Washington, DC -- On Wednesday, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a joint resolution to force a congressional debate and vote on the United States’ involvement in Yemen’s civil war. The War Powers Resolution of 1973, passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, gives Congress the authority to end any military action ordered by the president without congressional authorization. This resolution directs the president to remove US personnel participating in Yemen’s hostilities within 30 days. The Yemen Peace Project urges all members of the Senate to vote in favor of the joint resolution.
Since the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war almost three years ago, the United States has furnished it with significant military support, including mid-air refueling of coalition planes, targeting intelligence, and other logistical assistance. As the United Nations, human rights organizations, and journalists have continually reported, coalition planes frequently target civilians and non-military targets, with hundreds of airstrikes hitting schools, hospitals, markets, and residences, directly killing thousands of Yemeni civilians. The coalition has also exacerbated Yemen’s cholera epidemic--the worst ever recorded--by targeting public water systems, and compounded food shortages by targeting farms, food processing facilities, and fishing boats. These strikes have not waned; since December 2017, airstrikes across Yemen have killed over 300 civilians.
The response of the current and previous US administrations to these violations has been both opaque and contradictory. The current administration decries civilian deaths and pressures the coalition to ease its humanitarian catastrophe-worsening blockade of Yemen’s major air, land, and sea ports, even as its unquestioning military assistance reinforces the coalition’s punitive conduct. Furthermore, the United States has yet to publicly state which legal authorities underpin US assistance to coalition forces. The administration has provided inadequate and misleading information about its actions to Congress and the public. It has also failed to monitor the impact of US assistance; last September, US Central Command admitted that it does not track whether US-fueled coalition sorties go on to violate international humanitarian law, though refueling continues.
“The current administration can’t have it both ways. It can’t call for a political solution and an end to the blockade while literally fueling one side’s war efforts and neglecting to meaningfully push Saudi Arabia and other coalition governments to negotiate,” said Eric Eikenberry, the Yemen Peace Project’s director of policy & advocacy. “Not only does this resolution allow the Senate to reassert Congress’s constitutional war powers, but, if passed, it would also move US demands to reduce civilian harm and fully lift the blockade beyond mere rhetoric.”
The administration has tacitly acknowledged the War Powers Resolution’s applicability to US involvement in Yemen’s civil war. In his most recent war powers communique to Congress last December, the president went out of his way to stress that logistical support to the coalition is “non-combat,” a designation irrelevant to the oversight authorities that Congress has under the War Powers Resolution.
By directing the president to withdraw US personnel from their unauthorized participation in Yemen’s civil war, Congress will reduce US complicity in coalition war crimes, spur a de-escalation that can set the stage for peace negotiations, and reassert congressional oversight of the deployment of US Armed Forces. For these reasons, the Yemen Peace Project and a broad coalition of progressive and conservative groups urge its passage.