By Sen. Rand Paul
American-built planes with American bombs were used by the Saudis to bomb a funeral procession in Yemen. Over 100 people were killed, and 500 mourners were wounded. Active duty American pilots have been refueling the planes dropping bombs across Yemen.
Sounds like war to me.
But when did we declare war on Yemen? When did Congress vote to authorize military force in Yemen? Who is the enemy, and why are we fighting them?
Let’s be clear: war was NOT declared by Congress, as the Constitution requires. Congress never authorized American participation in a war in Yemen. And yet, here we are, involved in yet another Middle East war.
We have an unfortunate habit of arming foreign nations, only to discover that these supposed allies may be creating more enemies for America than they are killing.
Not only are we selling the bombs to Saudi Arabia that they are dropping on Yemen, the president’s first military act was to send a manned raid of Navy Seals into Yemen.
Tragically, one of our Navy SEALs was killed, along with several women and children. I don’t blame our soldiers — they take orders. They do the best that they can under the circumstances. I do, however, blame the politicians who send our soldiers into impossible situations.
Confronted by civilians, sometimes women and children, firing weapons at them, our soldiers must return fire. But before putting our soldiers in that unenviable position, shouldn’t Congress debate whether involving our nation in a war in Yemen is in our national security interest?
The raid killed al-Qaeda operatives who, while likely enemies of ours, were actually fighting the same people the Saudis are fighting: the Houthi rebels.
To emphasize, the Saudis and al-Qaeda are fighting a common enemy in the Houthi rebels. In essence, we sent Navy Seals into Yemen to kill people who actually were fighting a common enemy.
In a country where so many factions are fighting, it is nearly impossible to distinguish friend from foe.
Thousands of civilians have been killed by Saudi bombings in Yemen. The blowback from these civilian deaths will be generations of hatred and likely more terrorism.
It is also possible our involvement in the Yemeni Civil war could allow a situation where the Saudis and the Houthis decimate each other, leaving a vacuum that al-Qaeda fills. Think it can’t happen? Well it’s exactly what happened when America and Saudi-supported rebels pushed back Assad in Syria, leaving a power gap that ISIS filled.
In recent years, there hasn’t been a military action taken in Yemen by Saudi Arabia that doesn’t have America’s fingerprints all over it.
As my colleague Senator Chris Murphy said last year, “If you talk to Yemenis, they will tell you that this is perceived inside Yemen as not a Saudi-led bombing campaign […] but as a U.S. bombing campaign or at best a U.S.-Saudi bombing campaign.”
Obviously, none of this enhances U.S. national security. But how many Americans are even aware that we are actively involved in a war in Yemen?
Last year I introduced a bipartisan bill with Sen. Murphy to stop a U.S. transfer of arms and dollars — costing $1.15 billion in all — to the Saudis. The Senate voted to allow the sale. The debate, however, prompted President Obama to reconsider and ultimately to cancel the sale of more bombs to Saudi Arabia.
Now, the Trump administration is considering going ahead with more missile sales to Saudi Arabia. This would be a serious mistake. If the sale is debated in Congress, I will reintroduce legislation to stop it.
Other reasons not to sell offensive arms to Saudi Arabia include their abysmal human rights record and lingering questions about that nation’s possible role in 9/11.
The families of 9/11 victims have an active legal case alleging Saudi culpability for 9/11. These are complaints that bear review, considering that 16 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.
One of the memos discovered during the Hillary Clinton email leak stated, “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region.”
A State Department cable released by Wikileaks in 2009 revealed, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda [and] the Taliban […]”
Why don’t we hear more about this?
President Trump promised to put America first again, precisely because so much of what we have done in our foreign policy in recent years has been to other countries’ benefit but to the detriment of the U.S.
In the upcoming debate, I hope the president will seriously consider the unintended consequences of getting us mired in yet another Middle East war.
That would be a mistake. I think it’s high time we start learning from our mistakes.