A lot of news to keep up with today!
This afternoon Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Al Franken (D-MN) forced a vote on the resolution to block a portion of the Saudi arms deal. The resolution did not pass with 47 voting to halt the sales and 53 voting to continue with the sales of arms to Saudi Arabia.
Press Release from Senator Rand Paul.
The following video is the speech the Senator gave before the Senate this morning. I’ve typed out a lot of what he said and mixed in some short notes and Tweets on other parts to sum it up. If you don’t have time to watch his speech, then read through the text of what he had to say. The video is 24 minutes long.
Post featuring the speech by Senator Murphy coming soon! I want to keep this one focused because it’s a lot for one post.
This is what’s called a privileged motion. Today we will discuss the involvement of the United States in the Middle East and we will also discuss whether we should engage in a new war in Yemen. Today we will discuss an arms sale to Saudi Arabia that threatens the lives of millions of Yemenis, but we will discuss something even more important than an arms sale. We will discuss whether we should be actively involved. Should the United States be actively involved with refueling the Saudi planes, with picking targets, with having advisers on the ground? Should we be at war in Yemen? If you remember your Constitution, it says no president has that authority. Only to repel imminent attack, but no president alone has the unilateral authority to take us to war and yet here we are on the verge of war.
What will war mean for Yemen? 17 million folks in Yemen live on the brink of starvation. I think to myself, “Is there ever anything important that can happen in Washington? Is there ever anything I can do to save some of the millions of children who are dying in Yemen?” This is it. This is this debate today. It isn’t about an arms sale, it’s about children like Ali who died. Why are they dying? Because the Saudis have blockaded the ports. 90% of Yemen’s food comes in from the ocean and they can get no food and they are starving and dying of cholera because of war. We think of famine being related to the weather, sometimes it is, but more often than not famine is related to man, is man-made and is the most common cause is war. How bad is it in Yemen? 17 million people live on the edge of starvation. Some like Ali have already died. What are people saying about it? They say that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen may be worse than Syria. Let me repeat that because nobody in America is listening to this. Everybody’s paying attention to some silly show trials and silly stuff going on in committees. Nobody’s talking about this at all. They say it is worse than Syria. Millions of people have fled Syria, hundreds of thousands have died, and people are now predicting Yemen may be worse. One refugee group said this, that the impending famine in Yemen may reach biblical proportions.Think about that. It’s astounding what’s going on there and it’s being done without your permission, but with your weapons.
So today I will force a vote with Senator Murphy’s help, who’s been a prime mover in this to tell you the truth and done a great job in bringing people together. But we will force this vote for these children in Yemen because we have a chance today to stop the carnage. We have a chance to tell Saudi Arabia we’ve had enough. The question is should we give money or arms to Saudi Arabia at all? What has Saudi Arabia done over the last thirty years? They have been the number one exporter of Jihadist philosophy. They corrupt the religion of Islam throughout the world and we’re going to give them weapons? I think it’s a huge, huge mistake. If you say, “Well I doubt that. There’s no way they’re that bad! Don’t they share with us intelligence? Don’t they help us in the war on terror?” Yes, every time they help us, they hurt us two-fold worse.
Who in their right mind would give money, arms, or share our technology with a country that’s been supporting Isis? Who would do that? Who would think that that’s a good idea? And yet they’ll come here and they’ll say it’s about Iran and we have to combat Iran everywhere. Guess what. This may make the situation with Iran worse. We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East. Every side wants more.
The best way to put pressure on Iran is not to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. Naive to think Iran will give up on ballistic weapons unless Saudi Arabia does the same.
Saudi Arabia is no friend of Israels. They’re missiles are pointed at Tel Aviv and also Tehran.
I’ll give you a couple of instances of what it’s like to live in Saudi Arabia. There was a young girl, 19 years old and she was raped by seven men. Now the men were punished, a couple years in prison, but you know what happened? They arrested the victim because you see in Saudi Arabia, it’s your fault if you’re raped. In Saudi Arabia rape victims are arrested, put in prison, and publicly whipped. She was given six months in prison and 200 lashes was her sentence. Ultimately it did not come to fore and you know why? Partly because the US stood up and said it was wrong. Partly because perhaps behind the scenes we said maybe we’re not going to sell you weapons if you behave like a bunch of barbarians.
Death row in Saudi Arabia includes beheading and crucifixion.
