The Wall Street Journal’s Pathetic Case for Supporting the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Wall Street Journal has distinguished itself for promoting pro-Saudi and pro-Emirati propaganda about the war on Yemen, gushing over Mohammed bin Salman, and for credulous reporting on the war and the humanitarian crisis it has created. Now their editors rail against S.J.Res. 54 because it threatens to put an end to the war they have supported for three years:

Saudi Arabia finally has a young leader pushing social and economic reform, fighting Iran’s attempt to dominate the Middle East, and even cooperating quietly with Israel. Wouldn’t you know now would be the time that a left-right coalition in Congress wants to snub this ally by pretending to be commanders in chief.

The WSJ editorial does its best to duck the real issues at stake while casting baseless aspersions at opponents of an indefensible war. U.S. involvement in the war is unauthorized by Congress, and it does constitute engaging in hostilities. US refueling of coalition planes makes our government a party to the conflict, and it means that our military is engaged in hostilities against the coalition’s enemies even if they are not directly involved in the fighting. The language of the War Powers Resolution is clear on this point. Our military is participating in the movement of coalition forces while they are carrying out attacks in Yemen, and as such they have been introduced into hostilities without Congress’ authorization.

The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for most of the war’s civilian casualties. The claim that their “targeting has improved thanks to US intelligence and training” ignores that the coalition has frequently targeted civilian structures and infrastructure on purpose. Our military has just confirmed that they don’t track what happens after the refuel coalition planes, so by their own admission they have no way of knowing what the coalition is doing with the support that our government happily provides. The coalition has committed numerous war crimes, and so long as the US provides refueling and arms for their bombing campaign our government is complicit in those crimes. Voting for S.J.Res. 54 is also a vote to put an end to that complicity. Because US support for the coalition is so important to their war effort, they would be hard-pressed to continue their campaign without it. Halting support for the bombing campaign is the best option that the US has for ending the war and ameliorating the country’s humanitarian crisis.

The editorial is called “the Senate’s Iran helpers,” but that is as dishonest as can be. Refusing to support the Saudis and their allies in their atrocious war does not make anyone a “helper” of Iran. One has to buy into Saudi propaganda without thinking to make the accusation in the first place. The WSJ‘s simplistic and inaccurate sectarian framing of the conflict might as well come from the Saudi government itself.

If anyone has been helping Iran, it is Mohammed bin Salman and his senseless efforts to “oppose” Iranian influence by destroying Yemen, a country where Iran has negligible influence. He has not only plunged his country into an unwinnable war at great expense, but he has given Iran an easy way to bleed Saudi and Emirati resources while doing almost nothing. This would hardly be the first time that Iran hawks have foolishly endorsed an unnecessary war in the region that ended up boosting Iranian influence, but the much bigger problem is that they are more than willing to jeopardize the lives of millions of Yemenis to satisfy their obsessive hostility towards Iran.

Not surprisingly, the editorial never once mentions that Yemen suffers from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in large part because of the Saudi-led war and blockade. Indeed, the words humanitarian crisis, blockade, and famine never once appear in their pathetic pro-Saudi screed. The cholera epidemic is briefly mentioned, but the editors don’t tell their readers that the coalition has bombed water and sewage treatment plants and blocked the delivery of medicines needed to combat the epidemic. Their lack of interest in the plight of Yemen’s civilian population is hard to miss.

For their part, the editors claim that the resolution’s co-sponsors “are indifferent to these strategic stakes,” but the truth is that opponents of the war on Yemen are paying much closer attention to the effects of the war on regional security and US interests than its supporters are. The only beneficiaries of continuing the Saudi-led war on Yemen are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Iran. The defenders of US support for the war are doing far more to “help” Iran than the supporters of S.J.Res. 54.

The WSJ editors complain that passing S.J.Res. 54 “would also needlessly insult Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” but the rebuke is very much needed and appropriately timed. Mohammed bin Salman would like very much if he can seek out foreign investors and cultivate American support without having to face awkward questions about how his government is causing civilian casualties and mass starvation in Yemen. As one of the chief architects of the failed war on Yemen, he should not be allowed to come to the US without having to face intense scrutiny for what he and his allies have done there. Why should a major war criminal be spared a Congressional vote to deny him the means for committing more war crimes?

The editors have no problem with the misguided Young-Shaheen resolution because they understand that it poses no threat to continuing US support for the Saudi-led war. It is “fine” as far as they are concerned, because it is completely toothless and will have no impact on the war. That should make it very clear to all senators that the only resolution worth supporting is S.J.Res. 54, because that is the only resolution that can end US support for the war on Yemen.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.