- Congress has failed to hold a vote on whether it should authorize US military force in Yemen, where a civil war has left more than 10,000 people dead since 2015. A reporter for The Intercept caught up with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to ask them about the legal justification for getting involved in the war – few answered. The US military has supported a Saudi-led coalition, which has conducted bombing campaigns and closed all land, sea, and air access to Yemen.
Congress has never authorized US involvement in the war in Yemen.
As the conflict escalates amid increasing bombing attacks by the US-backed Saudi coalition, Lee Fang, a reporter for The Intercept, tracked down nearly a dozen members of Congress in Washington to ask why there hasn’t been a vote.
While a few said they would consider debating and voting on authorizing US war efforts in Yemen, others avoided the topic or dismissed Fang’s questions altogether.
When asked for a legal justification for US involvement in Yemen, Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, for example, told Fang, “I’m in the middle of tax reform right now.”
Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said they didn’t have time to talk while Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said, “I think we’ve got to look closer at it.”
Rep. Darrell Issa of California appeared to mistake Fang as a representative for some type of special interest lobbying firm.
“I’m not agreeing to do an interview, so I’m not really interested in having a conversation. I don’t even know your firm,” Issa said.
Opposition in Congress
- Kevin Lamarque
In the days following 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force, giving the president wide-ranging powers to order force against individuals, organizations, and countries supportive of international terrorism “in order to prevent any future acts … against the United States.”
Some members of Congress, including Reps. Anthony Brown of Maryland and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, believe the AUMF is outdated and should be modernized.
“We ought to do a new [AUMF] based on modern times,” Griffith said. “A congress from the early 2000s should not be dictating policy in 2017.”
Under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the authorization was used to justify the deployment of US forces to Afghanistan, the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia.
“We need to end this AUMF because it is completely out of control,” Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke told Fang. “The indiscriminate bombing campaign [in Yemen] by Saudi Arabia has been aided in some part by the United States. So we are culpable in part for what’s going on.”
Since 2015, more than 10,000 people have died in Yemen’s civil war. The spread of cholera and a worsening famine have triggered a severe humanitarian crisis that is showing few signs of slowing down anytime soon.
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