On Wednesday, Congressman Gianforte voted with most of the Republicans in the U.S. House to continue American arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates even though those weapons are being used to fuel a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians, put millions on the brink of starvation, and increased the risk of terrorism against the United States.
While the conflict in Yemen has not received the attention it deserves, the US-backed Saudi and UAE forces have devastated the country with airstrikes and a naval blockade since 2015, killing as many as 60,000 people (many civilians) and putting millions more at risk. As the New York Times reported in December:
Saudi Arabia entered the war in 2015, allying with the United Arab Emirates and a smattering of Yemeni factions with the goal of ousting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels from northern Yemen. Three years on, they have made little progress. At least 60,000 Yemenis have died in the war, and the country stands on the brink of a calamitous famine.
Arming the Saudis in their genocidal attacks against the people of Yemen is not just morally indefensible; it also undermines long-term American security by encouraging the kind of radicalization that leads to terrorist attacks against the West. As Alex de Waal, head of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University notes:
If mass starvation takes hold in Yemen, expect an even more deeply divided country. Expect radicalization. Expect an exodus across the Arabian Peninsula and up the Red Sea, toward the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. Expect to see the ugly and perilous repercussions of this harrowing experience for years to come.
Despite all these moral and practical reasons to end U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Congressman Gianforte, a man who likes to remind voters about his Christian faith at every turn, sided with the President’s desire to sell weapons to the Saudis, even though its regime murdered an American journalist, funds extremist schools across the world, and is engaged in a brutal campaign called the “worst humanitarian crisis” in recent years and “the greatest famine atrocity of our lifetimes.”
Even the Republican-led Senate (though not Steve Daines, of course) had the moral clarity and courage to vote against these sales, but not Congressman Gianforte, who always seems inclined to put cash ahead of conscience, even when the economic benefits of these arms sales are just Trumpian fantasy.
It’s also important to note that voting to end the arms sales would not have been a meaningless symbol. Because the Saudis are so reliant on American technology, simply ending continued sales would force the Saudi-led coalition to withdraw:
Without these ongoing American-origin weapons transfers, the Saudi coalition’s ability to prosecute its war would wither. “We can stop providing munitions, and they could run out of munitions, and then it would be impossible to keep the war going,” says Jonathan Caverley, associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a research scientist at M.I.T.
If Greg Gianforte and the Republican Congress simply had the courage to stand up to President Trump’s pathetic desire to appease autocrats across the world, the United States could not only end its moral culpability in the Yemen war, but it could actually end it.
I understand why foreign policy is often pushed to the backburner when it comes to covering our Congressional delegation, but this was an important vote that clearly demonstrated Congressman Gianforte’s values. Surely he owes it to Montanans to explain why he’s voting to fund the tools of genocide and the seeds of terrorism.