Will Congress Affirm its Constitutional Power to Stop the War in Yemen?
Articles Blog

Will Congress Affirm its Constitutional Power to Stop the War in Yemen?

August 23, 2019


It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Two resolutions are making their way through
the U.S. Congress at the moment that could represent one of the first serious efforts
in decades for Congress to reclaim its constitutionally guaranteed authority to declare or not to
declare war. House Concurrent Resolution 81 and Senate
Joint Resolution 54 could instruct the Pentagon to stop supporting Saudi Arabia in its war
in Yemen. The war has so far killed over 10000 Yemenis
and wounded another 40000 and caused the worst cholera outbreak in history, not to mention
the food scarcity, medicine scarcity that Yemen is going through that is unavailable
for the civilians there. In a sign that Saudi Arabia is worried that
Congress might stop Pentagon support for the war in Yemen, Prince Mohammed bin Salman is
visiting Washington DC this week to lobby for continued support for the war effort. Joining me now to discuss efforts to stop
U.S. support for the war in Yemen is Larry Wilkerson. Larry is former chief of staff to Secretary
of State Colin Powell, now a distinguished professor at the College of William and Mary. Larry, good to have you back. Good evening, Sharmini. Larry, what does the U.S. Constitution say
about who has the authority to declare war in the U.S. and why? Section 1, or Article 1 Section 8, is pretty
clear. I think it’s crystal clear. And it’s crystal clear about historical terms
and modern terms. It says Congress. It says Congress has the power to declare
war and grant letters of marque and reprisal. Marque and reprisal letters to that effect
were essentially authorizations to go out and the pirates, be privateers for the state
more or less, for the monarchy, to whom in the past all these powers belonged. The king, in other words, and in our case
George the Third. So when the founders, people like Madison
and others who knew all these issues and really debated them seriously, later would write
about them in the Federalist Papers, Hamilton and others, they made sure that all the residue
of war, if you will, all the powers associated with war, even this power to declare privateers
and allow them to go out and raid your enemy ships, for example, for profit, profit that
of course ultimately accrued to the monarch because he got that particular item or whatever
away from his enemy. Even those things were given to the Congress. So they were very clear. They were just crystal clear that they were
taking all the powers that had accrued to the monarch in the past, to the King, and
giving them to the Congress of the United States, who they argued were closer to the
American people. They’d love to have given them to the people. But that was not tenable. You couldn’t do that. So they gave them to the next best thing:
The representatives of the American people, a congress of the United States legislature. That’s where the war power was rested, and
as far as the Constitution, and now the War Powers Act of 1973 is concerned as whether
those powers still are. Currently, Larry, the U.S. military is providing
military aid to Saudi Arabia in the form of arms sales. Of course, targeting advice and on air refueling
missions. But in a recent Senate hearing Sen. Elizabeth
Warren questioned the head of the U.S. Central Command General Votel now whether the U.S.
military knows what Saudi Arabia is doing with U.S. support. Here’s the exchange between them. Let’s listen. General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose
of the missions that it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft
is going, what targets it strikes, and the results of the mission? Senator, we do not. General Votel, when you receive reports like
this from credible media organizations or outside observers, is CENTCOM able to tell
whether U.S. fuel or U.S. munitions were used as part of that strike? Senator, no, I don’t believe we are. Larry, how can it be that the U.S. military
is so uninterested in what U.S. military support is being used for in Saudi Arabia? I remember listening to that exchange , Sharmini,
and I was in one way amused and in another way appalled for Gen. Votel to say that, or
to imply, that we don’t have the ability to do that was simple nonsense when we can track
Russian jet or a Syrian jet to its target and watch it drop its munitions. That’s nonsense. What he was saying is we’re not applying that
high tech capability to do that, even with a plane every now and then, because we don’t
want to know. We simply don’t want to know because what
we know is those Saudi pilots are often dropping their bombs from very high altitude, because
they are not courageous enough to go down lower where they might get shot at, and they
are very often missing their target even with the very sophisticated PGMs, precision guided
munitions, made for them by such stellar companies as Raytheon. So there is a very disingenuous answer that
Gen. Votel gave, and I wish our senators and our representatives had more knowledge and
