tv U.S. Senate Senators Lee Sanders on War in Yemen CSPAN November 29, 2018 2:22am-2:46am EST
the political spectrum regardless of their political ideology. mr. coons: will the senator yield for another question? mr. lee: i'm very late. mr. coons: the d.c. circuit reconsidered this issue this year and said that morrison remains valid and binding precedent. i know we have other urgent business to move to. but i will say i'm grateful for the work of my colleague from arizona and despite the objection by my colleague from utah, this is an important bill that
call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lee: mr. president, i stood before this body in march of this year to protest our country's unconstitutional intervention in saudi arabia's blood did i war -- bloody war in yemen. i was proud to stand with my colleagues, senator sanders and senator murphy, to file a discharge motion of our resolution, s.j. res. 54, that would remove u.s. armed forces from yemen. at that time members of the foreign relations committee requested additional time to study the issue and to debate the resolution in the foreign relations committee. the chairman of that committee, my friend and colleague from tennessee, senator corker, requested this with the commitment to, quote, bring forth legislation to actually
appropriately deal with many of the issues relative to yemen, saudi arabia, and ourselves. close quote. so with that, the senate voted to table the motion. since then, the committee has held a hearing on this issue and introduced a separate, bipartisan bill to address it. but no further action has been taken. and so today, eight months later, the bloodshed continues, still abetted by the united states, even amidst further revelations of saudi depravity. it is long past overdue that congress remove u.s. forces from yemen, as recent circumstances is only confirm. today we have the chance to remedy our course of action and to did what the constitution -- and to do what the constitution and justice demand. the situation in yemen is dire. the war has killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians, human beings, lest we forget,
each one of them possessing immeasurable dignity and inherent worth. it has created refugees, orphans, widows, and it's also displaced countless families. the numbers are staggering, nothing short of it. since 2015, more than 10,000 civilians have died and 40,000 have been wounded. in an attack just a few months ago, a bomb was dropped on a school bus that killed 40 young boys who were on a school trip and wounded another 56 children. by what few americans knew until recently is the u.s. military has actually been make the crisis worse by helping one side bomb these innocent civilians. so how did we get entangled in this crisis to begin with? well, in march of 2015, saudi
arabia launched a war against the houthi rebels, shortly after the houthis out offed the saudi-backed government in the capital city of sanaa. u.s. military forces were authorized to provide logistical and intelligence support to the saudi-led coalition. u.s. military support has continued since then, including midair refueling, surveillance, reconnaissance information and target selection assistance. in other words, we've been supporting and actively participating in the activities of war in yemen. but article 1, section 8, of the constitution states that congress shall have the power to declare war. congress, not the president, not the pentagon, not someone else in the executive branch, not any other part of government but
congress. the founders could not have been any clearer about this, and they did so, mr. president, with very good reason. the founders set up our system of government in such a way as to protect the people from the dangers associated with the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of a few. we know from experience and we knew then from our young nation's experience under british rule that bad things happen, especially in at a national level, when too few people exercise too much power and that power goes unchecked and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the power to declare war. so the founders placed that power squarely in the legislative branch, the branch where honest, orientation and public -- honest, open, and public debate is supposed to happen, most accountable to the people through elections at the most regular intervals.
