Thursday, November 15, 2018
By Mark WeisbrotSooner or later, the Trump administration will be forced to withdraw from this war. But how many people will die before it happens?
In an odd spectacle, representatives went back and forth between speaking about wolves, who kill other animals, to the Saudi monarchy, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people – mostly civilians including children – and pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.
The Republicans had hijacked the “Manage our Wolves Act” – a bad but unrelated piece of legislation – to pass a rule that would prohibit the House from debating H Res 138, introduced by Ro Khanna, a Democratic representative from California. The latter resolution would give the president 30 days to get the US military out of the war in Yemen.
The Republicans won by a vote of 201-187. But the Democrats could have easily defeated this surprise attack with some of the 17 members of their party who didn’t vote and the 6 who voted with the Republicans.
Most Americans have heard nothing of this ongoing clash in Congress, which has lasted for more than a year, and is probably the most important foreign policy action that Congress has launched since it cut off funding for the Vietnam war.
What the Republicans did on Wednesday was illegal and unconstitutional. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, Khanna’s resolution must be allowed a debate and vote.
The War Powers Resolution was a response to the prolonged tragedy of the Vietnam war. It reaffirms that under the constitution the president does not have authority to use offensive military force without specific authorization from Congress. And it establishes procedures to help Congress prevent and end unauthorized wars. One of these procedures is that when the president introduces US armed forces into hostilities without authorization, any member of Congress can demand a debate and vote on that military intervention, and it cannot be blocked procedurally.
The 1973 War Powers Resolution is still the law of the land, and the courts have not overturned any part of it. There are officials in the “national security state” who believe that the president can decide without Congress to participate in a war. But that is not the law, or is it consistent with the US Constitution – even if some prior presidents have claimed this power.
Two Republican representatives who supported H Res 138 cited James Madison in a letter to their colleagues on Wednesday: “In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department.”
In the 20th century the most important checks on US military overreach came from Congress. In addition to the historic 1973 War Powers Resolution, the Congress cut off funds for US military intervention in Angola in 1976. In the mid-1980s the Congress cut US aid to the Contras who were waging a war to topple the government of Nicaragua; this led to the Iran-Contra scandal, after the Reagan White House decided to continue funding the war through illegal weapons sales to Iran.
Following the Saudi murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, more people have begun to see that ending US military participation in this war and complicity in war crimes – which include using mass starvation as weapon – is the most urgent priority in the “re-evalutation of our relationship with the Saudis.”
Fortunately, this battle in Congress is far from over, and the proponents of war are losing. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee, are re-introducing a similar resolution that got 44 votes in February. If that vote were held today, it would likely pass.
The Trump administration knows this, and so the White House announcedlast Friday that it would stop refueling the Saudi and UAE bombers in mid-air. It hasn’t happened yet, and of course any suspension of re-fueling not ordered by Congress could simply be resumed. Congressional sources believe that Trump may do something just before the Senate vote in order to try to pull a few Senators away from voting to end the war.
In addition, even if mid-air refueling is suspended, without congressional prohibition on all offensive US military activities, the US can continue its engagement in logistics, special operations, and targeting assistance – all of it concealed from view of American public.
The new House in January, with a Democratic majority and solid supportfrom the leadership, should have no trouble passing the resolution. But the human costs of delay are enormous. Experts have pointed out that once a famine breaks out it will be too late to save many of the victims.
Sooner or later, the Trump administration will be forced to withdraw from this genocidal war. The only question is how many people will die before it happens.
Former US secretary of state criticises Trump’s failure to attend Armistice Day ceremony
America cannot afford “a truculent child president” if it is to fulfil its global leadership role, the former US secretary of state John Kerry said on Thursday as he lambasted Donald Trump for failing to attend a key Armistice Day commemoration ceremony in Paris at the weekend.
Kerry is visiting the UK to promote his book and will be speaking at a Guardian Live event in London on Thursday night.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Kerry spoke of “a dearth of a leadership on a global basis” adding: “Every country is feeling the pressure of this nationalistic populist and in some cases very frightening rightwing advance.”
