Why 55 U.S. Senators Voted for Genocide in Yemen

Tuesday’s debate and vote in the U.S. Senate on whether to end (technically whether or not to vote on whether to end) U.S. participation in the war on Yemen can certainly be presented as a step forward. While 55 U.S. Senators voted to keep the war rolling along, 44 voted not to table the resolution to end it. Of those 44, some, including “leaders” like Senator Chuck Schumer, said not a word in the debate and only voted the right way once the wrong way had won. And conceivably some could say they were voting in favor of having a vote, upon which they would have voted for more war. But it’s safe to say that at least most of the 44 were voting to end a war — and many of them explicitly said so.

I use the phrase “end a war,” despite the fact that Saudi Arabia could continue its war without U.S. participation — in part, because it’s easier, and in part because experts have suggested that Saudi Arabia could not do anything like what it is doing without the participation of the U.S. military in identifying targets and refueling planes. It is of course also true that were the United States to go beyond what was under consideration on Tuesday and cease providing Saudi Arabia with planes and bombs, and use its influence as an oil customer and general war partner to pressure Saudi Arabia to end the war and lift the blockade, the war might end entirely. And millions of human lives might be spared.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has for years been a leading proponent of getting Congress to authorize wars, making clear that he wanted to keep those wars going but with Congressional authorization. This time was different. Kaine pushed publicly for votes to end U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. He and even his colleague from Virginia Mark Warner (!) voted to end the U.S. war. I’m not sure any senator from Virginia had ever done such a thing before. And, in fact, no senator from anywhere had ever voted on a resolution raised under the War Powers Act before, because this was the first time any senator had bothered to try such a thing. Kaine tweeted:

“Millions in Yemen may starve and 10,000-plus are dead because of a war with no end in sight, that the U.S. has stumbled into. Proud to support this proposal to direct the removal of U.S. armed forces.”

“Stumbled into”? Forget it, he’s rolling.

And Kaine was the least of it. To watch Dianne Feinstein argue for ending a war had a very Twilight Zone aspect to it. Look through the list of who voted “Nay” and re-define them in your mind as people who under just the right conditions (possibly including guaranteed failure to reach a majority) will sometimes vote to end a war. I’d call that progress.

But if you watch the debate via C-Span, the top question in your mind might not be “What incredible activism, information, accident, or luck got 44 people to vote the right way?” but rather “Why did 55 cheerful, well-fed, safe people in suits just vote for mass-murder?” Why did they? Why did they take a break for political party meetings in the middle of the debate, and debate other legislation just before and after this resolution, and walk around and chat with each other exactly as if all were normal, while voting for genocide?

The facts of the matter were presented very clearly in the debate by numerous U.S. senators from both parties. They denounced war lies as “lies.” They pointed out the horrendous damage, the deaths, the injuries, the starvation, the cholera. They cited Saudi Arabia’s explicit and intentional use of starvation as a weapon. They noted the blockade against humanitarian aid imposed by Saudi Arabia. They endlessly discussed the biggest cholera epidemic ever known. Here’s a tweet from Senator Chris Murphy:

“Gut check moment for the Senate today: we will vote on whether to continue the U.S./Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen which has killed over 10,000 civilians and created the largest cholera outbreak in history.”

Senator Jeff Merkley asked if partnering with a government trying to starve millions of people to death squared with the principles of the United States of America. I tweeted a response: “Should I tell him or wait and let his colleagues do it?” In the end, 55 of his colleagues answered his question as well as any history book could have done.

The ridiculousness of arguments for continuing the war was called out by senators on the floor. Senator Mitch McConnell and others made the claim made to them by Secretary of War (“Defense”) James Mattis, that ending U.S. participation in bombing civilians in Yemen would mean more civilian deaths in Yemen, not fewer. Others trotted out the claim made by Trump’s lawyers, parroting Obama’s lawyer Harold Koh, that bombing a nation flat is neither “war” nor “hostilities” if U.S. troops are not on the ground being shot.

Senator Bernie Sanders put a stop to such nonsense. He recommended trying telling the people of Yemen being bombed with U.S. bombs and U.S. targeting and U.S.-fueled planes that the United States is not really involved.

