According to new reporting by Axios, President Biden is considering a trip to Saudi Arabia this Spring in order to mend relations and convince the Kingdom to produce more oil to offset a potential U.S. ban on Russian imports following their invasion of Ukraine.
If we lived in a country of informed citizens with uniform respect for all human life, that would be the whole story in a nutshell. There’d be no need to elaborate on the rank hypocrisy of even considering such a visit. Unfortunately, polling indicates that less than 40% of Americans are even aware that the Saudis are targeting civilians in their war in Yemen. The slaughter, now in its eighth year, has been deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations.
And so essentially, the United States is seeking more product from a rich brown country committing genocide against their poor brown neighbors in order to compensate for a boycott against a white superpower attacking their white neighbors. The only sensible interpretation of this is that Yemeni lives don’t matter - not to the Biden administration, the media, or the West as a whole.
CBS correspondent Charles D’Agata’s description of Ukraine as a “relatively civilized, relatively European” place in order to elicit sympathy from a public who’s reacted to warfare in majority-brown countries like Iraq and Afghanistan with relative indifference is the most egregious, but hardly the only, example of racial bias in the media’s reporting of this crisis.
Among the general population, there’s a similar discrepancy in attitudes towards intra-continental white-on-white warfare and its inter-civilizational counterpart. Support for Ukraine and its people has been overwhelming, dwarfing the levels of sympathy for “less European” countries in similar situations in recent history. For example, 74% of Americans support welcoming Ukrainian refugees. In 2015, when the Obama administration announced plans to admit 10,000 Syrians fleeing war and persecution in their home country, only 28% agreed with the decision.
Most pertinent to this particular matter, 80% of Americans support a ban on the importation of Russian oil, but 71% say gas prices should factor into our approach to the conflict. This means in order to prevent prices from soaring even higher than current projections predict, we’ll need to make up for any loss in supply caused by a Russian ban.
And so we’re considering sending our President to the Saudi Kingdom to beg hat-in-hand for more oil. The suggestion has already attracted sharp criticism, most notably from Rep. Ilhan Omar, who said such a trip would be “wildly immoral” and that “Yemenis might not matter to some geopolitically, but their humanity should.”
If Biden does end up going, the White House would justify it as a necessary compromise of values for the sake of pursuing a greater good. Of course, this invites the obvious question that if we’re willing to set aside our principles - and sell out the Yemeni people - for access to oil, then why not entertain the moral compromise of engaging in real diplomacy with Russia in the hopes of ending the violence and preventing a potential World War?
The Kremlin recently announced their terms for ending their assault on Ukraine. They include Ukraine codifying a promise not to join NATO or the EU, acknowledging Crimea as part of Russia, and recognizing their separatist regions as independent. Capitulating to these demands at this point would be a great moral concession considering Putin’s war crimes against the Ukrainian people. But it too would be in service of a greater good.
So if we’re willing to denigrate the humanity of the Yemeni people by expanding our business dealings with those committing genocide against them, then - assuming all lives truly matter equally - we ought to be willing to commit a similar offense against the dignity of Ukrainians, especially since such a sacrifice would be in pursuit of a much nobler goal than cheap oil: a more peaceful world. To approve of the former but not the latter is to admit that brown Arab lives are simply not as precious as white European ones.
Middle Easterners are used to being discarded in this way. Funding for Israeli defense passes with virtually unanimous support despite its apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians. Barack Obama still enjoys astronomical popularity despite having bombed Libya into a failed state with open slave markets (mention this to your average white liberal and they either won’t know about it or won’t care). And as Donald Trump threatened to upend the world order they’ve been molding since 9/11, Bush-era neocons like David Frum, Bill Kristol, and Stephen Hayes have been thoroughly rehabilitated by the political establishment despite having spread the misinformation that started the Iraq War, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
A Presidential visit to Saudi Arabia to ask for more oil would be the latest example of Western disregard for human life in the Middle East. If difficult times call for difficult decisions, we should make the moral compromise that averts WW3, not the one that helps pay for it.
Photos: Public Domain