officials inside the Saudi command and control center.

This war has unleashed the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, fueling the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of Yemenis, pushing millions more to the brink of famine, and producing the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history.

BERNIE SANDERS: Many Americans are unaware that the people of Yemen are suffering today in a devastating civil war with Saudi Arabia and their allies on one side and Houthi rebels on the other.

In November of this year, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator said that Yemen was on the brink of “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades.” So far at least 10,000 civilians have died and over 40,000 have been wounded in the war. And 3 million people have been displaced.

Many Americans are also not aware that U.S. forces have been actively involved in support of the sorties in this war, providing intelligence and aerial refueling of planes whose bombs have killed thousands of people and made this crisis far worse.

BEN NORTON: The legislation is being co-sponsored by Utah’s conservative Republican Senator Mike Lee. Both Sanders and Lee emphasized the bipartisan nature of the bill.

MIKE LEE: Importantly, this legislation is neither liberal nor conservative; it’s neither Democratic nor Republican. This is an American principle, a constitutional principle.

BEN NORTON: Sanders pointed out that this catastrophic U.S.-backed war began under a Democratic president, Barack Obama, and has only accelerated under Republican Donald Trump. He likewise noted that the House of Representatives has taken bipartisan action against U.S. involvement.

BERNIE SANDERS: This is not a partisan issue. Support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen began under a Democratic president and has continued under a Republican president. Senator Lee is a conservative Republican; I am a progressive independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

In November of last year, the House of Representatives, with a strong bipartisan vote, voted overwhelmingly for a non-binding resolution stating that U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war is unauthorized. Only 30 members of the House voted against that resolution. And that is what we are saying today: we are in agreement with the vast majority of the Democrats and Republicans in the House.

BEN NORTON: The legislation has already received support in Hollywood. Actor Mark Ruffalo released a video urging Americans to support the bill.

MARK RUFFALO: I believe that when the American people are presented with the facts, we will act to stop our tax dollars from being used to starve and bomb innocent Yemenis.

Please call 1-833-STOP-WAR to urge your senator to vote for the Sanders-Lee resolution to end the unauthorized U.S. war in Yemen. We can stop the bombing and let food and medicine into Yemen so that millions may live.

BEN NORTON: Although the joint U.S.-Saudi war has produced the worst humanitarian disaster on Earth, the conflict has received little attention in the U.S. corporate media.

Professor Vijay Prashad commented on this hypocrisy in a previous interview with The Real News, and likened U.S.-Saudi policy to U.S.-Israel policy.

VIJAY PRASHAD: Given all this it’s remarkable that the press has basically stayed away. There’s been very little coverage of what’s been happening.

Saudi Arabia is a very important ally of the United States. It is in fact as important an ally as Israel is in the region. The behavior of the United States toward Saudi Arabia in this conflict against Yemen is eerily like the behavior of the United States towards Israel when Israel bombs Gaza. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Arab world. Not the highest. That belongs, I think, to Qatar. But one of the highest. And Yemen is certainly the poorest of all the Arab countries.

And so it’s facing asymmetrical bombardment. Whatever the rebels are doing is not being done from the air. The Saudis command the air and they’re bombing the whole country. In the same way, the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza is utterly asymmetrical. The Israelis command the air, and all that can happen from Gaza is some minor rocket attacks into Israel. It’s comparatively nothing.

BEN NORTON: Peace activists have campaigned for nearly three years to end the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen.

Experts have stressed that, if the US were to withdraw its support for the war, Saudi Arabia would be unable to continue waging it.

This new bill in the Senate could make history by finally bringing this apocalyptic war to an end.

Senator Sanders concluded his press conference condemning the state of endless U.S. war.

BERNIE SANDERS: I believe that we have become far too comfortable with the United States engaging in military interventions all over the world. We have now been in Afghanistan for 17 years, the longest war in American history.

Our troops are now in Syria, under what I believe are questionable authorities, and the administration has indicated that it may broaden that mission even more.

The time is long overdue for Congress to reassert its constitutional role in determining when and where our country goes to war.

BEN NORTON: Reporting for The Real News, I’m Ben Norton.