“Today,” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Masquerading-as-I-VT) said in a Dec. 13 statement, “I withdrew from consideration by the U.S. Senate my War Powers Resolution after the Biden administration agreed to continue working with my office on ending the war in Yemen. Let me be clear. If we do not reach agreement, I will, along with my colleagues, bring this resolution back for a vote in the near future and do everything possible to end this horrific conflict.”
Every time Congress rattles its war powers saber against continuing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, presidents simultaneously threaten to veto such resolutions, and pretend they’re just about ready to end that support, if only Congress will back off. And it does.
Meanwhile, the war rolls merrily along, with the United Nations estimating more than 377,000 dead as of the end of last year, including the starvation deaths of 85,000 children between 2015 and 2018 alone.
Why? Because despite Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to treat Saudi Arabia’s regime as a “pariah” over everything from its involvement with the 9/11 hijackers to the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he remains as convinced as his predecessors that the U.S. desperately needs the support and approval of Saudi terror kingpin … er, “Crown Prince” … Mohammed bin Salman.
Instead of the “pariah” treatment, MbS gets visits, fist bumps, and pleas to increase oil production so American consumers don’t have to pick up the tab for — and Biden doesn’t get the blame for — the price effects of U.S. sanctions on Russian oil.
And U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil.
And U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil.
Do you detect a theme? American politicians’ moonshine about “energy independence” is a perpetual riff on St. Augustine’s prayer: “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”
It’s not just about oil, though.
The Saudi regime is also one of the planet’s top military spenders, with much of its $50-75 billion “defense” budget buying U.S.-made arms.
And since the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-heavy regime in 2003 and installed a more Shia-friendly (read: Iran-friendly) government, Saudi Arabia has been the U.S.’s proxy/counterweight of choice in its 40-year war on Iran specifically and Shia power (in, for example, Syria and Lebanon) generally.
Decades of misguided U.S. Mideast policy have given MbS a continuing grip on Washington’s dangly parts, with several ways to squeeze tightly should Joe Biden displease him in any way.
The problem with this particular intimate massage is that there’s really no prospect of a happy ending. Unwinding decades of would-be hegemony is going to hurt. But it has to happen sooner or later. Ending the slaughter in Yemen and telling MbS to go pound sand (he’s got a lot of that) would be a great start.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.