In the end, there wasn’t much question about them doing the right thing. If for some reason we naively wondered what the outgoing Republican majority would do before the door hit them on the ass, it is now clear: consolidate and ruin as much as possible. Under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who is the worst, misery and destruction has been their animating principle for years now; why would it change?
They didn’t start with taxes or women’s rights or reversing the Americans with Disability Act or anything, though. They decided to maximize cruelty by letting Saudi Arabia reap unchecked through Yemen for at least two more months.
Almost all Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted with Ryan to strip privilege from a bill endorsed by top Democrats that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudis and their allies in the four-year civil war in Yemen. Without privilege, the House leadership can ignore the bill. In other words, it’s now almost certain that the House won’t deal with the legislation ― and, more broadly, the conflict itself ― until Democrats take charge next year.Huffington Post
It isn’t that things would change dramatically over the next couple of months, least of all for Yemen. The grinding conflict would continue. Even if Saudi Arabia was suddenly forced to cease all military actions (which they wouldn’t), the internal fighting, which is the real show, would carry on.
And even if the fighting somehow miraculously ended, if a show of resolution by the US Congress would convince enemies to lay down arms and take up bread (it wouldn’t), the truth remains that there is no bread. The famine would continue. Disease would continue to spread. Barring a massive international effort to save the nation, there would be little material difference.
Why Ryan’s Actions Matter
So what difference does it make? How is this more important than just garden-variety GOP sociopathy?
It matters because it clearly signals to MBS that the Republican Party intends to let him continue his war, because Saudi Arabia has joined Russia and Israel as conservative totem countries, which is really weird, though it makes sense (they are all led by pseudo-macho right-wing authoritarian religious bigots). It is also a signal that Trump won’t really do anything to interfere, though anyone who thinks there is a “clear signal” involving Trump is a fool.
(Which, incidentally, MBS might be. In a stroke of luck, his appointed Prosecutor found that his agents are responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, and is recommending the death penalty for five of them. Demonstrating your willingness to blame and then kill your henchmen is not exactly a guarantor of regime stability!
It’s true that the Democrats have made ending US involvement in this war one of their top priorities. Nancy Pelosi (who better be the Speaker, dammit) has made it clear that she intends to strip funding. There is enough of a Dem majority to make this happen.
It’s unclear what will happen next. Absent help from the White House, this might be meaningless. It’s very possible the admin and the Pentagon will simply ignore Congress. It’s happened before, and we live in a time where such an action would be met largely with shrugs. It’s also true the US could help perpetuate the war indirectly. There’s no end to indifferent venality.
But, at the very least, the delay by Ryan gives Saudi Arabia time. It gives him at least a few more months to consolidate gains, which will almost certainly ramp up Yemen’s misery as we move toward our holidays. It seems the only war that Paul Ryan and the GOP think brings actual suffering is the War on Christmas. May they all rot in hell.