There will be "no business as usual with Saudi Arabia," promised South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham after the upper house of Congress voted 63 to 37 to open debate on limiting presidential war powers in Yemen. While Graham was hesitant due to the lack of a presentation by key intelligence officials, his disapproval of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is well known. Last month Graham told Fox News that "this guy's gotta go," calling on the Saudi people to take care of business.
Ariel Gold, peace activist and national co-director of Codepink, told Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear Thursday that the Senate vote was "a slap in the face to Trump's policies, a real referendum on him."
The New York Times called the vote "the strongest signal yet" that neither side of the aisle buys US President Donald Trump's insistence that MBS didn't have a hand in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump's November 20 comment that "maybe he did and maybe he didn't" contradicts a CIA finding leaked on November 16 that blamed the crown prince.
Noting that CIA Director Gina Haspel, who reportedly heard the tape of Khashoggi's death recorded by a Turkish intelligence-placed listening device, wasn't allowed to attend or testify at the hearing, Gold said it was "a real refusal to look at the facts of what happened. And there has been no doubt really from day one that MBS directly ordered this."
In the absence of Trump's interest or that of his national security adviser, John Bolton, Gold noted that now we're seeing "Congress take hold and really move this forward. Of course, we still have a ways to go but it looks like we're heading in the right direction."
Gold parried concerns about the bill's fate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, noting the importance of peace activism behind making Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen into a humanitarian concern widely-enough known for it to have become impalatable for Democrats to continue justifying support for Riyadh in that war.
"We've been working on this for years," she said. "This is really a grassroots effort. This has been an enormous amount of people walking the halls of Congress, speaking to their representatives — phone calls, emails — people really being out on this issue. It's been the Washington Post taking the lead on pushing [the story of] Khashoggi's murder and so much more, exposing the suffering in Yemen."
"People are going to continue to work on this issue, so I have a lot more hope from that," she told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.
Indeed, Codepink has been talking to Sputnik about the war in Yemen since 2016, with over a dozen appearances on Sputnik Radio and interviews with our journalists, during which it was a common lament that Western media and US politicians were not paying attention to the war.
"It is quite remarkable that in these last three years, where the US has been so involved in this devastating war in Yemen, there has been so little coverage," Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Radio Sputnik's Fault Lines on August 21 after news of the Yemeni school bus hit by Saudi planes firing US-made weapons broke. "And we in Codepink have had campaigns trying to get even MSNBC to cover the war. A year went by; they didn't do a story on the war in Yemen. So it's not just Fox News; it's CNN, it's MSNBC, and it's in general even the print media. There's been almost no coverage on Yemen for the past three years."
Indeed, calls this past spring for the US to halt the refuelling of Saudi warplanes involved in the conflict went unheeded until only a couple of weeks ago when US Defense Secretary James Mattis finally acquiesced amid increased scrutiny following revelations about Khashoggi's murder.
However, those March revelations also detailed how the US is operating on the ground in support of the Saudi coalition's war. "When we're doing the planning, we have shown them how you have what we call no-strike zone," Mattis told journalists at the Pentagon on March 29. He elaborated on how US forces are helping Saudi and Emirati pilots differentiate between military targets and densely populated locations with schools and hospitals on their territory.
"It's not as easy as saying there's a school or hospital, now draw a circle around it on a map," he continued. "Now it's got to go up into the aeroplane; now the people who are calling for strikes have to be aware; sometimes you add to them — you found a new place that you didn't have on the map before."
A New York Times report in May further revealed that US special forces have been operating on the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border, helping the Saudis to hunt down and destroy Houthi targets, particularly missile sites that might be used to bombard neighbouring Saudi provinces.
Further, security analyst Mark Sleboda told Sputnik last month that the Emirati monarchy has paid for the services of former US service members employed by security contractor Spear Operations Group to serve as "contract killers" on Yemen's battlefields since 2015.
"We're talking Navy SEALS, Green Berets — and not only ex[-military personnel] - they specified quite clearly in the group. Standing US National Guard and US Navy Reserve personnel, who are drawing salaries from the US government and who have security clearances, are part of this group's assassinations," Sleboda told Sputnik.
Gold noted that Trump's defence of the US-Saudi alliance argued that "the profits of our weapons companies are more important than holding Saudi Arabia accountable and clearly more important than the lives of children in Yemen."
Indeed, a report published on November 21 by international NGO Save the Children revealed that an astonishing 85,000 Yemeni children may have died as a result of the war that has been raging since the spring of 2015.
"For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death, and it's entirely preventable," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's country director in Yemen, in the release.