There was a time when many people in the U.S. literally did not know where (or even what) Yemen was. Due to the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Arab nation, this is changing. Unfortunately the image that is now recognized is that of the extreme suffering of Yemen’s people as they face starvation and disease, instead of Yemen’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. This crisis has not been caused by a natural disaster but instead by a brutal U.S.-Saudi war.
We have written about what led to this genocidal war. Following the Arab Spring ouster of long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country slid into a multi-party civil war into which Saudi Arabia then intervened in 2015 to support what it deems the legitimate president of Yemen. The U.S. has been fully complicit in the brutality of this Saudi “coalition” war, selling arms to the monarchy and providing logistical support. Simultaneously, the U.S. has been conducting its own operations within Yemen, as part of the “War on Terror.” The U.S. has conducted drone warfare, raids, assassinations (notably of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki, not to mention two of his children killed in separate incidents) and other military actions.
As a result of the Khashoggi scandal, there has been increased criticism of Saudi Arabia within imperialist circles and the Pentagon announced it would no longer be involved in refueling Saudi fighter jets bombing Yemen. “We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. Government, to use the Coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement.
Yet at the same time a new “classified” U.S. military operation in Yemen, called Yukon Journey, has been revealed. According to a document on a Pentagon website, it is a Central Command operation supporting the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Partner Nations in Yemen.” (Yahoo News). Another CentCom operation is also identified in the same document as “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” which would clearly refer to actions in Yemen as well. “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” is Al-Qaeda in Yemen. While these operations ostensibly targeted against AQAP may be “classified,” it has not been a secret that the U.S. has special forces in Yemen actively conducting operations.
Opposition to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has been growing in the U.S. A variety of resolutions and bills have been introduced in an effort to stop U.S. funding for the Saudi war. Of course none has passed. Most recently, Rep. Ro Khanna of California introduced a War Powers resolution back in September that would have ended all U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war.
According to The Hill: “Because the resolution invoked the War Powers Act, it was privileged, meaning Democrats could theoretically have forced a vote on it. But on Tuesday night [Nov. 13-ed], the House Rules Committee adopted, in a 6-2 vote on party lines, a rule for floor debate for an unrelated bill that includes a provision stripping Khanna’s resolution of its privileged status. The full House is expected to consider the rule, for the “Manage our Wolves Act,” later Wednesday [Nov. 14-ed].” The vote on the rule happened, quashing debate on the War Powers resolution.
In other words, using a parliamentary maneuver, the vote on the War Powers resolution was prevented. However, activists are gearing up for more legislation about Yemen especially after the newly elected representatives take office in January. The issue of opposing U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen has proven to have bipartisan support.
However, we cannot forget that regardless of how Congress votes, the “classified operations” will continue. That is how imperialist democracy works. The parliamentary talk-shop votes and passes resolutions, and the agents of the imperialist state go about their business of protecting the interests of global capitalism. An example from the not-so-distant past has earned the name “Iran-Contra affair.” Between 1982-84, three different legislative amendments (known collectively as the Boland Amendment) prohibited U.S. aid to the counterrevolutionaries in Nicaragua for the purposes of overthrowing the Sandinista government. However, senior officials in the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran (in violation of an arms embargo) and diverted money from the sales to fund the Contras.
That is not to say that fighting for anti-war legislative measures is a total waste of time. However, the imperialists will do whatever they want until they are stopped by the people at home and abroad. All progressive and revolutionary people should defend self-determination for Yemen. The anti-war movement must demand an end to all U.S. intervention in Yemen–whether it takes the form of support for the Saudi war or direct “anti-terrorism” intervention.