expertise with regard to military operations so they could ask better questions and then
follow up on them when they get such a disingenuous answer. Larry, as I was watching the general I was
wondering whether he was not answering Elizabeth Warren because he realizes the jeopardy he
puts himself in, and of course the military of the United States. And if he answers affirmatively or provides
any other answer than the one he provided, because this is an illegal war being conducted
by Saudi Arabia and we have the United States military aiding and abiding in that illegal
war. Sharmini, I’d love to say yes you’re right,
but I won’t because we committed war crimes during the administration of which I was a
part, George W. Bush, ranging from torture to killing innocent civilians. This is something that the United States,
does as Thucydides declared very very wisely, if sadly, those that have the power do, and
those that don’t have the power get it done to them. All right, Larry. Turning a little bit in terms of this same
issue, Defense Secretary General John Mattis recently also weighed in on this debate when
he sent a letter to Congress to stop the Sanders Senate Resolution 54 from being passed. In his letter General Mattis gave three main
arguments for continued U.S. support for Saudi Arabia. The first is that Saudi Arabia is acting in
self defense. Second is that without U.S. support Saudi
Arabia would kill even more civilians. And third is that the U.S. needs to support,
essentially, an ally such as Saudi Arabia. What is your reaction to these three arguments? All three of them are nonsense, and I’m really
ashamed of Jim Mattis for making them. I understand the pressure he’s under to make
them, but the arguments just don’t make any sense. First of all, the Saudis are under no threat
from the Yemeni. They simply aren’t. Second, the implication there of course is
that the Saudis, and this is an implication that the area’s people are taking on board,
too, are really a proxy of the United States in its war, ongoing war, of words, and soon
to be probably real implements of war, Iran. And the Saudis are acting as our proxy in
prosecuting their war. So by that stretch it’s a defensive war against
Iran. The idea that the Saudis are not doing things
that are beyond the pale with regard to violating humanitarian and other strictures is also
not, it’s just not operable. It’s not the truth. The Saudis are bombing ruthlessly civilian
targets, indiscriminately. They’re bombing food stores and foodstuffs
and water and water sources so that they can’t get the clean water they need in order to
combat most effectively this cholera epidemic. And the legal argument that they’re advancing
is simply blown out of water by all legal scholars that are worth a damn in this country. Who talk about Section 8c of the War Powers
Act. It’s the same argument that Obama administration
lawyers tried to advance initially with regard to Libya, that there weren’t any real hostilities
there and all we were doing was helping another effort for the right or the responsibility
to protect humanitarian operation, and so forth. But when you’re dropping bombing bombs and
you’re killing people those are hostilities. I don’t care if you’re completely immune from
it, as we often are, because we’re doing it from the air where no one can touch us. But you are engaged in hostilities. And as I said legal scholars are looking at
the War Powers Act, Title 50, Chapter 33 Section 15, 41-48. We have upheld this view that this is, in
fact, hostility. So all the arguments that the secretary of
defense registered. I might understand why he’s registering them
because he sees this as perhaps a return of a little bit of the war powers to Congress,
and no military person over there wants that to happen. They want the executive to be able to declare
war any time the executive wants to. And of course, that suits them just fine. They don’t want abridgments on the executive’s
power to start wars, to continue wars, to support other people in their wars, and so
forth. But I certainly don’t support this particular
instance of that happening, because it’s an egregious violation of everything we’re supposed
to value and stand for, and we’re doing it, Sharmini, we’re doing it with the greatest
state sponsor of terrorism on the face of the earth. I keep trying to remind the American people
that 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, and that Saudi money is still going
to finance the worst forms of Wahhabism, the worst Salafist, the worst types of terrorists
in the name of Islam on the face of the earth. This is just unbelievable that we’re still
doing this. Larry, off the top I indicated that this week
we are expecting a visit by Prince Salman to Washington DC. In the past we’ve discussed the influence
that the Saudis have in Washington. And of course, that weighs in. And of course the prince is also being received
with such regalia and there, I should say he’s being received at the White House. He is attending a cultural event at the Kennedy
Center. There is apparently a gala dinner being planned
for him. All of which is going to be protested by Code
Pink and organizers of the peace movement here in the U.S., those struggling to stop