He said: “I was appalled that rain drops prevented the president from going to pay honour to those that died in rain, gas, snow and mud. That was the reason he came to Paris.”Trump refused to attend the rain-swept ceremony citing concerns that his helicopter could not fly due to the weather, and his belief that if he travelled by car, the Paris traffic would be severely disrupted.
Kerry said: “People are tired of the embarrassment of what took place in Paris in the last few days. We cannot have a truculent child president. We need something serious.”
Despite his personal criticism of Trump, Kerry urged his party to avoid becoming so obsessed with Trump that they call for his impeachment. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives should do whatever is appropriate, he explained, but he said: “the Democrats should not even be talking about impeachment right now. We should be talking about the alternatives that might make life better for the people in our country.”
He highlighted climate change, saying in 30 years of political activity he had “never seen evidence mounting so powerfully as it is today about the urgency of action, but it is not happening on a global basis. Scientists have just said if we do not get our act together in the next 12 years we are in for a serious catastrophe”. He also called for a global cyber-agreement on a similar scale to the deal restricting nuclear weapons. Speaking on the UK Brexit debate, he said: “Suffice it to say both President Obama and myself, as secretary of state, came here to Britain before the referendum and we both were remainers”. When asked if he supported a second referendum, he replied: “I said President Obama and I were, and are, remainers”.
He said the most recent midterm elections had made a powerful statement.
“We had, for the first time in history, more than 100 million people – 113 million people vote in the midterm elections. We had seven mid-governorships flip to the Democratic party, six legislatures and the largest number of Democratic Congresspeople elected since Watergate, which took place two months after Richard Nixon resigned.” He also rebutted the often-repeated claim that wherever Trump campaigned he won, saying Trump lost in Montana, Nevada and Arizona.
He said he had not ruled out standing as the Democratic candidate for the presidency, but said he was not “actively running round” to secure the nomination, saying as many as 20 to 25 names were being bandied around in what he described as a “mish-mash”. The only specific names he mentioned were former vice president Joe Biden and the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, but added there was a lot of talent in the party.
What is the Afghan war and who are we fighting?
What is victory and how you win the war?
What is needed for victory?
US State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism Nathan Alexander Sales said during a Congressional hearing that the US was "very concerned" over the support for terrorism in any region of the world.
Pakistan certainly needs to do more in its fight against terrorism and the Trump administration expects Islamabad to act against terror groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in same way as it did against Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, a top American official has said. US' State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism Nathan Alexander Sales said during a Congressional hearing that the US was "very concerned" over the support for terrorism in any region of the world.
"And I can tell you we have communicated to the Pakistani government at the highest levels that we expect them to do more just like we expected them to act with us after 9/11," Mr Sales said on Wednesday.
"Pakistan has in the past been a very effective counterpart in taking the fight to Al Qaeda. We need them to do the same thing with respect to the Haqqanis, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the other terrorist groups that are active in the region," he said.
Mr Sales said Pakistan "certainly needs to do more" in the fight against terrorism.
His remarks came after several Congressmen expressed concern over the continued resistance by Pakistan to take satisfactory action against terror groups operating from its soil.
The lawmakers alleged that Pakistan was not doing enough against the terror groups.
"I think they're not doing the job, despite terrorism, because the terrorists come in from Pakistan into Afghanistan, do their mischief, and run back across the border. I think they've been doing that for years," said Congressman Ted Poe, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.
"They take our money....million of dollars we give Pakistan every year. It befuddles me why we do that when they don't... and they allow a safe haven for terrorists in their own country that invade another country, namely Afghanistan," Mr Poe said. He, however, praised the State Department for not giving Pakistan funds for counter-terrorism.
The State Department's Inspector General filed a report last year that found much of the anti-terrorism assistance US had given to Pakistan was not being used, including dozens of courses not implemented."I am pleased to hear the Bureau has since repurposed many of the resources that had been sent to Pakistan to other more worthwhile programs. We cannot afford to throw good money after bad. Effective monitoring and evaluation programs are crucial to spotting what is not working and making changes that do," he said.In his first tweet of the year, US President Donald Trump had expressed his dissatisfaction over Pakistan's reluctance in taking strong action against terrorists.
"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" President Trump had tweeted.
He had ordered to stop all security financial assistance to Pakistan.