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Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead

Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead
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Congress has a chance to stop President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE's military support of the Saudi coalition in Yemen in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but in the latest version of this bill failed to do so. 

The House passed the NDAA on Wednesday night even though the bill does nothing to stop the war in Yemen. The Senate can still reject the NDAA in the coming days when it votes.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? Young voters set turnout record, aiding Biden win MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Calif.) said "Voters would be appalled to know that instead of seizing the opportunity to end illegal U.S. participation in the horrific Saudi-led bombings of Yemen, Congress will continue to fund Trump’s unconstitutional war, which threatens to kill 24 million Yemenis facing starvation and disease." 

Sanders and Khanna both say “Every member of Congress should vote against this measure." 

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They are absolutely right. We must be a peacemaker and humanitarian only for Yemen. That is the best way we can support the UN-led peace process to end Yemen's civil war. We can't promote peace while we are enabling the war to continue with military aid and arms sales to the Saudi coalition's fight against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Yemenis are dying from bombs and hunger.

Doctor Mariam Aldogani of Save the Children in Hodeidah, Yemen “Every day we receive wounded children in Save the Children-supported hospitals needing our care. In 2019, our team has given medical care to more than 500 children who have been caught up in this conflict, some with life-threatening injuries.

At one point this year we supported six children from two families — it was sad, some of the children had broken legs and shrapnel wounds all over their bodies. I cannot forget the youngest girl, just three years old, with burns all over her hands. We need to stop this war on children.”

Children are not only suffering from bombs, but also malnutrition. David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee warns " Analysis suggests that if the conflict persists, famine conditions are likely to return and children will bear the brunt: the long-term physical and mental development impacts of malnutrition are well understood. Without peace now millions of children face a harsh future."

The Yemen war has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Over twenty million Yemenis are food insecure. The UN World Food Program alone is feeding over 12 million Yemenis a month, its largest operation by far. Relief agencies need a tremendous amount of funding to reach all Yemenis in need.

Sometimes aid agencies are blocked by military forces. That is why a nationwide ceasefire is crucial in building up to a lasting peace treaty.

The United States though has to make a strong statement for peace. That means no more military support for the Saudi coalition. Bread for the World is leading letter-writing campaigns to end U.S. military support of the Saudis.

“Bread for the World has taken action for Yemen because the United States is complicit in this man-made crisis,” said Matt Gross, director of organizing at Bread for the World. “We cannot stand idly by while millions continue to suffer because of the actions of our government.”

We must increase support for humanitarian aid for all Yemenis. We can do this by expanding the Food for Peace program that was started by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was Ike who believed in fewer arms sales and more humanitarian aid as the pathway to peace. 

But that idea has been sadly lost today as evidenced by the war in Yemen and this latest National Defense Authorization bill.

The United States is a nation that stands for peace, not for making billions on arms sales and fueling wars such as the catastrophe in Yemen.  

Congress should reject the current National Defense Authorization Act until it includes a provision ending U.S. military aid to the Saudi war in Yemen. It's up to the Senate now. We have to show we are serious about peace.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book “Ending World Hunger.”