The War on Yemen and the Trump Administration’s Contempt for the Law
By: DANIEL LARISON
The Trump administration has ignored yet another mandated deadline for reporting to Congress on Yemen:
A senior Pentagon official had pledged to deliver the strategy report at the beginning of March after failing to meet a Feb. 1 deadline mandated by law.
In recent months, the Trump administration has disregarded several certification requirements from Congress. In February, the State Department refused to say whether the Saudi-led force had reduced civilian casualties in the Yemeni conflict. And the White House failed to respond to lawmakers’ query about whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last year, the administration met the first certification deadline by brazenly lying to Congress that the Saudi coalition was successfully reducing harm to civilians in Yemen. Congress completely failed to hold Secretary Pompeo accountable for those lies, and the administration has obviously concluded that it can get away with disregarding these requirements. For the last several months, both the Secretary of State and the Pentagon have simply refused to comply with the law. In this case, the Pentagon probably can’t “detail specific US diplomatic and national security objectives” because the only discernible objective of reflexive support for the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen is to indulge them in whatever they want to do. An administration that has illegally involved the U.S. in the war on Yemen for more than two years obviously won’t have any respect for legal requirements set by Congress when they can’t even be bothered to respect the Constitution.
The administration’s contempt for the law and their disrespect for Congress are additional reasons why the House should vote on and pass the antiwar Yemen resolution that the Senate passed earlier this month. Beyond that, Congress needs to increase pressure on the Saudi and Emirati governments with additional measures to cut off arms sales and hearings to scrutinize the numerous human rights abuses and war crimes committed by their forces and their proxies.
When war supporters object that Congress risks undermining the U.S.-Saudi relationship, it is important for members of Congress to know that it is Mohammed bin Salman who has jeopardized the relationship through his reckless and destructive behavior. The Saudi government has been desperately lying about its conduct in Yemen and elsewhere to the U.S. and the entire world, and the crown prince has proven himself to be completely unreliable and strikingly incompetent at everything except grabbing more power for himself:
“We know who this guy is, we know what he’s capable of, and treating him like he’s an ally or a reliable partner is totally untenable,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former US Agency for International Development director during the Obama administration.
The Saudi government has made itself a liability to the U.S. Since the administration puts Saudi Arabia first and won’t do anything to defend American interests, it falls to Congress to do what the president won’t.
The views expressed in this article belong to the authors.