the war in Yemen. But give us a sense of how Saudi Arabia has
such influence in Washington, and why. Mohamed bin Salman’s welcome to Washington
has thus far, both in his own spoken words and in some of the actions, as you demonstrated
in your commentary, have exemplified, been something akin to welcoming Torquemada of
the Inquisition, because yesterday he let a particular individual survive. I mean this is just insane. What they’re talking about with regard to
this boy-king being the great reformer, the great change agent, for Saudi Arabia in the
House of Saud, and so forth. And look at what he’s begun to say already. He’s begun to say all the things that we who
knew what he would say, and predicted he would say, that the Saudis are going out of their
way, spending countless hours and energy and even dollars to make sure that they don’t
bomb people that shouldn’t be bombed. Well, all the facts argue against that. Sorry, Mohammed bin Salman. He’s saying things like Iran is the great
perpetrator, the great evil, the great force that Saudi Arabia is really fighting, implying
he’s doing it for the United States in Yemen. Well I’m sorry, Mohammed bin Salman. The Iranians did not even come to Yemen at
all in any strength until you started doing what you were doing in Yemen with the UAE
and others. The things that he’s saying are things that
are so propagandistic, so childishly, even infantile. I mean, they don’t even register with the
level of things that, for example, we did in the first Iraq war when we were talking
about babies being unhooked from their incubators and so forth. Everyone propagandizes, particularly when
they’re in war. You’ve got money like the Saudis have. And they bought a lot of American companies
in order to do this propaganda. You would think that the prince himself could
put out some better lines than just the blatant lies and obfuscations and twisting of the
truth. But that’s essentially what he’s doing. And to your question about why. Because he’s got billions, billions behind
and he can buy American companies to do this for him. He can buy the White House. Let’s face it, the only reason that the United
States stays cheek in jowl with Saudi Arabia is oil and money, money and oil. Oil and money, money and oil. How many times do we have to say it? And I understand also, Larry, that as we speak
Pentagon is currently considering a $1 billion in new sales of arms and weaponry to Saudi
Arabia and who has to benefit from that? The weapons companies that have such a lobby
in Washington. And also contemplating a whole new panoply
of nuclear capability for Saudi Arabia. This is, this is tantamount to real danger,
here. And talking about that nuclear capability
in a way of compromise with the Saudis, who do not want to be hampered in any way in having
that capability, such that they would be pretty much free to do, for example, what Iran has
already done. That’s been the odd side of the argument,
that they ought to have the same capacity as Iran. Well, Iran had already gotten up to some 19000
or so centrifuges, already had a very viable program. If the Saudis want to come in at that level
we might as well just say here, have a bomb or two. And as far as I know Saudi Arabia is also
signatory to the NPT. Yes. And they would probably go into negotiations
with Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement with Iran. They have this, this, and this, and in 15-20
years they will have this, this, and this. So why don’t you just give us everything up
front so we’re at least in a balanced position with Iran? Well, this is not what the NPT regime was
intended for, and Iran’s a special case right now, being wrested back, if you will, from
a very front-leaning position to a position in conformity with the NPT safeguards agreement,
additional protocols, and so forth. And of course, a very robust inspection routine
set up under the nuclear agreement itself. So to claim that you have to have equality
with Iran, OK, fine, let’s sign an agreement with them that’s just as draconian as the
one we have with Iran. All right, Larry, I thank you so much for
joining us today. And we’ll be following the visit of Prince
Salman to Washington, DC, and we hope to have you back at the end of the week. Well, let’s say this, Sharmini. Everyone should be pushing, everyone who cares,
should be pushing hard for this Senate Joint Resolution 54. This might be the very first step in getting
Congress to resume its constitutional responsibility for this country killing people. Thank you for joining us, Larry. Thanks for having me. Thank you for watching the Real News Network.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. You simply can't dictate your allies.
    You trust allies you don't trust enemy's therefore it's not reasonable or worth the cost.and sadly Yemen was hijacked and harbored houthz to launch a take over of Saudi.
    Now how you determine its a illegal war I've got no clue.
    If it's a threat to your souvergnty its a legal war if it's even a such of thing as legal war.
    You see it as it is, Iran funded a take over of Saudi leadership and used Yemen. Now yemens paying for it.

