On July 14, HR 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 was passed by the House of Representatives. Overall, this bill, which is set next to go before the Senate, authorizes a massive amount of military spending:
The bill authorizes $613.8 billion in base funding, including a $28.5 billion increase above the President’s budget for essential readiness recovery. Further, the bill authorizes an additional $10 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO) for base requirements, and an additional $64.6 billion in the OCO fund to cover contingency operations. When factoring in $7.5 billion for mandatory defense spending, a total of $695.9 billion is authorized to be appropriated. (GovTrack.US)
Think of what these tax dollars could do if they were directed to meeting human needs instead!
The NDAA is a “routine” piece of legislation that typically is passed without a lot of fanfare, which tells us a lot about how “democracy” works in an imperialist nation. Despite the unpopularity of the endless wars of the United States, our elected representatives rarely question or push back on the annual authorization of hundreds of billions of dollars for various sorts of military spending.
Thus it is notable that a few amendments have been slipped into HR 2810 which if passed into law would set some limits on the U.S. funding of the genocidal Saudi war on its impoverished neighbor Yemen.
The Davidson amendment would prohibit U.S. military action in Yemen not authorized by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Given that U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen is not targeting al-Qaeda, U.S. involvement in this war is not authorized by the 2001 AUMF, and is therefore prohibited by this amendment.
The Nolan amendment prohibits the deployment of U.S. troops to participation in Yemen’s civil war.
The Lieu amendment requires a report from the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State on the extent to which Saudi Arabia is abiding by its commitments to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen.” (Friends Committee on National Legislation)
These amendments exist within the framework of an imperialist logic. The Davidson amendment still gives the U.S. carte blanche to engage militarily in Yemen if such intervention is targeting Al-Qaeda. So for instance, the implementation of Davidson would have done nothing to prevent the assassinations of four members of the al-Awlaki family between 2011 and 2017, (all of them U.S. citizens, most recently 8-year old Nora al-Awlaki in January.) These killing were justified by the claim that the U.S. was fighting Al-Qaeda.
Nevertheless, the amendments are a clear statement from members of the House that the U.S. should avoid becoming embroiled in the quagmire of Yemen’s civil war. Further, the Lieu Amendment seeks to put limits on the brutality of the Saudi war on Yemen, which has resulted in a vast humanitarian crisis.
Why these amendments–why now?
Yemen is not a well-known place among average people in the United States. There is no well-funded “Yemen lobby;” the very idea is laughable. What has provoked the House of Representatives to not only propose but pass these three amendments to the NDAA specifically calling out and opposing U.S.-Saudi military intervention in Yemen?
The sheer scope of the humanitarian crisis combined with the complicity of the United States in its genesis has sparked some degree of outrage among those who are paying attention.
For people who want to believe that the United States represents the “good guys” on the international stage, U.S. military involvement in Yemen creates cognitive dissonance. And for those who know anything about Yemen, they understand that Yemen can never truly be brought under the control of a foreign power. A ruling party can sit in the palace in Sana’a, but their authority does not extend beyond the main roads. Getting militarily involved in Yemen is a losing proposition, another brutal endless war.
Imagine what could be accomplished if a mass anti-war movement rose up with the demand “U.S.-Saudi hands off Yemen—Self-determination for Yemen!”
While far from being full solutions to the crisis in Yemen, these amendments merit the support of all who stand in solidarity with the Yemeni people.