Got the return letter from Sen. Mike Crapo’s office – lots of data, lots of text. Impressed by the time it took to put together, if it was written just for me. Maybe it was. Nevertheless, the letter was a compilation of facts and views compiled to ignore the basis of my questioning. Hopefully I won’t be breaching a trust by reprinting my letter and Crapo’s but, to move forward, I’ll present both letters. I feel what I was going for in writing to him is an unachievable goal and that somehow discussing the letter of response will do some good. The moral questions I posed where not addressed.
It has been argued that the United States’ sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia is a necessary part of satisfying our ally and, therewith, satisfying our strategic aims in the whole of the Middle East.
There was talk – in the form of Rand Paul’s S. J. Res. 39 – to slow the flow of certain materiel to the Kingdom – at least long enough to question the use of this weaponry in Yemen. You were against this. And now our practices are reaping misery on a broad scale in that country. The largest cholera outbreak in history (1,000,000 cases) is quite the feat. Cholera can be fought with having a supply of clean water and the US is at least seeking to ease the current blockade on this most basic human necessity.
You know our media will not report on the United States’ role in this atrocity and (therefore?) the public will not care about it. This keeps you off the hook for even issuing a public statement. I hope that Americans would care if they knew. Maybe, as a whole, we don’t care though I’m 100% sure that – morally speaking – what we are helping Saudi Arabia do in Yemen is wrong.
Beyond supporting an ally, how do you justify this morally? I’m not trying to be facetious but present this as a question that I struggle with: I try to square how fortunate we are to live in an amazing state like Idaho with in a great country like the United States with what we do overseas. It is wrong to aid to the steamrolling of a county like Yemen whether you are talking about some rarefied concept of "the good" or more easily – and especially – if you are using the metric of Christian morality.
I’m not perfect and of course nobody is, but wouldn’t it be great if you were the Congress member to make Idaho so proud in the stand for what is right? Wouldn’t you rather have a legacy more in tune with those of Sens. Borah and Church instead of the legacy that is becoming your own?
Thanks for your time and keep fighting for Idaho!
– Chris Chigbrow
The response from Crapo (et.al.):
Thank you for contacting me regarding the humanitarian crisis stemming from Yemen’s ongoing civil war. I share your concerns about the extent and urgency of this situation and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The current humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the result of many long-standing, complex internal and regional issues. Yemen, long beset with factional conflict, has been engulfed in a violent civil war since the deposing of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in March 2015, part of the popular insurgency movements of the Arab Spring. On one side of the conflict are the Houthis, members of a Shia sect backed by Iran and responsible for ousting President Hadi; on the other side is a Saudi-backed coalition seeking to reinstate the internationally-recognized government of President Hadi. Amid this government dissolution and instability, terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has ties to Osama bin Laden and whose members have carried out numerous terror attacks around the world, continue to flourish.
The impact of this conflict, which has resulted in extensive loss of life and access to food and water, has been worsened dramatically by severe drought affecting the region. What water is accessible to the population is often dirty and unsuitable for drinking, leading to nearly 900,000 suspected cases of cholera. Rebel and terrorist groups have regularly disrupted efforts to bring relief and aid to civilians, leaving 67 percent of Yemenis without access to clean water and 60 percent food insecure. However, the United States remains the largest contributor of aid to the country and continues to work with local groups and individuals to help mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis, including sending over $637 million in humanitarian assistance in 2017. You can find additional information on the work and humanitarian aid that the US is delivering to Yemen here.
For decades, Saudi Arabia has been a critical ally to the U.S. in countering terrorist organizations and countering the expansion of anti-American regimes like Iran, emboldened by the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal. Recipients of Iranian support include Hamas and Hezbollah, which regularly launch attacks on Israel, and the Houthis. It is crucial to our national security, and that of our allies, that the US not allow Iran and its proxies to continue their nefarious activities with impunity. However, I understand the concerns raised about Saudi Arabia’s role in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, which has devolved into a bloody humanitarian crisis. As the Houthis continue their fight to wrest control from the Yemeni government, thousands of civilians continue to suffer greatly.
By all accounts, the situation on the ground in Yemen is dismal and should evoke a strong humanitarian response from the US and international community. While the US has assisted Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in countering the Houthis’ destabilizing actions, it must also continue to work with the international community to minimize human suffering and bring resolution to the conflict. On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to open immediately all channels to food, fuel, water and medicine for Yemeni civilians, echoing earlier statements establishing the facilitation of humanitarian relief as its top priority in negotiations. I support President Trump in calling on the leadership of Saudi Arabia to expedite aid to the millions of suffering Yemeni civilians and will continue to support needed humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict as we work for long-term regional and international security.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to contact me in the future on this or other matters of interest to you. For more information about the issues before the US Senate as well as news releases, photos, and other items of interest, please visit my Senate website.
United States Senator
Perhaps all the data included was to respond to a heightened tone that my brief letter tried to maintain, professional level of discourse: responding to an adult. But what I felt while reading the response was that I was, at best, the recipient of a snow job or, at worst, that my letter was regarded as coming from a child and that the child needed to have some knowledge dropped on his head: "Here are some basic facts for you kid – read these before coming up the adult table and trying to talk".
Upon first reading the response, my instincts did want to that latter place: I did feel for a bit that I might serve as the poster child of patronization. And some of the feeling lingers, though, well, I don’t feel the response was outright, in-your-face patronization.
But there is something in the tone of all our leaders’ speech that is patronizing. Let’s all it for what it is.
To achieve a certain end, wrapping ideas up in elaborate packaging is a hallmark of the language used by those in power. I was not subject to a new line of putting-someone-in-their-place language, no, instead I entered this flow of controlling language midstream. And, as someone who on a bad day sees every goddam bit of language spoken by any motherfucker as propaganda, it was easy to read the response as a prime little chunk of propaganda.
And then, replacing the feeling of being patronized, the weariness of realizing my place in the machine set in.
What is it that I hope to achieve by writing a letter to tan elected official? Perhaps you’ve heard it too, people saying "Write or call you politician: they actually do listen". So I followed this advice. But, Jesus, where do you draw the line, I mean, how megalomaniacal is writing a letter to a state Senator compared to writing a letter to the President? What comes next, writing a letter to a deity? What about writing a letter yourself as a self-abnegating god of a solipsistic existence? What do I want? What do I expect?
Although an Idaho State Senator, Crapo’s voice is the voice of empire. He has used the verbiage appropriate to the structure of our world. These are the phrase selections made by the nightly news and this language isn’t just top-down. This language relies on a vocabulary widespread in our society, a set of words and thoughts you use when going with the flow, when you implicitly or tacitly side with those in power. You need a populace conversant in this language to start with, who may then receive and accept what is spoken to them – such facile minds – and under an assault of information one becomes pummeled by choice facts, the easily measured stats that are reference in a vacuum, ahistorical facts.
I want to end my conversation with my elected officials, at least on this topic. My concerns on the topic of Yemen do not translate into the lexicon of power. The timeless question one puts to a scofflaw – how do you sleep at night – is not capable of being posed by those in power. Dry facts and complex-seeming policy positions allow us all to rest in our cultured slumber.
Chris Chigbrow is a blogger who examines the contemporary world using the lens of pessimism. His writing can be found at https://medium.com/@chrischigbrow.