Far from the ISIS-inspired headlines of Syria, Saudi Arabia has pretty calmly and easily been engaged in an endless series of war crimes in Yemen. Its policy had always been to keep Yemen weak, but not in total chaos. A kind of war madness has led them to abandon the second part of that. They are far from the only antagonists in the horrific dissolve of the nation, but they are the most powerful, and they are flexing that power in terrible ways.
And they are doing it with arms and support from the US. It is US-made planes dropping US-made bombs on hospitals and schools, with a ferocity that has led a normally-placid UN to try to stop them. From raw self-interest, this is a terrible policy for the US. From a human level, it is a nightmare.
Finally, nearly 60 congresspeople are trying to at least slow down the arms funnel, as Foreign Policy reports.
In a sign that frustration is growing in Congress over Saudi Arabia, a bipartisan group of 60 lawmakers have signed a letter seeking to delay the Obama administration’s planned sale of $1.15 billion in arms and military equipment to Riyadh.
The proposed sale, approved by the State Department on Aug. 9, includes up to 153 tanks, ammunition, hundreds of machine guns, and sundry other military equipment. Congress has 30 days to block the sale, but the lawmakers appear irritated that the notification of the sale came in the middle of Congress’s summer recess.
“Any decision to sell more arms to Saudi Arabia should be given adequate time for full deliberation by Congress,” wrote the lawmakers. “We are concerned, however, that the timing of this notification during the August congressional recess could be interpreted to mean that Congress has little time to consider the arms deal when it returns from recess within the 30 day window established by law.”
Part of this is territorial and bureaucratic, of course: Congress is angry about being bypassed. But they absolutely should be. The loss of Congressional prerogative in foreign policy has been a slow-rolling disaster for the US, as it allows enormously important decisions to be shaped, essentially, by the will of one branch, which in turn is shaped by the will of one person. Even when I trust the POTUS, and respect their judgment, having the lives of millions come down to one “decided” is monstrous. Leaving everyone else to deal with the ramifications of those decisions is essentially undemocratic.
So there should be more letters like this, both for the sake of our democracy, and to help the people who are being brutalized and pummeled into dust with our munitions. Slowing down the flow of arms into the Middle East, and particularly to the combatants in Yemen, is never a bad policy.