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Democrats, Saudis and the rule of law

The Senate just “voted resoundingly” (56-41) to end American military assistance for the Saudi war in Yemen in a “stinging bipartisan” effort (not really; only 7 Republicans supported it) that “would limit presidential war powers and send a potent message of official disapproval” (New York Times). The vote is largely “symbolic,” however, since the House scuttled it and “U.S.-supported measures” can still be used by Trump to continue the war (Marjorie Cohn, Truthout).

Senator Bob Mendenez (D, NJ), senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, stated, “We cannot sweep under the rug the callous disregard for human life and flagrant violations of international norms the Saudis are showing” (Times). He and other Democrats have evidently been asleep the last three years.

Already, 85,000 Yemeni children have died; the United Nations estimates that another 2 million are in danger of starvation. U.S. aid to the Saudi war started under Obama in 2015. During his term in office, the U.S. sold the Saudis $115 billion in weapons, the most of any president in history. During his first term, Democrats had large majorities in Congress; he and they could have easily banned all weapons sales to the Saudis, but did not.

The Democrat-led effort to end U.S. aid to the slaughter makes it appear that senators are upholding their oath of office to “support and defend” the Constitution, especially Article I Section 8: “Congress shall declare war.” Since the U.S.-aided Saudi war is unconstitutional and illegal under the U.N. Charter, if Democrats were serious they would vote to impeach Trump for this high crime. It’s a golden opportunity, but they refuse to do the right thing for the right reason.

With attorney Michael Cohen’s conviction for his involvement in hush-money payments from Trump to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model, we may witness the grotesque spectacle of the president being impeached for lying about affairs and obstruction of justice — but not for his role in the killing and starving of Yemeni children. This speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of our political system and elected officials.

For the past three years, the Yemeni victims have been largely invisible to U.S. politicians and the corporate media. Historian Paul Street argues that there’s been a great “disparity between the huge attention corporate American media gave to Saudi Arabia’s killing” of one Washington Post contributor and the lack of attention to the “U.S.-funded and U.S.-equipped crucifixion of Yemen.” These media have shown little “indignation over the systematic starvation, sickening, maiming, and murder of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis.” Essentially, they “are unworthy victims casualties on the wrong end of the guns and bomb and missile sites owned and operated by the U.S. and its client states and allies” (Counterpunch).

Trump’s presidential embrace with the Saudi regime is not new; it began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945 and has continued to this day. Defense of the murderous monarchy did not end even after it was implicated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as victims were dropped down George Orwell’s 1984 memory hole.

Historian Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, has addressed Saudi involvement in 9/11 and the War on Terror (Tom Dispatch): “Who then, in this Long War of ours [against terrorism], is our adversary? Who is in league with these [jihadi terrorists]? Who underwrites their cause? It’s the Saudi royal family.” The U.S., therefore, has been “fighting the wrong enemy for years” since the “problem remains Saudi Arabia.” Why didn’t Democrats figure this out years ago?

Recently, a demonstration was held in Ashland to defend the rule of law and to support Robert Mueller’s (FBI director during the Abu Ghraib torture scandal) investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. These protesters, however, have been remarkably silent on the U.S.-aided Saudi war. Perhaps the rule of law defenders can enlighten us on why this important legal principle does not apply to U.S. presidents who engage in criminal and unconstitutional acts of violence against children.

John Marciano lives in Talent.