Commentary: A vote to end US involvement in Yemeni Civil War

The Peace Seekers, a committee of Pacem in Terris, want to thank Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester for their recent votes in favor of peace this December. They all voted to use the War Powers Act to direct President Trump, over his opposition, to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

We were particularly happy that Sen. Chris Coons changed his previous vote in March, when he had voted against withdrawing the U.S. from the war on Yemen. In contrast, Sen. Carper had voted for peace in the March vote. The Peace Seekers had been able to meet in person with Rep. Blunt Rochester and Sen. Carper in the weeks prior to the recent votes.

The outcome of the votes differed between the two chambers. In the Senate, for the first time in the 45 years since the War Powers Act was passed, the Senate invoked it to demand that the U.S. cease our participation in this shameful Saudi-led war. In the House, the Republican leadership blocked the bill and it failed to pass — but it may pass when brought up in 2019, now that Democrats are in control of the House.

The powerful Senate vote may well have had a positive influence on the peace negotiations in Sweden, where a truce was signed shortly after the vote.

President Obama started our participation in this war against the Houthi side in the Yemeni civil war three years ago. We joined with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which began using U.S. help to deliberately bomb weddings, hospitals, schools and children in school buses.

The result is described by the U.N. as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Nearly 18 million Yemeni civilians have struggled to survive as the Saudi-led coalition, including the U.S., has conducted military attacks on ports, water supplies and critical infrastructure.

The U.N. has recently confirmed that these actions are war crimes. According to the U.N., over 8 million people suffer from near starvation in Yemen as a result.

Recent reports from Amnesty International and other organizations tell us that one of our partners in the Saudi-led coalition conducting this war, the United Arab Emirates, has set up over a score of torture chambers in Yemen where they have engaged in roasting people alive and other shocking brutality. Coincidentally, the company taking over the Port of Wilmington, Gulftainer, is from the United Arab Emirates.

After the recent deliberate Saudi targeting of a Yemeni school bus that killed over 50 children, Yemenis could plainly see the remains of the U.S.-supplied bombs. Until President Trump recently ended the practice, the U.S. had been refueling Saudi bombers in mid-air as they targeted civilians, among other targets.

We have sold the coalition tens of billions of dollars worth of bombs and other weapons. The Peace Seekers is affiliated with Peace Action, the foremost national peace group. By coordinating the activities of its grass-roots affiliates all over the country, including the Peace Seekers, Peace Action can exert effective influence on our Congress for peace, such as the influence we were able to exert on Delaware’s congressional delegation.

Peace Action has also been lobbying against further arms sales to Saudi Arabia, helping to bring 27 senators on board with blocking an arms sale in September 2016, and helping push that number to 47 senators in June 2017.

At the same time, Peace Action has been pushing the administration to focus on facilitating a diplomatic solution to Yemen’s civil war, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the millions of Yemenis who could die without it.

The Peace Seekers need people of goodwill to join with us; we meet the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at the offices of Pacem in Terris (302-656-2721) in the Wilmington Friends Meeting House at Fourth and West streets in Wilmington.

Desmond M. Khan, of Newark, is a biologist and a longtime peace activist.

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