MEMO: Grassroots power drove Congress to end U.S. support for Yemen war

Last Updated on April 2, 2019.

The House and Senate will soon vote on whether to end unauthorized U.S. military involvement in the Saudi/UAE-led coalition’s intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The House vote is expected this week and the Senate will follow soon thereafter. It’s likely that both measures will pass, meaning that the legislative branch will soon speak with one voice calling on Donald Trump to withdraw American military support from this awful war.

It will be tempting to frame the results of these votes solely as a rebuke of Donald Trump’s reckless foreign policy, and/or the role both Trump and the Saudi government — led by Mohammed bin Salman — played in the murder and cover-up of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While these factors will indeed have had an impact on the outcome we expect, the reality is that we wouldn’t be here without the hundreds of thousands of activists working with Congressional allies over the last several years to push Congress toward ending the war. Consider the following:

  • Win Without War, together with organizations across the ideological spectrum, met with Members of Congress and/or their staffs hundreds of times since the Saudi-led intervention began, including holding briefings on Capitol Hill and organizing coalition letters to Congress, educating them on war’s horrors and the devastation of the humanitarian crisis it helped spawn.
  • Win Without War activists contacted Congress more than 250,000 times calling for an end to the war. Across the community of organizations working to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, activists took well over half a million  actions — including protests, phone calls to Congress, and signing petitions — demanding action.
  • Win Without War and movement partners wrote op-eds, and worked with reporters and lobbied media outlets to pay more attention to the crisis, including placing paid advertisements.
  • A joint digital mobilization brought together a dozen organizations generating hundreds of thousands of petitions and thousands of phone calls to Congress.
  • Congress’s oversight of and action on the intervention has steadily grown thanks to sustained pressure and activism. Consider:
    • In 2016, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) attempted to block a tfank sale to Saudi Arabia as a direct rebuke of the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led intervention. Only 27 Senators supported the measure.
    • A year later, another effort by the duo to block the sale of precision-guided munitions garnered more votes — this time 47 — but still failed. The Senate’s March 2018 vote on the Sanders-Lee-Murphy War Powers Resolution only received 44 votes in support.
    • Meanwhile, grassroots activists across the United States’ consistently voiced outrage at Washington’s unquestioning support for Saudi/UAE-led coalition’s intervention in the face of consistently documented atrocities such as the bombings of weddings and a school bus full of children.
    • By December 2018, 56 Senators voted to withdraw U.S. support from the intervention.
    • The House was blocked by Republican leadership from taking up the bill, but by the end of 2018 every single member of House Democratic leadership had sponsored Rep. Ro Khanna’s legislation invoking the War Powers Resolution.   

But don’t take our word for it. When asked recently whether grassroots organizations have played an important role in moving these Yemen bills forward, Rep. Ro Khanna, the lead sponsor of the House war powers effort, said: “Huge. Win Without War, the Yemen Peace Project, the Friends Committee on National Legislation. They have all been instrumental. We would not have been able to do any of this without them.”

February 12, 2019