as alexander hamilton pointed out in "federalist paper" number 69, this power with a not be exercised by the executive branch so that it would be less like lay to be abused, just like it was when the king of england acted in and of himself, by himself to send his country and ours, for that matter, into war. now, some opponents of our resolution claim that our involvement in yemen is somehow constitutionally justified under the war powers act of 1973. this isn't true now, it is true that the war powers act makes it possible for the executive branch of government acting alone to use armed forces in cases of emergencies and subject to certain limited, defined time constraints. but the conflict in yes, ma'am by no means -- in yemen in no
way shanks our form constitutes a threat to the safety of the american citizens and our involvement has far surpassed the allotted time constraint. the houthis, while no friends of ours, are a regional rebel group, one that does not itself threaten american national security. in fact, the longer we fight against them, the more reason we give them to hate america and embrace the opportunists who are our true enemy in the region -- iran. the more we prolong the activities that destabilize the region, the longer we harm our own interests in terms of trade and broader regional security. the war powers act also states that the assignment of u.s. armed forces to coordinate or participate in hostilities of a foreign country constitutes a conflict of war, and some have
argued that we have not been engaging in hostilities is and therefore have not violated the war powers act. but this claim, too, falls flat on its face. we've specifically aided the saudi coalition -- saudi coalition, as defense secretary jim massties said in december of 2017 is our military is helping the saudis, quote, make certain they hit the right thing, close quote. in other words, we're helping a foreign power bomb its adversaries. if that doesn't constitute hostilities, i don't know what does. finally, some critics say that this resolution would somehow hurt our efforts to combat terrorism in the region, specifically al qaeda and isis. however, the resolution explicitly states that it would not impede the military's ability to fight these terror groups. in fact, u.s. involvement in
yemen has arguably undermind the argument against al qaeda's affiliates. the state department report on terrorism for 2016 found that the conflict between the saudi-led forces and the houthi insurgents has actually helped al qaeda in thate laborrian peninsula and isis's yemen branch to deepen their inroads across much of the country. it appears that our involvement in yemen accomplishes no good at all, only harm, and serious, consequential harm at that. the situation in yemen now poses a true humanitarian crisis. the country is on the brink of rampant disease and mass starvation. an estimated 15 million people don't have an ssess to clean water and sanitation and 17 million don't have access to food. more innocent lives are being lost every single day.
my position on this has not changed for the past eight months. but with the taking of another innocent life -- that of jamal khashoggi,the circumstances have only further deteriorated. intelligence suggests, despite his repeated denials, that the crown prince of saudi arabia himself ordered the murder. saudi arabia's moral did he pravity has only been -- depravity has only been made plainer. this is not an ally that deserves our support or military intervention on its behalf, especially when our own security is not itself on the line. on the contrary, to continue supporting them in this war would be bad diplomacy and undermine our very credibility. no, u.s. intervention in yemen is unauthorized, unconstitutional, and immoral. and we must not -- we cannot delay voting to end our
involvement and our support of saudi arabia any further. if we do, we have ourselves to blame for our country's lost credibility on the world stage. and, more importantly, our own consciences will bear the blame for the thousands of lives that will surely continue to be lost. the founding fathers had incredible wisdom in requiring these issues, issues of american blood and american treasure, to be debated and discussed between two equal branches of government. they understood that matters of war and alliances must constantly be reconsidered and reevaluated and in an open, honest, and public manner. that is one of our most solemn duties in this body, and it's the opportunity that lies squarely before us today. we owe it to the sons and daughters of the american people who put their sons and daughters in harm's way to defend us. we owe it to their parents and
their families. we owe it to ourselves, who have taken an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the constitution of the united states. i urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the motion to discharge the resolution. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? officer the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, let me thank senator lee for his leadership on this resolution. at a time when many bemoan the lack of bipartisanship is you're seeing it here today, people coming together around an issue of enormous concern. and i thank senator lee, and i want to thank senator chris murphy of connecticut, also one of the leaders in this efforts, and the other 17 cosponsors of
this resolution. mr. president, in a half-hour or so, we're going to be casting one of the most important foreign policy votes that we have cast in recent years. it is a vote to demand that the humanitarian crisis in yemen be addressed. it is a vote that will tell the despotic dictatorship in saudi arabia that we will no longer be part of their destructive military adventurism, and it is a vote, as senator lee just mentioned, that says that the united states senate respects the constitution of the united states and understands that the issue of war making, of going to war, putting our young men and women's lives at stake, is something determined by the u.s.
congress, not the president of the united states. it is a congressional decision, not a presidential decision, whether that president is a democrat or a republican. mr. president, in march of 2015, under the leadership of mohammed bin salman, then saudi defense minister and now the crown prince, saudi arabia and the united arab emirates intervened in yemen's ongoing civil war. let us be clear, yemen has been a poor and struggling country for many years, but as a result of the saudi-led intervention, yemen is now experiencing the worst humanitarian disaster in the entire world.
