U.S. involvement in Yemen matters

By Alison Rogers | Contributor

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It is the site of a conflict characterized by famine, cholera and hospital bombings. An estimated 85,000 children have died in attacks and from starvation since war began in 2014. And as long as the bombings continue, hundreds of thousands of more are at risk if food and medical supplies are not allowed in.

The United Nations characterizes Yemen as “a living hell for its citizens and their children.”

Yemen’s conflict is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This means that it is not a remote crisis: The United States is already involved. This gives us leverage in preventing further escalation, but it also makes us complicit.

America considers Saudi Arabia a vital counterterrorism partner. The U.S. government believes that maintaining an unquestioning alliance with the nation is necessary for combatting Iranian influence. These two elements combined make it difficult to justify sanctioning the Saudi regime – even after the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in October.

But it is imperative that the United States reconsider its priorities. If it remains allied with a government which commits war crimes against Yemeni civilians, this sends a message to the rest of the world that human rights violations are meaningless and violence against non-combatants only matters when it is caused by U.S. enemies. The United States would not ally with the Syrian regime, after they targeted civilians indiscriminately, even though the regime also opposes ISIS. Yet America continues to support Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, even though they are deliberately targeting medical centers and family gatherings.

Last week, the United States agreed to a $450 billion dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. These weapons will undoubtedly be used in attacks on Yemeni civilians, just as U.S.-made weapons have been used throughout the conflict. The United States also continues to provide tactical and logistical support to Saudi Arabia.

But United States involvement in Yemen has never been voted on by Congress. This has been a purely executive action since the beginning. Congressional efforts to promote accountability and end support have struggled to gain any traction. However, on Wednesday the Senate voted on a preliminary resolution to remove U.S. forces from Yemen and end the policy of unquestioning support.

Although neither Texas senator signed on, the resolution passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. But this is only the beginning of the accountability process. More robust measures will be required in order to change U.S. policy.

Here is the congressional hotline, so you can reach out to your senators and representatives: (202) 224-3121. Thank them if they have chosen to stand up for Yemen and demand that they change their stance if they chose to remain silent.