The idea that the full Senate should leave to a committee a matter the committee had not bother to touch in years was also appropriately laughed out of court.

Senator Mike Lee reassured his colleagues that ending the U.S. war on Yemen on grounds of illegality wouldn’t slow or halt any other illegal US wars. (I’m sure you’re relieved to hear that!)

To their credit, Senators Murphy and Lee and Sanders were very clear that a vote to table, rather than directly vote on, their resolution to end the war, would be a cowardly vote not to have a debate and not to obey the U.S. Constitution. And to their greater credit, they went ahead and had the substantive debate prior to the vote to table. In the past on at least one occasion of the many times that we’ve seen such resolutions brought forward in the House, the war-proponents talked substance while the opponents talked only procedure. This change, too, was progress.

So, why? Why did the Senate vote for genocide? And why is nobody surprised by it?

Well, the arguments made by the Senators on the right side of the debate certainly left something to be desired. Sanders spoke of the dead in the wars on Vietnam and Iraq, and they were all Americans. He said the war on Vietnam almost destroyed an entire generation of Americans. This was a war that killed 6 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, plus 50,000 from the United States. How can people come to think about one-sided slaughters if we pretend they don’t really exist?

Senator Tom Udall said that from WWII until the presidency of Donald Trump the United States was a noble, law-abiding, altruistic leader of spreading democracy, although not quite perfectly. In so saying, Udall bestows on Trump a sort of magical power, as well as rewriting U.S. history. The U.S. public was allowed no vote on Tuesday. Neither was Trump.

The resolution itself was limited, marred by loopholes, and not truly whipped for by many of those who voted against tabling it. Perhaps a stronger resolution would have failed even more badly. Or perhaps a more coherent case against war would have been more persuasive. I do not know. But the notion that you should arm and assist the Saudi dictatorship in bombing people when it’s called anti-ISIS and not when it’s called anti-Houthi seems a trickier case to make than the one that you should stop arming and assisting in the slaughter of human beings, generating more enemies, impoverishing the public, draining funds from human needs, damaging the environment, eroding the rule of law, imperializing the presidency, militarizing your culture and schools and police, and aligning your government with a brutal monarchy.

Perhaps that’s a case that has to be made to the public first and then to the senators, but many senators made clear how they were thinking. Lee was not off in trying to reassure them about the setting of precedents. One of them openly worried that if refueling bombers that were blowing up people’s homes in one country was counted as “hostilities,” then refueling bombers that were blowing up people’s homes in any country could be counted as “hostilities.” And then what kind of a world would we have?!

So, a vote against one war is never just a vote against one war. It’s a vote to challenge, if ever so slightly, the power of the war machine. These Senators are paid not to do that.

Here is a list of Senators and their 2018 bribes (excuse me, campaign contributions) from dealers of death (excuse me, defense companies). I’ve indicated how they voted on tabling Tuesday’s resolution with a Y or N. A pro-war vote is a Y:

Nelson, Bill (D-FL)     $184,675                               Y

Strange, Luther (R-AL)         $140,450                   not in senate

Kaine, Tim (D-VA)     $129,109                               N

McSally, Martha (R-AZ)       $125,245                   not in senate

Heinrich, Martin (D-NM)     $109,731                   N

Wicker, Roger (R-MS)           $109,625                   Y

Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)       $89,900                     Y

Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) $89,156                                 Y

King, Angus (I-ME)   $86,100                                 N

Fischer, Deb (R-NE) $74,850                                 Y

Hatch, Orrin G (R-UT)           $74,375                     Y

McCaskill, Claire (D-MO)     $65,518                     N

Cardin, Ben (D-MD) $61,905                                 N

Manchin, Joe (D-WV)           $61,050                                 Y

Cruz, Ted (R-TX)       $55,315                                 Y

Jones, Doug (D-AL)   $55,151                                 Y

Tester, Jon (D-MT)   $53,438                                 N

Hirono, Mazie K (D-HI)         $47,100                     N

Cramer, Kevin (R-ND)         $46,000                     not in Senate

Murphy, Christopher S (D-CT)       $44,596         N

Sinema, Kyrsten (D-AZ)       $44,140                     not in Senate

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)     $41,013                     N

Cantwell, Maria (D-WA)       $40,010                     N

Reed, Jack (D-RI)       $37,277                                 Y

Inhofe, James M (R-OK)       $36,500                     Y

Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)   $36,140                     N

Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY)   $33,210                     N

Rubio, Marco (R-FL) $32,700                                 Y

McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)     $31,500                     Y

Flake, Jeff (R-AZ)       $29,570                                 Y

Perdue, David (R-GA)           $29,300                     Y

Heitkamp, Heidi (D-ND)       $28,124                     Y

Barrasso, John A (R-WY)     $27,500                     Y

Corker, Bob (R-TN)   $27,125                                 Y

Warner, Mark (D-VA)           $26,178                     N

Sullivan, Dan (R-AK) $26,000                                 Y

Heller, Dean (R-NV) $25,200                                 Y

Schatz, Brian (D-HI) $23,865                                 N

Blackburn, Marsha (R-TN)   $22,906                     not in Senate

Brown, Sherrod (D-OH)       $21,373                     N

Cochran, Thad (R-MS)         $21,050                     Y

Baldwin, Tammy (D-WI)     $20,580                     N

Casey, Bob (D-PA)     $19,247                                 N

Peters, Gary (D-MI) $19,000                                 N

Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)     $18,350                     N

Moore, Roy (R-AL)     $18,250                                 not in Senate

Jenkins, Evan (R-WV)           $17,500                     not in Senate

Tillis, Thom (R-NC)   $17,000                                 Y

Blunt, Roy (R-MO)     $16,500                                 Y

Moran, Jerry (R-KS) $14,500                                 N

Collins, Susan M (R-ME)       $14,000                     N

Hoeven, John (R-ND)           $13,000                                 Y

Durbin, Dick (D-IL)   $12,786                                 N

Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI)           $12,721                     Y

Messer, Luke (R-IN) $12,000                                 not in Senate

Cornyn, John (R-TX) $11,000                                 Y

Cotton, Tom (R-AR)   $11,000                                 Y

Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK)       $11,000                     Y

O’Rourke, Beto (D-TX)         $10,564                     not in Senate

Rounds, Mike (R-SD)           $10,000                                 Y

Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA)   $9,766                                   N

Rosen, Jacky (D-NV) $9,655                                               not in Senate

Sasse, Ben (R-NE)     $9,350                                               Y

Portman, Rob (R-OH)           $8,500                                   Y

Nicholson, Kevin (R-WI)       $8,350                                   not in Senate

Rosendale, Matt (R-MT)       $8,100                                   not in Senate

Menendez, Robert (D-NJ)   $8,005                                   Y

Boozman, John (R-AR)         $8,000                                   Y

Toomey, Pat (R-PA) $7,550                                               Y

Carper, Tom (D-DE) $7,500                                               N

Crapo, Mike (R-ID)   $7,000                                               Y

Daines, Steven (R-MT)         $6,500                                   N

Ernst, Joni (R-IA)       $6,500                                               Y

Kennedy, John (R-LA)         $6,000                                   Y

Sanders, Bernie (I-VT)         $5,989                                   N

Scott, Tim (R-SC)       $5,500                                               Y

Ward, Kelli (R-AZ)     $5,125                                               not in Senate

Enzi, Mike (R-WY)     $5,000                                               Y

Fincher, Steve (R-TN)           $5,000                                   not in Senate

Isakson, Johnny (R-GA)       $5,000                                   Y

Lankford, James (R-OK)       $5,000                                   Y

Shelby, Richard C (R-AL)     $5,000                                   Y

Duckworth, Tammy (D-IL)   $4,535                                   N

Burr, Richard (R-NC)           $4,000                                               Y

Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV)         $4,000                       Y

Gardner, Cory (R-CO)           $4,000                                   Y

Mandel, Josh (R-OH) $3,550                                               not in Senate