The technology is ours. It’s American technology that was developed for the defense of this country and the companies would never have the technology had we not paid them to have it. The American taxpayer has a right to that technology and, well, almost every other good in the marketplace I would say the government has no right to tell you who to sell it to. Arms are different because they’re all developed by the US taxpayer. And I do believe there should be rules about who gets our arms. I don’t think we should sell them to Saudi Arabia if they might wind up in the hands of Isis. I don’t think we should sell them to Saudi Arabia if they punish people for protests, if they punish people for speaking out by beheading them and crucifying them. I’m not for selling them a rifle, much less precision-guided missiles. You think they accidentally a funeral procession? You think their intelligence was so bad they didn’t know the funeral procession? They killed 125 people at a funeral. They wounded 500. We wonder about why we have so much terrorism. Some of it’s blowback to policy. Do you think the people who survived or the relatives of those who died in that funeral procession, do you think they’re ever going to forget it? They will remember it 100 years from now. The problem we face of terrorism goes on and on and on as long as we keep supporting despots who treat their people like crap. We are not getting any closer to peace by supporting the Saudis.
Another example of life in Saudi Arabia: One blogger, sentenced to 1000 lashes. The Senator says, “I don’t think you can survive 1000 lashes.” The Saudis, feeling like humanitarians, divided the treatment into 10 doses. 100 down already, 900 to go.
History lesson time. The Battle of Karbala from 680 AD. “They have long memories.” I had to look this up on NPR: “Hussein, son of Ali, marches against the superior army of the caliph at Karbala in Iraq. He is defeated, his army massacred, and he is beheaded. The split between Shiites and Sunnis deepens. Shiites consider Ali their first imam, Hussein the third.”
“You have all the watches, we have all the time.” They live there. Have for centuries and will be there when we have gone. They have to fix their own problems. We can occasionally say we’re going to help some people destroy an evil empire or an evil group like ISIS. The people on the ground and the people fighting need to be the people who live there. It can’t be foreigners. It can’t be people who they consider to be pagans. It’s never going to work. But we are foolish if we don’t look at the repercussions of what it means to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. How will Iran react?
One Senator says that we don’t care how Iran reacts. To that Senator Rand Paul responds, “By golly we ought to if we’re going to put sanctions them!” Putting sanctions on Iran means that we care what they think.
Saudi arms alone are the third biggest in the world now. All together with their other Gulf allies, it’s 8 times more than Iran.
I think a great deal of why Iran develops weapons is their fear of Saudi Arabia. In fact when you look back at Iraq and the whole weapons of mass destruction that never existed, one of the interesting stories is maybe a theory but I think has some evidence, is that Saddam Hussein pretended valiantly that he had weapons of mass destruction not to deter us, to deter Iran. We think everything’s about us and we never acknowledge that some of it’s about regional politics. So when we give weapons or sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, there will be for every action a reaction. There will be significantly more pressure for Iran to come forward and have more weapons. What does it do to our ally Israel? There’s been at least a few reports that says Israel believes every time we give a dollar to Saudi Arabia, they need to respond with a dollar and a half.
William Wilberforce once said of slavery. He said, “Having heard all this, you can look the other way, but you can never say that you didn’t know.” I love that statement because so many people at the time of slavery looked away. So many people knew the horror of slavery. I think having heard of the impending famine in Yemen, having seen Ali and having heard of the impending famine, you can choose to look away. Many in this body will today choose to look away. They will be looking away from the human rights tragedy that is central to Saudi Arabia’s whole being. They will be looking away from the fact that Saudi Arabia was supporting ISIS in the Syrian civil war. They will be looking away from the fact that the Saudi blockade is starving Yemeni children. You know what? I choose not to look away and today I stand up for the thousands of who are being killed in Yemen. Today I stand up for the millions of voiceless children in Yemen who will be killed by the Saudi blockade. Today I stand up for saying we the United States should no longer be fueling the arms race in the Middle East. It’s come to no good. We should not get involved in every civil war and every misbegotten part of the planet.
This is important. This is a rare day in Senate history where we actually have the chance to stop an evil. But we would stop this evil by sending a loud message to the president and a loud message to Saudi Arabia that we are not going to blindly support the arms race, we are not going to be blind to your human rights transgressions, and we are not going to blindly give you weapons in the face of beheading your citizens and crucifying them. So today I take a stand for those who do not have a voice and I hope the Senate will think long and hard and will vote against this arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
Sidenote: I feel the need to point out that Japan still carries out their death penalty by hanging and it’s not always deserved. Wrongful convictions do happen, after all. My point in bringing this up is maybe the Senator could have focused more on *why* people were beheaded and not so much the beheading part. Maybe it was implied each time he mentioned it after his story? Hanging isn’t exactly a nice punishment either, yet we have friendly relations with Japan and a bunch of military bases. Human Rights Watch also has every country with the death penalty on its watch list, including the US.
To the video!