Opinion | Juan Cole

Bernie Sanders Is Trying to Get the U.S. Out of the Yemen War

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Lorie Shaull / CC 2.0)

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday proposed a bipartisan resolution to take the US Pentagon back out of the Yemen War. The war was declared by Saudi Arabia and its allies in 2015 when Zaydi Shiites of the Helpers of God (Houthi) movement took over the north and west if the country.

The three-year-long war has left nearly 10,000 dead, tens of thousands wounded, 8 million on the verge of starvation and a million cholera victims.

The Obama administration offered the Saudis logistical support and tactical and targeting advice. US officers have reportedly been frustrated because they have urged the Saudis not to hit key civilian infrastructure such as bridges and ports, nut have been ignored. One third of targets hit by Saudi and allied aerial bombing are estimated to have been civilian in character.

The Saudis and their allies do propaganda that Iran is behind the Houthis, which is not true. Small amounts of Iranian money and a few weapons may have been smuggled in, but Houthis are a homegrown movement with Yemeni grievances against the overbearing, fanatically Wahhabi Saudis. Most Houthi weapons are American, since much of the old Yemeni army had joined them because they allied with depose former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (The two recently broke with one another and the Houthis killed Saleh.)

The bill introduced by Sanders and the others will force a vote on the war under the war powers resolution.

The Obama and Trump administrations claim that the 2001 Authorization for Military Force is a basis for action in Yemen. But it only allows war against Iraq and al-Qaeda, not against Zaydi Shiites who have actively fought al-Qaeda.

The press release notes, “The bill will force the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from an unauthorized war.”

They cite the War Powers Resolution of 1973:

“The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

Juan Cole / Informed Comment
Juan Cole
Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the proprietor of the Informed Comment e-zine. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in…
Juan Cole

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