Why did Senator Ben Cardin, an ardent supporter of human rights, vote for another arms sales to Saudi Arabia?
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have waged a horrific war in Yemen, fueling a conflict that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement, poverty, suffering, and starvation of millions more. The U.S. has provided the Saudi-led coalition with billions of dollars in weapons, training and military support, playing an instrumental role in the destruction of Yemen.
I thought the Biden Administration would usher in a new policy. During the November 20, 2019 Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, Biden was asked about Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist with U.S. citizenship who was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. Biden indicated he would “punish” the “senior Saudi leaders” responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
Early in 2021, it seemed like Biden would break from the Obama-Trump policy on Yemen. In his first major foreign policy address on February 4, President Biden announced that the US was cutting off support for “offensive operations in the war in Yemen.”
There is no rational reason for the Biden administration to be involved in the destruction of Yemen. So Bernie Sanders and other senators introduced S.J.Res. 31 in an attempt to prevent a $650 million arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “The United States must do everything in our power to bring this brutal and horrific war to an end,” Sanders said on the Senate floor. “Exporting more missiles to Saudi Arabia does nothing but further this conflict and pour more gasoline on an already raging fire.”
Human rights groups and Yemeni-led advocacy organizations have condemned the weapons sale. Hassan El-Tayyab, the director of Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said approving the arms sale “sends a message of impunity” to Saudi Arabia and removes key leverage that the U.S. could use to end the war.
The only coherent explanation for this arms shipment is that weapons contractors profit from arms sales to these repressive countries. The weapons contractors provide campaign donations to our legislators which of course influence their votes. It can be concluded that weapons contractors such as Raytheon determine our foreign policy.
The vote against the resolution suggests that the Biden Administration and Congress are willing to accept that more Yemenis will die. Any claim that the Senate is concerned about human rights is laughable.
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs