Expected or not, Donald Trump’s veto of a bipartisan Congressional resolution to end US military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s murderous war in Yemen is an outrage. It will prolong the unspeakable suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians, the blameless victims of Riyadh’s vicious proxy war with Iran and its Houthi allies.
Yet Trump’s uncaring arrogance also threatens the US itself. It is further proof that the constitution’s famous checks and balances are just not working, and that, post-Mueller, this unworthy president is raging dangerously out of control.
Trump ’s stated reasons for the veto ranged from specious to risible. He claimed to be protecting American citizens – even as he denied directly assisting the Saudis and said there were no US regular troops in Yemen. So which is it? The Americans Trump referred to, mostly resident in Gulf states that back the Saudi-led coalition, were at risk from Houthi “explosive boats”, he said. They may also face danger when transiting Riyadh airport. In reality, no US citizen is obliged to brave such shocking perils, and very few have.
Yet Yemen’s civilians have no choice.They need not leave their houses to be killed or maimed by Saudi air force bombers, assisted by US advisers. “Yemen is at breaking point, with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure,” said David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee. Trump’s veto is a “green light” for further atrocities, he warned.
Trump also rejected the resolution as “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities”. Yet on the contrary, his action amounts to flagrant defiance of the 1973 War Powers Act that checks a president’s ability to engage in armed conflict without express consent of Congress. Although interpretations differ, this is not a partisan point. I,t is a matter of constitutional law. And it’s a precedent. This was the first time in history that a War Powers resolution had passed from House and Senate to the president’s desk.
Far from protecting presidential rights and prerogatives, Trump is abusing them. He tried it on again earlier this year, when he declared a fatuous, anti-migrant “national emergency” at the Mexican border – and Congress could not stop him. This week, Trump had a chance to do the right thing, said Ro Khanna, the California Democrat who sponsored the original Yemen resolution. Instead, he had “failed to uphold the principles of the constitution”.