Hassan, Maggie (D-NH)       $3,217                                   N

Hartson, Alison (D-CA)         $3,029                                   not in Senate

Brakey, Eric (R-ME) $3,000                                               not in Senate

Diehl, Geoff (R-MA)   $3,000                                               not in Senate

Downing, Troy (R-MT)         $2,700                                   not in Senate

Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN)     $2,498                                   N

Blumenthal, Richard (D-CT)           $2,090                                   N

Coons, Chris (D-DE) $2,027                                               Y

Leahy, Patrick (D-VT)           $2,002                                   N

Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)     $2,000                                   Y

Bennet, Michael F (D-CO)   $2,000                                   N

Johnson, Ron (R-WI) $2,000                                               Y

Renacci, Jim (R-OH) $2,000                                               not in Senate

Rokita, Todd (R-IN)   $1,500                                               not in Senate

Masto, Catherine Cortez (D-NV)     $1,435                       not in Senate

Booker, Cory (D-NJ) $1,380                                               N

Harris, Kamala D (D-CA)     $1,313                                   N

Van Hollen, Chris (D-MD)   $1,036                                   N

Thune, John (R-SD) $1,035                                               Y

Lee, Mike (R-UT)       $1,000                                               N

Morrisey, Patrick (R-WV)     $1,000                                   not in Senate

Petersen, Austin (R-MO)     $1,000                                   not in Senate

Stewart, Corey (R-VA)         $1,000                                   not in Senate

Young, Bob (R-MI)   $1,000                                               not in Senate

Young, Todd (R-IN) $1,000                                               Y

Udall, Tom (D-NM)   $707                                       N

Lindstrom, Beth (R-MA)       $700                           not in Senate

Murray, Patty (D-WA)         $635                           N

Mackler, James (D-TN)         $625                           not in Senate

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR) $555                                       N

Barletta, Lou (R-PA) $500                                       not in Senate

Monetti, Tony (R-MO)         $500                           not in Senate

Olszewski, Al (R-MT) $500                                       not in Senate

Paul, Rand (R-KY)     $500                                       N

Faddis, Sam (R-MD) $350                                       not in Senate

Paula Jean Swearengin (D-WV)     $263               not in Senate

Vukmir, Leah (R-WI)           $250                                       not in Senate

Wilson, Jenny (D-UT)           $250                           not in Senate

Ross, Deborah (D-NC)         $205                           not in Senate

Hildebrand, David (D-CA)   $100                           not in Senate

Wyden, Ron (D-OR) $75                                         N

Singer, James (D-UT)           $50                                         not in Senate

Schumer, Charles E (D-NY) $16                             N

Sbaih, Jesse (D-NV)   $5                                           not in Senate

Roberts, Pat (R-KS)   $-1,000                                   Y

Franken, Al (D-MN) $-1,064                                   not in Senate

Kander, Jason (D-MO)         $-1,598                       not in Senate

Edwards, Donna (D-MD)     $-2,700                       not in Senate

Obviously one must look at numerous votes and other actions, and at bribes from previous years, and at the relative cost of running in each state, etc., but we do see here 51 of the 55 yes votes receiving weapons profits, and most of them near the top or middle of this list. And we see 42 of 44 no votes receiving weapons profits, and most of them near the middle or bottom of this list. Of the top 70 recipients, 43 voted yes. Of the bottom 20 recipients, 14 voted no.

A bigger factor would seem to be political party, since 45 of the 55 yes votes were Republican (plus 10 Democrats), and 37 of the 44 no votes were Democratic (plus 2 Independents and 5 Republicans). But this can hardly be separated from funding, as the amounts above are dwarfed by the money brought in and distributed to candidates by parties, with the “defense” profiteers giving the Republican party $1.2 million, and the Democratic Party $0.82 million. One can be very confident that neither party’s “leadership” privately asked its members to vote to end the war on Yemen. Publicly, the Republican party leadership urged a vote for continued genocide. If we look at party and money combined, we see that all of the Republicans who voted no are pretty low in the list, while the relevance of bribes is less clear with Democrats who voted yes. But a no vote as part of a majority — had such a thing happened — would have been unlikely to have pleased either party.

Then there’s the media problem. The Democratic Party-promoting MSNBC was silent, while NPR told its listeners that poor innocent Saudi Arabia was surrounded and under attack by the demonic Iran. The New York Timeseditorial board did better than its reporters. But if any coverage of the U.S. role in Yemen had made it onto television, then I would be able to find people when I travel around the United States who are aware that there is a war in Yemen. As it is, I can find few who can name any current U.S. wars. If Senator Sanders had opposed this war when he was running for president, instead of urging Saudi Arabia to spend more and get its blood-soaked hands dirty, progressives would have heard that — and I would have backed Sanders for president.

Or what if Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ACLU and other groups claiming to support human rights had helped oppose the war on Yemen? Or what if pundits stopped referring to such groups as human rights groups and called them, instead, Pro-U.S.-War/Human Rights groups? Would that have made a difference?

What about the rest of us? I work for two groups that tried: RootsAction.org and World Beyond War. So did many others. Many formed big coalitions to try to have a bigger impact. Could we have done more? Of course. What about people who didn’t sign anything, go to anything, phone or email any Senators? It’s hard to say that any of us have clean hands.

I happened to read a column on Wednesday that proposed that everyone cease honoring any former U.S. president who owned people as slaves. I’m all for it. But the same column proposed as a noble and honorable factor being a decorated and “successful” (German) soldier. This gives me pause in denouncing slave-owners as “monsters.” Of course slavery is monstrous and those who do it are responsible for it. Their statues should all come down and be replaced by worthy ones, including ones of slavery-abolitionists and civil-rights activists, ideally memorials for movements rather than individuals.

But what if we come someday to understand that war is monstrous? Then what should we make of war supporters, including columnists? And what am I to make of things I myself thought a decade or three ago and now no longer think? Isn’t there something a shade monstrous about praising war on the anniversary of the 2003 attack on Iraq and at the same moment that the U.S. Senate is voting to kill the (non-“white”) people of Yemen? And yet, isn’t such behavior found in a column opposing racism, written by an anti-racism activist the work of something other than a monster? Perhaps senators aren’t monsters either. Perhaps we can bring them around yet. We have to try.

Maine, Hunger Strike: Day 37: Back to Augusta & ending hunger strike

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had sixteen of us this morning with signs inside the ‘lobbyist staging area’ on the 3rd floor of the capital between the House and Senate chambers.

Lots of kids were there from various schools across the state so they got a real lesson in ‘democracy’.  One of the teachers made an interested young girl return our flyer to us – not allowed in her school we supposed.

Our group – very ordinary Mainers – seemed to change the vibe in the hallway and many of us remarked that we felt a discernible shift in the attitude of many of the legislators toward us.  Several stopped to tell us they are with us – including a kind Republican man who has told me this three times.

One state senator from the Brunswick area told one of his constituents in our group that he has received more contact on LD 1781 than any other issue since he has been in office.  So you are getting their attention – don’t stop now!

My own state senator – one of the sponsors of the bill – approached and told me that “We need you all here.”  I took it as a compliment of the campaign’s effectiveness.

This afternoon from 4:00-5:00 pm the community radio station WERU in East Orland (almost three hours north of Bath) had several of us from the campaign on the air to discuss the GD corporate welfare bill.  Host Amy Browne did an excellent job of weaving Lawrence Richard, Alex Nunes, Lisa Savage, Bob Klotz, Jessica Stewart and myself into the discussion.

We covered most of the key points but VFP member Peter Morgan wrote me after the show and said he was standing by to call in and wanted to say, “BIW has refused to [prove] a financial justification for their [request] for financial assistance.”  But they took no calls today since there were so many of us on the show.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night feeling dizzy and way out of sorts.  MB got me some juice but I didn’t sleep well after that.  My body was talking to me – quite loudly.

So today I consulted with one of my medical advisers (Bob Klotz) and determined that I would end by hunger strike on this 37th day.  Others will continue the solidarity fast under the ready coordination of Mary Kate Small.  Our friend Tom Ryan continues his fasting now into the 15th day or so and he will go until day 20.

We also got confirmation that our advert began today on WGAN radio in southern Maine.  It will run for a week – four times a day.  One of our friends actually heard it on the air.

We feel like we have done well but need a strong surge as we near the end of this campaign.  Our biggest need is to get more new folks to contact their state legislators about their opposition to LD 1781.  We are asking all of our supporters to find five new folks who have not yet called and have them contact their representatives in Augusta.  We offer this handy tool and thank David Swanson for putting this effective vehicle in our hands.  See it here 

So I will reenter the eating world slowly and mindfully – experts say at least four days are needed to do this.

I will return to the 3rd floor corridor with my sign on Thursday at 9:30 am and then again next week on Tuesday and Thursday.

In the meantime I am giving my heart and soul to defeating this bad bill.

Bruce

Photos by Peter Woodruff (retired BIW worker)

Original Post: http://space4peace.blogspot.com/2018/03/day-37-back-to-augusta-ending-hunger.html

Black Agenda Report: U.S. Prepares Armed Intervention in Venezuela

Black Agenda Report: U.S. Prepares Armed Intervention in Venezuela

Listen to Ajamu Baraka speak to impending “military intervention” in Venezuela.

Ajamu Baraka, lead organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, believes the U.S. is actively preparing a military intervention against the elected government of Venezuela. “Secretary of State Tillerson openly called for some type of military intervention,” said Baraka, an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Washington fears Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro will win a six-year term in April’s elections. If that happens, “the window of opportunity for an anti-democratic intervention” will close, said Baraka.

Allow Parents the Option to Protect Kids from Military Recruiters in High Schools

Parents in our state should be given the means to exercise their right to opt out of sending their kids’ names and contact information to military recruiters.

Please click below to send this email to your state legislators and governor:

http://bit.ly/2lxc0fZ

Letter:

“As a constituent, I urge you to follow the example set by Maryland. The federal “Every Student Succeeds Act” contains a provision that compels high schools to provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all students to any military recruiter who requests the information. The law also says that parents have the right to remove their kids’ names from the lists being sent to the Pentagon, and that schools have the responsibility to tell parents that.

Only in Maryland are parents given an easy and directly presented means of opting out. The choice remains theirs, and they are empowered to make it. A right you do not learn about – or find any means to act on – is not a right at all!

Maryland is the only state thus far to pass a law that puts the military recruiter “opt-out” language on the school’s mandatory emergency contact form. As a result, large numbers of Marylanders have exercised their right to opt out.

Please make our state the second to take this step.”

Greg Gerrit On The Military

Hello, I am Greg Gerritt, a Green Party member since 1984 and a resident of Rhode Island. The State of the Union is fragile, threatened by three interconnected issues, the expansion of the war machine, growing inequality, and climate change. When the President and the Congress borrow money to give tax breaks to billionaires and prop up the fossil fuel industries and the war machine, while more kids go hungry, we deport dreamers, and the storms get fiercer, you know we are going in the wrong direction.

35 Peace Groups Demand Congress Protect Public From Nuclear ‘Bomb Threat’ Trump

Dozens of peace groups, in an open letter, are calling for Congress to back the   “No First Use” and the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act” to reign in Trump’s power to launch nuclear war, according to an article in Common Dreams.

“Time and time again, Trump has proven just how dangerous it is for him to have thousands of nuclear weapons at his fingertips. He doesn’t believe in science and doesn’t consult experts,” the progressive groups,  including Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Ultraviolet, and Veterans for Peace, write.

“There’s no better example of the unique danger Trump poses than the unfolding crisis with North Korea, where his cavalier attitude towards nuclear war puts the whole world at risk.”

The open letter calls out the fact the the majority of Americans are against Trump’s unilateral power to handle conflicts, putting the country at great risk.

To us it is clear: Donald Trump should not have the unilateral power to wage nuclear war. And the public is with us: the vast majority of Americans do not trust Trump to handle the crisis with North Korea, nor do they have confidence in his ability to deal with international conflicts writ large.

Read the article here.

Read the open letter here.