Friday, December 31, 2004

It’s Our Shame to bear.

By T. J. Willms

While sitting down to write, I caught the reflection of my un-shaven face in my monitor without being able to turn away. I simply could not face myself in the mirror for long enough this morning thinking about the miserly amount my government has pledged to the relief effort in southern Asia. If only I were forced to pay higher taxes, there would be more money for the United States Government to funnel into the effort. All of the death and destruction surely underscores the guilt we should all be feeling just thinking about the squandering of our recourses having just celebrated the most offensive of Christian holy days. Thank goodness for the mass media to remind us all of our good fortune to be living in the richest nation on the earth. Our President embarrassingly, is staying in his Crawford Texas ranch on vacation. Even though he is, surely in constant contact with all of the necessary government agencies he should be rushing back to Washington for appearance sake. The shame of it all is almost too much to bear. I think I may need to take a pill…...

All right, that will be entirely enough self-flagellation. I think the proper emotional response at this point would be irritation, consternation, or perhaps even outrage. I am referring of course to the remarks of that snotty Euro-punk Jan Egeland the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator. The U. S. contribution has escalated each day since those ruinous waves smashed ashore into some of the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the world. It began as an instantaneous offer of $4 million in emergency aid. It increased shortly thereafter to $15 million and when we better understood the scope of the destruction it more than doubled to a total of $35 million dollars. Today the President, having had the opportunity to fully evaluate the awesome entirety of the damage and human toll of the disaster has increased that amount ten-fold. U.S. disaster relief workers, soldiers, sailors are rushing into the area to help those most in need. An entire aircraft carrier battle group of a dozen ships is heading into the area to lend what aid they are able. Twenty heavy airlift C-130 aircraft complete with aircrews have been dispatched courtesy of the U. S. taxpayers.

It is not my purpose here to crow at the generosity of the country in which I live. I would however like to refute the arrogant statement of a minor Norwegian government functionary via the auspices of the U.N. telling me I am not doing enough and I should be paying more in taxes. My government spends the money I do send in to their tender care quite freely enough thank you Mr. Egeland. I would also like to point out that through corporations and privately the United States last year alone has given some $29 million dollars in charitable donations to overseas aid. I would be very surprised indeed if the overall U. S. contribution to the relief and rebuilding effort does not exceed $1 billion I suspect it will be considerably more than that amount. Yet, criticism of the U. S. efforts to be of service to the Tsunami victims crashes forward like an angry sea.

Former U. N. International Development Secretary Clare Short has made the accusation that President Bush’s “working group” of nations in the region is a direct attempt to circumvent the U. N. which is the proper organization to co-ordinate the aid recourses pouring into the region. The same U. N. that so smoothly administered the Iraqi “oil for food” program. It should be more accurately described as “Money for Kofi and Saddam” program and makes the U. N. the very last place anyone could confidently send relief funds expecting them to arrive where they are needed. Ms Short went on to state that the coalition countries (the U. S., Australia, Japan, and India) did not have good records on responding to international disasters. Additionally she accused the U. S. of being “very bad at coordinating with anyone.” "These nations are launching a separate operation unwilling to work with the rest of the world through the UN system," which she states is the only agency with the proper “moral authority” to handle this crisis.

The morality of the U. N. is legendary and is likely the very reason President Bush has wisely chosen a different avenue to deliver the response of the American people to the heart wrenching devastation we witness on our televisions every evening. Mr. Bush is in fact the first U. S. President to hold a Masters degree in business administration. Is it so very surprising that he would want to analyze the situation and then develop a plan of action to deal with both the immediate as well as the long term needs of these devastated people. Further is there any mystery that he should upon careful consideration, find the U. N.’s track record of administering aid resources to the needy wanting?

It should also be noted that the entire world is responding with tremendous generosity to this unprecedented crisis. The citizens of the United Kingdom have been donating funds at the astonishing rate of 1 million British pounds per hour for the past day. The website of The Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRCS) has crashed under the weight of donations and inquiries coming through their doors. Governments everywhere are adding their willing contributions to help and most of them are choosing not the U. N. but the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

None of these various nations have drawn the public ire of the U.N. I suspect that is primarily and specifically because they do not have “a Bush to Bash.” It seems that only the tiny nation of Israel is more hated than President Bush, having their offer of 150 experienced doctors and rescue workers flatly rejected by Sri-Lanka due to the complaints of the Muslim community on that ravaged island nation.

The contributors to this massive aid effort are numerous and diverse, and United States will be as forthcoming as any. We will be there in the long term and that fact will go largely unreported. The United States is neither trying to curry favor within the region nor are we attempting to appear benevolent before the world press. We will do it because it’s the right thing to do and that, quite frankly is not arguable. We will be there well into the future to help rebuild the infrastructure, hospitals, and schools destroyed by this horrific natural disaster. When the job is finished, we will leave when asked to do so. The U.N. however, via their numerous commissions and agencies will surely remain behind to help these developing nations remain impoverished while publicly and thoroughly criticizing our efforts.

A brief list of Governments contributing to the Tsunami aid effort as of Wednesday, 29 December.

FRANCE: 100,000 euros, 16 rescuers sent to Thailand and 10 tons of aid to Sri Lanka.

GERMANY: 2 million euros. Three German planes to be dispatched to Thailand.

INDIA: $23 million in aid ,warships and aircraft to distribute food, medicines and blankets to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

JAPAN: $40 million pledged and three navy vessels sent to Thailand.

KUWAIT: $2 million

QATAR: $10 million

SAUDI ARABIA: $10, half via the Saudi Red Crescent, and half for international aid groups.

SOUTH KOREA: $2 million.

TAIWAN: $5.1 million.


UNITED STATES: $35 million and 12 naval vessels to the region, 20 transport aircraft.

AUSTRALIA: $27 million, five transport planes with supplies and medical teams as well as teams of police officers.

BRITAIN: 15 million pounds ($29 million).

CAMBODIA: $40,000.

CHINA: $2.6 million.

CZECH REPUBLIC: A plane sent to Sri Lanka with drinking water. Officials said aid worth $444,400 would be sent.

EUROPEAN UNION: $41 million 3 million euros already allocated to IFRC.

FINLAND: 500,000 euros to the IFRC. Local aid organizations have contributed another 75,000 euros.
The Finnish Red Cross has dispatched a full field hospital with 15 staff to Sri Lanka.

(list compiled by Al-Jezzera12/29/04)