No Endless War and Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) is very excited and pleased about the events of the last seventeen days, a period that culminated Saturday with United States Representative James Langevin telling members of our group that he had signed on to H Con Res 138 which is a War Powers Act for Yemen that will stop United States participation in the war in Yemen without Congressional approval. Representative Langevin joins Representative Cicilline, who co-sponsored the measure at the end of the second week in November.
Our Representative’s actions followed on the heels of events that occurred during the last week in November. On Monday, members of the Rhode Island peace community, including NEWEM, East Bay Citizens for Peace, Brown War Watch, Rhode Island Antiwar Committee, Pax Christi and the Sisters of Mercy protested outside Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Providence office and presented the Senator’s staff and then later that day, Senator Reed’s staff, with a letter calling for them to sign on to a War Powers Act for Yemen. Both Senators had opposed this measure last March despite support from all but eight other Democratic Senators. This time, both Rhode Island’s Senators voted to bring the bill to the Senate floor and called for its passage. In a strong detailed speech that challenged the accuracy of the Trump administration’s assessment of Saudi behavior and support of the attack on Yemen, Senator Reed decried Saudi behavior, called for them to be held to account for their actions, and noted that Saudi bombs and blockades were slaughtering innocent civilians. The United States needs to stop selling offensive weapons to the Saudis and they must be held to account for their human rights violations.
On the day that the Senators made their intentions clear, NEWEM protested outside of Representative Langevin’s office. In interviews with the Providence Journal and the Warwick Beacon, members of our group noted that since the Khashoggi murder, momentum had grown across the country calling for an end to our enabling the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, journalists were now reporting on the war and efforts to stop the killing, and that members of Congress, under pressure from the American people, were finally asserting their constitutional right to make the ultimate decisions on matters of war and peace. We also noted that it was important that our Democratic legislators stand up to Trump.
On December 8, NEWEM held another peace demonstration, this time in North Kingstown, and called for Representative Langevin to sign on to the House War Powers bill and that afternoon, at a “Lunch with Langevin” gathering in West Greenwich, we were informed that Langevin was now co-sponsoring the House war powers measure. Representative Langevin expressed dismay at Saudi behavior and agreed that Congress needed to assert it’s constitutional role and provide a check to Trump’s unilateral decisions on war and peace if needs be.
So we are thankful for the sharp change in stance by Senator Jack Reed and that Senator Whitehouse has followed his lead. We are glad that Congressman Langevin came around to join the rest of our state’s Congressional delegation on this issue and are thankful for Congressman Cicilline’s steady support on this issue.
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But as we are thankful, we need to remain vigilant as this was just the long called for first step of many to actually stop the killing in Yemen. This week coming up may largely determine how strong and sincere the resolutions are coming out of Congress and how quickly the Trump administration will need to change course in our dealings with Saudi Arabia.
And NEWEM will continue to press the case that profits from arms sales to the Saudis are not a good reason to aid and abet war crimes against innocent civilians.
We will be interested to see how our delegation follow through and the degree of urgency that their efforts demonstrate. We also wonder if they will make a connection to our bloated military budget and the growing over-reliance on a militaristic economy for jobs here in Rhode Island and throughout the country. With deficits exploding due to tax cuts on corporations and the rich and Republicans calling for drastic cuts not only in discretionary safety net spending, medicare and medicaid and even social security, a program individuals have paid into all their working lives, can we afford to put half of our budget into war, particularly ones that are not legally declared and involve fighting in proxy for authoritarian regimes that violate the standards of basic human decency?