BRATTLEBORO — Local residents opposed to the war on Yemen called for holding politicians accountable for the United States’ role.
“Today marks the beginning of the eighth year of the war on Yemen and that’s why we thought it was important to show up, because a lot of people in Vermont and around the country and around the world think that we shouldn’t have an eighth year of this war,” Isaac Evans-Frantz of Brattleboro said at a rally Sunday at Pliny Park in downtown Brattleboro.
Among the crowd Sunday were representatives from Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro and All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Brattleboro, longtime peace activists and Vermont Senate candidate Nader Hashim.
Evans-Frantz said the situations in Ukraine and Yemen both involve “a foreign aggressor, dropping bombs, killing civilians, wrecking havoc on people’s countries, causing devastation for millions of people.”
“I think the biggest difference is in one case, the United States is trying to stop that aggression and in the other case, it’s enabling that,” he said.
What originally was supposed to be a quick intervention and bombing campaign turned into a war for seven years, Evans-Frantz said.
“The good news is that any member of Congress can introduce a resolution in the House or in the Senate,” he said. “That forces a vote on the floor of that legislative body to stop this unconstitutional war. And it turns out, the Congress never authorized this war. It’s been waged now by three administrations, first the Obama administration and then the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration.”
President Joe Biden promised an end to the war on Yemen and that the U.S. would stop providing support for Saudi Arabia in its war, Evans-Frantz said, recounting the president’s first foreign policy speech in which he committed to ending all “offensive support for offensive operations in Yemen.”
“We’ve seen huge, huge weapons sales,” Evans-Frantz said. “And recently with the war in Ukraine and challenges getting oil from Russia, there’s been an increased interest in making Saudi Arabia happy and trying to get oil out of there and conceding. And so there’s been additional weapons transfers, and there seems to be a softening and an openness to Saudi Arabia. And so we’re seeing backsliding.”
Evans-Frantz said it’s important for people to call on Congress to use its “constitutional authority over war,” recalling how activists encouraged a war powers resolution to stop the war. A bipartisan resolution passed both the House and the Senate before being vetoed by President Trump in 2019.
When Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., spoke at the Common in Brattleboro in September, local activist MD Baker asked if he would introduce a resolution. Evans-Frantz recalled the senator saying, “We will do that,” but since then there has not been a new resolution.
Evans-Frantz and other activists, including Rev. Scott Couper of Centre Congregational, went to Rep. Peter Welch’s office in Burlington earlier this month. They bared some very cold weather for the cause.
“Welch’s state director read a statement saying that he would support that resolution once it’s introduced,” Evans-Frantz said. “But if nobody else is introducing that resolution, any member of Congress can introduce it and it forces a vote on the floor of the house. So what we need is action.”
The wars in Ukraine and Yemen have brought to Hashim’s mind a phrase his friend uses: “think globally and act locally.”
“And that’s what we’re doing today,” Hashim said. “I appreciate what everyone is doing today, coming out here and making your voices heard. And another thing that I’ll mention is accountability. You know, I will always advocate for keeping our leaders accountable for their actions and the words that they speak, whether it’s a police officer, a Select Board member or U.S. Senator, we should always ask those hard questions and we should always hold them accountable for what they say.”
Hashim formerly served as a state representative and worked as a State Trooper.
Baker said there’s no reason to bomb people because of politics.
“This just plain has to stop,” Baker said.
Local activist Ellen Schwartz said with the U.S. wanting to get more oil from Saudi Arabia, “they’re feeling like they have to be nice to the Saudis. And I think it’s just really important in light of that, that we just be really clear that this is hurting the Yemeni people. It’s an act of aggression against the Yemeni people.”
“I wasn’t aware anything diabolical was going on there,” said local activist Bill Pearson, whose fellow activist told him about Sunday’s rally.