It was the evening of December 13th, 2022, when tense conversations were had in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (I – VT) who was preparing to take a vote on the war in Yemen to the floor the following morning.
After years of hard lobbying by peace advocates like the Friends Committee for National Legislature, a resolution authored by Sanders that would force a vote in line with the War Powers Act on completely and permanently ending American support and funding for the US-Saudi war in Yemen, which had been ongoing for 8 years at that point, and which had gathered a small army of co-sponsors, was going to be brought to the floor.
WaL reported on December 14th that Sanders had withdrawn the resolution from a vote after it became clear that either President Biden or others in the White House were pressuring Democrats to vote against it.
Sanders believed according to reports that something in the resolution’s language was unsatisfactory to the White House, particularly because the administration believed the resolution would hinder ongoing efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the country.
Now 26 months later, something else is hindering ongoing efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the country—a new undeclared war launched by President Biden against the controlling faction in Yemen called Ansar Allah, or the Houthis after the name of their leader, that has been attacking shipping in the Red Sea in protest of the ongoing slaughter in Gaza.
Sanders announced at the time he would inquire if the White House was willing to work “on crafting language that would be mutually acceptable,” but said that he would bring the prepared War Powers resolution back to the floor if it wasn’t.
It wasn’t, and the resolution wasn’t brought back to the floor, and years of hard grassroots work were made null and void in a cowardly instant.
Now, the US is back in full force in Yemen after suspending “offensive support” for the Saudi air war against the Houthis in March 2021. Many reports to the contrary emerged at the time, and now the war in Yemen has resumed with “near-daily bombing,” as part of a “sustained military campaign,” US officials told The Washington Post on Saturday.
The people of Yemen, who have already died by the hundreds of thousands according to all international aid agencies working in the country on what used to be called “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster” are once again in the crosshairs of American bombs, and Sanders’ decision to play ball with the White House is looking increasingly like a poor one.
In Robert Pape’s landmark analysis of strategic bombing, Bombing to Win, the political and military scientist elaborates how nearly every mass bombing campaign in history failed, and nearly all the claims made by strategic bombing advocates going back to the First World War have been disproven, even after the advent of laser-guided munitions.
Though his book doesn’t encompass the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, it would have added another effective case study to his argument. The Saudis bombed everything in that country, and during the heyday of reporting on the conflict side of that war, between 2015 and 2018, reports could be found claiming that everything from weddings to food production centers to sewage treatment plants was bombed with munitions provided by the US, from warplanes maintained by the US.
None of it caused the Houthis to yield, nor did it cause the people to rise up against the Houthis and expel them in order to stop the bombs. Eventually, the Houthis were able to inflict enough damage on the oil infrastructure of Saudi Arabia that the poorest country in the Middle East won, despite suffering what some have called a genocide.
It’s difficult to argue against. The US-funded war against the Houthis killed at least 377,000 people between 2015 and 2022, according to the UN. The UN uses only official death counts from health ministries, but by 2019, little of the public health infrastructure remained. In March 2022, the UN declared a sort-of pseudo famine had descended on the country, deliberately inflicted by a military blockade of the ports of Yemen by the US and Saudi navies, and warned that 1.6 million people were at risk of starvation. How many have actually died from starvation isn’t known. The counting has either not started or not finished.
Furthermore, mass attacks, both violent and non-violent, occurred on the cultural heritage of Yemen, another key aspect of a genocide. Along with the bombing of the historic city center of Sanaa, the capital, WaL reported on a massive international antiquities smuggling ring that was uncovered by archaeologists Alexander Nagel and Abdullah Mohsen. Thousands of artifacts were smuggled out of the country by the UAE, a belligerent in the conflict, and sold to museums in Saudi Arabia, UAE, the US, and the UK.
After all this terror and death, the Saudis gave it up and negotiations began in 2022. WaL reported at the time that the US had virtually no impact on any of the reductions in violence experienced in the country this year, including a ceasefire which was initiated in the holy month of Ramadan, and extended all the way to October. This was the effort of the UN’s special envoy Hans Grundberg and had nothing to do with his counterpart in D.C., Timothy Lenderking.
Pape’s analysis on strategic bombing is needed even more in DC than in Riyad at the moment, since Biden has now picked up where the Saudis left off—bombing Yemen without plans or progress.
According to Antiwar, the officials speaking with the Washington Post could not put any timeline on how long the conflict will last, only saying they don’t expect it to drag on for “years,” like the US wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The report said the officials acknowledged they can not identify an “end date or provide an estimate for when the Yemenis’ military capability will be adequately diminished”.
However, Biden gave reporters a clue about what to expect from the bombing campaign recently.
President Biden has authorized 60 airstrikes in the country of Yemen in order to try and counter the Houthis’efforts but admitted they were neither working nor going to stop.
When asked by a reporter if his strikes against the Houthis were working, the president responded: “Well, when you say ‘working’ — are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes”.
The strikes against Houthi military capabilities have gone on 7 days straight, but haven’t deterred in any way the drone and rocket attacks, as well as hijacking attempts, on what few container ships are sailing past Yemen’s border along the Red Sea en route to the Indian Ocean.
“We praise god for this great blessing and great honor—for us to be in a direct confrontation with Israel and America,” said Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
That’s not a case of Islamic extremism, that’s a case of a very strong-willed group of fighting men finally getting a chance to face their aggressor after 8 years of having to battle only their henchmen—like the moment in a shoot-em-up police thriller where the hero cop finally storms the crime lord’s hideout.
While many international ships have changed their shipping routes to avoid the conflict area, the US-owned Gibraltar Eagle from the US firm Eagle Bulk, was struck by rockets from the Houthis 5 days ago. No injuries occurred and the ship carried on its way. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: Then-Vice President Biden congratulates Bernie Sanders after his reelection to the Senate in 2013.