Matthew Cunningham-Cook: A Disgusting, Child-Murdering Vote – On The $1.15 billion Saudi Arms Sale

By Matthew Cunningham-Cook, who has written for the International Business Times, The New Republic, Jacobin, Aljazeera, and The Nation and has been a labor activist

In a craven act of genocidal depravity, the US Senate voted Wednesday to approve yet another tranche of weapons sales to the far-right Wahhabist theocracy of Saudi Arabia, bringing the total to over $20 billion in sales since the Saudi war began in March 2015. Those weapons will be used in the Saudis’ campaign of extermination against the civilian supporters of the Houthis, a postcolonial-nationalist militia aligned with Tehran.

Because of Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians, 14.4 million people in Yemen, out of 25.4 million, are food insecure, according to the World Food Program. On September 21 the BBC released a harrowing documentary on malnutrition among children in Yemen, all a direct result of the Saudi bombing campaign.

Over 4,000 civilians have been killed by the Saudi’s bombing campaign, with likely countless more dead from ancillary effects of malnutrition.

The region includes wartorn Somalia–the recipient of numerous US interventions and the site of ongoing drone strikes and US special forces presence–and the dictatorial, pro-US regime in Ethiopia that is also waging a campaign of mass slaughter and starvation, except against its Oromo ethnic plurality and rural villagers. All three countries sit at the center of the Mandeb Strait, a key strategic chokepoint that features around 7% of the world’s oil tanker transportation. Directly north is the fiercely independent nation of Eritrea, one of just two nations in Africa to not cooperate with the US military in its neo-colonial Africom project.

What in particular concerns Washington and Riyadh is that a Houthi Yemen would align itself with Iran and Eritrea, forming a counter-hegemonic bloc at the epicenter of global oil transportation and production. That just can’t happen.

Hence the campaign of starvation against the Yemeni people. It’s not without historical precedent–the British effort to head off anti-colonial disruption in Bengal by artificially raising the price of food in Bengal, leading to the starvation of over 4 million people, comes to mind.

Despite the US media’s painfully obvious Saudi sympathies, a few in Congress–to their everlasting credit–have waged a thus-far fruitless campaign thus far to raise the alarm about the US weapons industry’s–and the State Department’s–cynical enabling of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), led the campaign for a rejection of the sale in the Senate, where 27 Senators voted against the sale on Wednesday. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), has introduced a companion resolution in the House, where it actually has a chance of passing. In June, another Lieu resolution to block the sale of internationally banned cluster munitions to the Saudis failed by just twelve votes, 216-204.

A few more phone calls to members of Congress could change the equation this time, putting the Saudis on notice that their campaign of genocide against the Yemeni people is not tolerated by the world community.

The Senate roll call is below. The House roll call from the cluster vote in June is here. I urge you to contact your members of the Senate to thank or castigate them for their vote on Wednesday, and to contact your member of the House to request that they vote for the Lieu resolution.

YEAs —71

Alexander (R-TN)

Ayotte (R-NH)

Barrasso (R-WY)

Bennet (D-CO)

Blunt (R-MO)

Boozman (R-AR)

Brown (D-OH)

Burr (R-NC)

Capito (R-WV)

Cardin (D-MD)

Carper (D-DE)

Casey (D-PA)

Cassidy (R-LA)

Coats (R-IN)

Cochran (R-MS)

Collins (R-ME)

Coons (D-DE)

Corker (R-TN)

Cornyn (R-TX)

Cotton (R-AR)

Crapo (R-ID)

Cruz (R-TX)

Daines (R-MT)

Donnelly (D-IN)

Enzi (R-WY)

Ernst (R-IA)

Feinstein (D-CA)

Fischer (R-NE)

Flake (R-AZ)

Gardner (R-CO)

Graham (R-SC)

Grassley (R-IA)

Hatch (R-UT)

Heitkamp (D-ND)

Hoeven (R-ND)

Inhofe (R-OK)

Isakson (R-GA)

Johnson (R-WI)

King (I-ME)

Lankford (R-OK)

Manchin (D-WV)

McCain (R-AZ)

McCaskill (D-MO)

McConnell (R-KY)

Menendez (D-NJ)

Merkley (D-OR)

Mikulski (D-MD)

Moran (R-KS)

Murkowski (R-AK)

Nelson (D-FL)

Perdue (R-GA)

Peters (D-MI)

Portman (R-OH)

Reed (D-RI)

Risch (R-ID)

Roberts (R-KS)

Rounds (R-SD)

Rubio (R-FL)

Sasse (R-NE)

Schumer (D-NY)

Scott (R-SC)

Sessions (R-AL)

Shaheen (D-NH)

Shelby (R-AL)

Sullivan (R-AK)

Tillis (R-NC)

Toomey (R-PA)

Vitter (R-LA)

Warner (D-VA)

Whitehouse (D-RI)

Wicker (R-MS)


NAYs —27

Baldwin (D-WI)

Blumenthal (D-CT)

Booker (D-NJ)

Boxer (D-CA)

Cantwell (D-WA)

Durbin (D-IL)

Franken (D-MN)

Gillibrand (D-NY)

Heinrich (D-NM)

Heller (R-NV)

Hirono (D-HI)

Kirk (R-IL)

Klobuchar (D-MN)

Leahy (D-VT)

Lee (R-UT)

Markey (D-MA)

Murphy (D-CT)

Murray (D-WA)

Paul (R-KY)

Reid (D-NV)

Sanders (I-VT)

Schatz (D-HI)

Stabenow (D-MI)

Tester (D-MT)

Udall (D-NM)

Warren (D-MA)

Wyden (D-OR)


Not Voting – 2

Kaine (D-VA)

Thune (R-SD)


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  1. Quanka

    How convenient of Kaine not to vote.

    For Colorado readers, note Senator Bennett’s vote on this and know that you have a viable Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate — his name is Arn Menconi.

    1. cwaltz

      Don’t worry Mr. “We have to cut Social Security to strengthen it” Warner has Virginia’s back……oh wait, he voted YES.

      Meanwhile in bizarre land my Republican House member voted NO. My husband is chortling because I may find myself voting for a GOP member this cycle.

  2. Otis B Driftwood

    Merkeley and Brown voted for this? These guys are supposed to be progressive exemplars, right? And Kaine conveniently missed the vote. Not a surprise there.

    1. ks

      I find Merkeley altogether too tepid – a fighting progressive, he’s not – but I never expected a vote as immoral as this from him. I don’t see much interest in foreign affairs in Oregon – maybe he thinks no one will notice.

  3. lyman alpha blob

    Feinstein votes yea – no surprise there. I wonder how much she and her husband will personally benefit from this deal?

  4. Robert NYC

    You can’t possibly understand U.S./Saudi relations without understanding the secret arrangement struck in 1974 regarding the dollar. The U.S. $ owes its role as the international reserve currency to Saudi support so as long as there is oil in the ground you are going to have a relationship with the Saudis that the public doesn’t understand. The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t understand this either and when the Saudis made it clear to the U.S. that they wouldn’t tolerate the outbreak of democracy on their door step, the Brotherhood was toast.

  5. Dave

    Didn’t a certain presidential candidate take big time “donations” to their private foundation to get the weapons sales into high gear?
    Can’t remember, was it Sanders? Was it Stein? Or, the guy with the weird hair, something that is a huge threat to world peace and the future of the republic? The one “who doesn’t know what he is doing?”
    Oh yeah, now I remember, it was the one who is such a defender of children everywhere, the “experienced one”, the only logical candidate for weapons makers and the financial moloch that feeds off them to support.

    Please Mr. Trump, ask her about the weapons sales in the debates.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I also seem to recall a “Hope and Change” president who will veto, he’s probably just trying to avoid jail himself when the other nations under his rain of death from above by killer robot decide they’ve had enough. And forget the “librarian from outer space” outfits Hilary is wearing, she should be modelling an orange jumpsuit.

  6. Chauncey Gardiner

    I’m also proud of my two WA senators, especially the one who is known among her colleagues as “The senator from Boeing” for swimming against the current on this. Have we lost our moral compass?… Our so called “political leaders” are failing to uphold the laws, norms, and rules that define civilized values and standards of behavior. In those see-through “Citizens United” envelopes, here’s looking at you, MIC:

    …”Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia was put on the UN secretary-general’s “list of shame” for bombing Yemeni civilian targets and killing children. By June, however, it had been removed from the list following intensive lobbying by the Saudi government and its arms-supplying American and European allies.”

  7. sd

    Just a reminder that party members trade votes. Notice the safe votes who in all likelihood traded their votes to members in unsafe seats. This applies In both directions.

    I just feel an obligation to point this out because not all votes are as they appear.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks for the timely reminder, sd. Don’t know, but on this particular issue I suspect there was likely some horse trading going on in an effort to protect the vulnerable, demonstrate a veto-proof majority, and provide political cover for the executive. Nonetheless, I feel it is important to publicly acknowledge the moral minority who did the right thing, regardless of their underlying motivations. And who’s to say those in the minority didn’t vote their conscience?

  8. wilroncanada

    Guess who the number two arms seller to the Middle East is?
    Yep! It’s us: Canada, the country who’s government has said it has decided to convert its military back to “peacekeeping.” That is: if the currently proposed 1.5 billion sale of “light armored vehicles” goes ahead. At the moment it is being challenged by a Montreal university professor as unlawful by our own rules. We are also number six in total worldwide arms sales, of course under the radar of most Canadian media and populace. The Ministry of trade is not bragging about it, at least in public, but is probably flogging the stat. in those international conferences which seem to be closed to most of the public, but open to bankers, arms dealers and industries.
    Peacekeepers, hah!

    1. Nelson Lowhim

      Yeah that seems like a little bit of a euphemism. Hungry and starving makes sense. Food insecure sounds like not having a gluten-free restaurant to go to. The first result on google shows the definition to be:
      “lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” That could mean a lot of things. They need better words.

    2. S

      No that’s not what was meant – food insecure has a specific definition – which encompasses the hungry and starving – but not the entirely famished people you are probably picture. The World Food Program are probably the experts when it comes to hunger and starvation, no? For sure, many in Yemen are starving and deprived of access to food, but not all 14.4 million people.

  9. RBHoughton

    What an excellent example for the journalistic profession to see – a list of representatives and how they voted. This should form part of every political article. It should be taught in journalism class. Well done Mr Matthew Cunningham-Cook.

  10. kj1313

    Happy that Gillibrand voted no and it’s no surprise that Schumer is scum. He would sell his grandmother for a few dollars.

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