US refuels Saudi jets on combat missions in Yemen, helps select airstrike targets for the Saudis from its satellite data, keeps the Saudi jets in flying condition, and helps enforce the naval blockade. In other words, the US assistance to the Saudis in Yemen is sufficiently hands-on that it constitutes US participation in the war.
That means it is also patently illegal and unconstitutional under US law since technically by law which hasn’t been followed for who knows how long only Congress can declare war (or in newer times “authorize the use of military force” which is in itself a perversion and dilution of the original*).
Despite the letter of the law the Congress has been at least since WWII happy to cede its war making powers to US Presidents to exercise illegally. It has either not challenged the executive when it has started wars without even consulting the Congress. Or — when consulted — it has been happy to pass broad “force authorization” resolutions of questionable legality that supposedly grant the executive the legal right to start (or not) a war at a time (and sometimes against an enemy) of its choosing.
However moving into Yemen to help Saudis fight the Houthis since 2015 the executive did not even go through this much easier hoop to jump.**
The Congress has now voted to inform Trump they never authorized US participation in that war and that he must therefore request authorization or end it. However the way the US system work Trump is actually able to “veto” the order because Congress did not pass it with a two-thirds majority. Hilarious!
The bill, SJ Res 7, was a straightforward bill under the War Powers Act of 1973. The bill noted that Congress never authorized the US war in Yemen, and demanded an end to it. The US Constitution grants sole power to declare wars to the Congress, and by extension the power to order an end to illegal wars.
It is a mere accident of the way bills work that actions under the War Powers Act, designed explicitly as a check on presidential attempts to illegally seize war-making powers, can even be vetoed by the president. Yet SJ Res 7 won such a narrow victory int he Senate that it would be highly unlikely that an override of the veto will even be attempted.
Of course, Trump’s argument here is that US involvement does not rise to the level of war, but that’s nonsense — so what we actually have here is that Congress can inform the President they never voted to allow him to start the war, and he can take that message and fold it into a paper airplane and throw it out the window like a Nero or Julius Caesar.
President Trump has just issued the second veto of his presidency, rejecting a resolution from Congress to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Trump calls it a "dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities." pic.twitter.com/IgrxgE4943
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 16, 2019
But really that’s not the root of the problem. The root is that Congress is seated with toadies for the national-security deep state and the military-industrial complex, and sincere believers in American imperialism, and always has been. 200-year rules, no matter how clearly spelled out are of little use here.
Daniel Larison (who has been excellent on Yemen throughout, constantly pointing what a humanitarian atrocity it has been):
Today Trump has proven once more to the people of Yemen just how cynical he and the other supporters of the war are. Support for the war on Yemen is the most disgraceful U.S. policy today, and it is one of the most despicable policies of the last fifty years.
That is what Trump chooses to continue and defend. He has chosen again and again to cater to and indulge some of the worst governments on earth, and he has done so for the basest reasons of protecting future weapons sales.
If we knew nothing else about him, this would tell us all we need to know about his contempt for the law, his cruelty, and his disregard for innocent life.
*The War Powers Resolution of 1973 was a check on Presidential power only in the sense that it intended to diminish very slightly the power the Presidents had grabbed for themselves by then, however it simultaneously willingly conceded to the executive far more than ever intended by the Constitution.
**The ocassional airstrikes on al-Qaeda in Yemen (that is against the other side in the war) meanwhile are supposedly authorized by the ancient, 2001 War on Terror resolution which supposedly allows them albeit it was passed before there even was a civil war in Yemen or AQ held territory there.