and one of the poorest countries on earth as a result of this war, according to the save the children organization, some 85,000 children have already starved to death. 85,000 children already dead and millions more face death, face starvation if this war continues. according to the united nations, yemen is at risk of the most severe famine in more than 100 years, with some 14 million people facing starvation. further, yemen is currently experiencing the worst cholera outbreak in the world with as many as 10,000 new cases developing every week, according to the world health
organization. cholera is a disease spread by infected water that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration and will only accelerate the death rate and the misery in that country. the cholera outbreak as it happens has occurred because saudi bombs have destroyed yemen's water infrastructure, and people are no longer able to access clean water. the fact is that the united states, with limited media attention, has been saudi arabia's partner in this horrific war. we have been providing the bombs that the saudi-led coalition is using. we have been refueling their planes before they drop those bombs, and we have been assisting with intelligence. in too many cases our
weapons are used to kill civilians, as is now well known, in august there was an american-made bomb that obliterated a school bus full of young boys, killing dozens and wounding many more. a cnn report found evidence that american weapons have been used in a string of such deadly attacks on civilians since the war began. according to the nonpartisan monitoring group -- independent monitoring group yemen data project, between march 2015 and 2018, more than 30% of the saudi-led coalition's targets have been nonmilitary. 30%. a few weeks ago i met with some brave human rights activists from yemen, and they are urging congress to put a stop to this war, and they told me that when
yemenis see "made in u.s.a." on the bombs that are killing them, it tells them that the u.s.a. is responsible for this war. and that is the sad truth. and this is not the message that the united states of america should be sending to the world. mr. president, the bottom line is that the united states should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with a dangerous and irresponsible military policy. above and beyond the humanitarian crisis, this war has been a disaster for our national security and the security of our allies. the administration defends our engagement in yemen by overstating iranian support for the houthi rebels, while iran's support for
houthis is of serious concern to all of us, the fact is that the relationship of iran and the houthis has only been strengthened with the intensification of this war. the war is creating the very problem the administration claims to want to solve. the war is also undermining the broader effort against violent extremists. a 2016 state department report found that the conflict had helped al qaeda and the islamic states, the yemen branch, quote, deepen their inroads across much of the country. so, mr. president, this war is both a humanitarian disaster and a strategic disaster in our fight against international terrorism. further, let us never forget that saudi arabia is an undemocratic
monarchy controlled by one family: the saudi family. in a 2017 report by the conservative cato institute, saudi arabia was ranked 149th out of 159 countries in terms of freedom and human rights. for decades the saudis have funded schools, mosques, who promote an extreme form of islam called wahhibism. in saudi arabia today women are treated as third-class citizens. women still need the permission of a male guardian to go to school or to get a job, have to follow a strict dress code and can be stoned to death for adultery or flogged for spending time in the company of a man who is not their relative. earlier this year saudi activist mujane, a
leader in the fight for women's rights was kidnapped from abu dhabi and held in saudi arabia. she is currently being held without charges. the same is true of many other saudi political activists. sadly, president trump continues to proclaim his love and affection for the saudi regime. the brutality and lawlessness of that regime was made clear to the whole world, made clear to the whole world with the murder of dissident saudi journalist jamal khashoggi in the saudi consulate in turkey. pathetically, as part of his continuing respect for authoritarian regimes around the world, president trump rejected the findings of the c.i.a.'s assessment that the saudi crown prince was responsible for that murder.
finally, and an issue that has long been the concern of many of us, and senator lee touched on that very thoughtfully, it is the united states congress, not the president of the united states, who under our constitution has war-making responsibility. and for too long on the democratic and republican presidents, we have abdicated that responsibility. so today i say to my conservative friends, respect the constitution, reclaim congress' rightful role on the issues of war and peace. congress has not authorized the war in yemen, and, therefore, that war is unconstitutional, and that must change and must change now. mr. president, we are going in a few minutes to undertake a very,
very important vote, and i hope that all of my colleagues, democrats, republicans, independents, will vote to discharge this resolution. thank you. i riefly. why don't you go ahead and then i'll go. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i rise today to speak to senate resolution 54, legislation brought forward by senators lee, sanders, murphy, and others more than eight months ago. the past two years have reminded us time and time again of the urgent responsibility of the congress to perform real checks and balances and to steadfastly defend our american values both at home and abroad. i thank them for their continued efforts throughout this intervening months to shed light on the devastating humanitarian crisis in yemen and to make sure this body fulfills its oversight duties. over the last three and a half years the