  2. Great discussion sharmini, very insightful as always. Very pleased to hear code pink will be protesting the prince visiting here. Could the real news snag some coverage of that event or at least interview Medea Benjamin about it before and/or after so we can get some information about it? Code pink seems like the closest thing the US has to an anti war movement and we really desperately need one. Glad to hear code pink will be doing their part.

  3. Suadi's were patsies of the Zionists, it was Zionist israel that did 9/11 and I can't believe Wilkerson hasn't found this yet. End zionism now, its the bane of our futures.
    peace

  4. The Saudi' motive is acquisition. Their war on a defenseless Yemen is nothing short of craven..
    At the tip of Yemen there is an 8 mile stretch to cross the Red Sea to Djibouti, Africa That can be forded easily by bridge or tunnel. This would connect Saudi Arabia to the Chinese high speed train that will cross the width of Africa, from Djibouti to Dakar, Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean. This is their long range plan if it cost the lives of every single Yemeni. Don't Believe me? Just look on the map…

  5. ©™ ALX 🌍 Armed 🔫 Liberation ⛓ Xecutive 🕶 Observation ✍✍

    The war in YEMEN is brought to you by the American Zionist Saudi Egyptian UAE UK French Septet sponsored by Transnational Corporations who finance congressmen and White House campaigns and inturn use the military and CIA NSA FBI to leverage access to resources and markets for the benefit of stockholders equity and dividends and capital gains are dictating foreign policy for Uncle Sam who's dictating foreign policy for NATO coalition and EU members.

  6. Even if we believe Yemen is a "threat" to Saudi Arabia, why does Saudi Arabia have to bomb innocent Yemini civilians? surly Not all Yeminis are a threat to Saudi Arabia. So Why doesn't Saudi Arabia go to Yemen and arrest the sources of that imaginary "threats" instead of bombing poor innocent Yeminis so indiscriminately?
    So Yemen is NOT a threat to Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia is the only threat to Yemen and the whole world.
    Death to Saudi Arabia, the root of all terrorism.
    and death to anyone who supports this EVIL global terrorist Saudi beasts.

  7. If there is no Saudi monarchy, someone over there will still want to sell oil to us. Might be a bit more difficult to sell weapons, but they will need to buy other stuff. Like food.

  8. No because they are bought and paid for with Saudi money! Congress is a corrupt joke that nobody with an IQ over 90 respect!

  9. they say history is written by the winners. so too must be the dictionaries. war is an inadequate word to describe rampage rape looting and destruction, murder and naming of men women and children. it's industrialized carnage

  10. Now that the Americans and Europeans have sold billions and billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi’s, congress has woken up to put on a show and put an end to the war in Yemen.

  11. I've lost almost all respect for Wilkerson after his strong cynical stance against peace with North Korea!

  12. This is what I don't understand. How can these extremist groups be state sponsored by Saudi Arabia when those groups hate the Saudi government and want to take it down? 1979 is the prime example.

  13. The military sure goes to great lengths to make sure that their underpaid members aren't using government fuel for personal vehicles.

  14. Saudi intervention in Yemen isn't morally or legally any different to Russian involvement in Syria. Saudi was invited to intervene in Yemen by the elected legitimate Yemeni government. Why is it ok for the elected government of Syria to defend itself against fanatical terrorists but wrong for the elected government of Yemen to defend themselves against fanatical terrorists?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *