Elias Atienza is a history sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
In mid-October, the United States Navy fired missiles into Yemen against Houthi rebels. This was in response to missiles being fired at U.S naval ships from Houti-held territory. The catch? The Department of Defense doesn’t know who fired the missiles.
The Yemeni Civil War is in full swing, between the Houthi-lead rebels and the deposed government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi. The Houthi rebels are allegedly supported by Iran while the Hadi government is supported by a Saudi Arabian lead coalition of Arab states. The United States is also supporting the Hadi government by providing intelligence and arms for the Saudis. The conflict has killed at least 10,000 people, a third of them civilians. At least 1,000 children have been killed as well.
Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo shootings, controls a third of the country.
The unanswered question here is simply “Why is the United States intervening in another civil war?”
The United States has a rather horrible history of intervening in foreign countries, with the cases of Libya and Iraq being the best examples in recent history. Civil wars are raging in Syria, Yemen and Libya as well. Iraq seems to be heading into chaos with the Iraqi offensive into Mosul leaving doubts between the Kurds, the Sunni tribes and the Shia majority.
In acting against the Houthi rebels, the United States is effectively intervening on the side of the Hadi government. In addition, they have supported the Saudi Arabian coalition bombing campaign with inflight refueling and giving the Saudis intelligence.
The Saudi Arabian troops have bombed schools, a Doctor without Borders hospital and a funeral in the last week; killing 140 people and wounding 600. It has gotten so bad that 64 members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter to the Obama administration asking for them to delay arms sales to Saudi Arabia because the actions that the Saudis have taken might amount to war crimes.
Regardless of whether or not the president complies with this minority group of congressmen, the Obama administration has already effectively supported this bombing campaign by providing over $100 billion dollars of arms to the Saudi Arabians, along with a $100 billion in arms sales just a few weeks ago. By providing these arms, the United States has become implicit in the carnage, watching as the Saudi Arabians commit war crimes in the name of stability.
The editorial board of The New York Times wrote that American support for the Saudis is “indefensible” given the civilian casualties and the Saudi war crimes. Senator Chris Murphy said that there is “an American imprint on every single civilian life lost in Yemen.”
Furthermore, Congress has not formally authorized the President to intervene in the Yemen Civil War. The U.S intervention in Iraq and Syria is covered under the Authorization of Military Force issued by Congress in 2001, though there is still debate on whether or not that is permissible. Journalists and columnists writing for news sources such as Politifact, The Atlantic and The New York Times, called U.S intervention into Libya “illegal” and a violation of the War Powers Act of 1973, to say nothing of the Constitution.
Our Congress has to be given some blame because the majority of them have abdicated their role in determining whether the United States intervenes in foreign conflicts. While the Iraq War is considered a failure by most of the public, it had Congressional approval. Even the stalwart anti-interventionist Ron Paul voted in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan. But aside from a few voices like Senators Rand Paul, Chris Murphy and Mike Lee, along with Representatives Justin Amash and Ted Lieu, Congress has effectively allowed the Obama administration and any future administration to wage war without official congressional approval, setting a dangerous precedent.
Obama himself warns of how a future president can wage unjustified wars, despite his record of bombing more countries than Bush.
“And it troubled me, because I think you could see, over the horizon, a situation in which, without Congress showing much interest in restraining actions with authorizations that were written really broadly, you end up with a president who can carry on perpetual wars all over the world, and a lot of them covert, without any accountability or democratic debate,” Obama said.
In the end, the United States intervention in Yemen is an unjustified use of military force, without congressional approval. History shows us that United States intervention in foreign conflicts has led to our country being an accomplice to war crimes, as well as devastation across the affected region.