On Wednesday afternoon, seven Democrats abstained and five more Democrats joined Republicans in order to kill a bill that would have ended the United States’ questionably legal and morally abhorrent participation in Saudi Arabia’s war against the people of Yemen, which many human rights groups are calling a genocide.
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As one of their final acts, the fiendishly cruel Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican House majority chose to weaponize a must-pass farm bill in order to defang Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-CA) War Powers resolution on Yemen, sneaking language into the farm bill that would prevent the House from voting to end our participation in the war.
It was a rule that could have been voted down with no effect on the farm bill, but five Democrats decided to bail out Republicans anyway and helped them avoid a humiliating defeat.
Seven Democrats more abstained, too cowardly to swing the axe themselves but still leaving their bloody fingerprints all over it.
The guilty Democrats are:
- Jim Costa of California’s 16th District
- Al Lawson Jr. of Florida’s 5th District
- Collin Peterson of Minnesota’s 7th District
- Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland’s 2nd District
- David Scott of Georgia’s 13th District
When questioned as to why he made that vote, Rep. Collin Peterson said that he “didn’t know a damn thing about it” and quipped that our party likes to “get off on tangents,” whatever the hell that means.
It is horrifying to see an elected official speak so dismissively of what is the worst humanitarian disaster the world has seen in years. Twelve million Yemenis are threatened by famine, and over 85,000 children have already died.
But none of that matters to Peterson, who cares so little about the lives of non-Americans that he couldn’t even be bothered to do a Google search about the Yemen War.
If he had, he would have found that the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof published a heart-wrenching expose on the horrors of the Yemen War on the very same day that he cast his vote to continue supporting mass starvation and murder by a journalist-assassinating autocracy.
In place of my column today, I publish this photo from my Yemen trip: "This Is What Our Yemen Policy Looks Like" https://t.co/KYTyJ1kTeE I hope that before senators vote today on the Yemen war, they'll look at this girl.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) December 13, 2018
The defections expose both the painful absence of any unifying, coherent foreign policy agenda whatsoever and the inability (or else refusal) of Democratic leadership to enforce any kind of discipline within their ranks — which shows that they too place no value on the lives of innocent Yemenis. They didn’t even bother trying to whip votes for this vote.
Can confirm that Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D) did not whip Democratic votes on the Yemen vote
Spokeswoman says: “We weren’t whipping. We always urge a no vote on the Rule; it’s typically a party-line vote.” https://t.co/vBJyCKYXqO
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) December 13, 2018
On top of that, this vote sends a message to the Saudi Arabians that there is literally nothing they could do — not even murdering and dismembering a Washington Post journalist — that could make the American political establishment lift a finger to stop the flow of money and weapons to Saudi butchers.
Even more frustratingly, this marks the second time this year that Democrats have found their “bipartisan spirit” and crossed to aisle to join with warmongering, Islamophobic Republicans in keeping the United States locked in a gruesome war that has killed 13,000 people and put millions of people at risk of death from cholera epidemic or starvation by Saudi blockade.
There is no reason for this vote to have passed. A tiny handful of Americans (13%) approve of our participation in the Yemen War, and the vast majority of them are likely either jingoistic Islamophobes who delight in the slaughter of Muslims or work for the defense contractors that are profiting off the sale of weapons.
This should be a political home run. “Our opponents, the Republicans, support the mass starvation of Yemeni babies by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we, the Democrats, do not, which is why we voted down this rule.” How hard is that? The speeches write themselves.
Democrats like to hold themselves up on a pedestal, proud that they are by and far away clearly the moral superior to the naked villainy and disgusting xenophobia endorsed by America’s right-wing.
While that may be true, the bar above “tearing children away from their parents” is not very high — and it’s Democratic votes like this that prove that in many areas, especially when it comes to the lives of non-whites in foreign countries, we are no better than the Republicans.
UPDATE: The Senate just passed a similar bill from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — but since the House already killed the first bill, it’s going to go nowhere.
Unfortunately, House GOP leadership (and 5 Democrats) have voted to not debate the bill, or any Yemen bill, for that matter.
— Emma Vigeland (@EmmaVigeland) December 13, 2018