Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jumping Into the Void

There's an important story that is staying under the radar. It's the story of earthquake relief, or lack thereof, in Pakistan. This disaster of enormous proportions is resulting in the death of tens of thousands and is a continuing tragedy as winter arrives in the area. Juan Cole:
Disasters in South Asia are Himalayan compared to our own. Three million persons have been made homeless in Pakistan. Oxfam and other aid agencies are increasingly afraid that tens of thousands of survivors of the Kashmir earthquake are in danger of perishing, as winter comes. As many could die of want and exposure as perished in the earthquake itself.


So far, the US has only given $50 million and pledged another $150 million. USAID has only $10 million left in their budget, after that US assistance will run out of funding.


There are rumors that in the next Iraq supplemental bill they may add (in committee) relief funding for Kashmir. The problem is that it will happen sometime after Thanksgiving and winter will arrive any day now. There are reports that 80K have died and maybe another 80k will die in the next few weeks.
Remember. We spend nearly six billion dollars per month in Iraq. Corrupt Iraqi's and U.S. corporations have stolen a whole lot more than the total amount being provided for earthquake relief in Pakistan. This is morally reprehensible.

I realize that the world has disaster fatigue. Our own disasters have strained resources while irresponsible government leadership has made our budget.....shall we say...."inflexible". But couldn't Ted Stevens forgoe the bridge to nowhere to add to the relief efforts?

By the way, it's also interesting to note that one of the bits of "aid" we offered were military helicopters which could be used to gather "intelligence" in the area. The offer was rejected by Pakistani officials, our "ally's".

But wait. Since we're so self-centered. How about offering aid for purely selfish reasons. Care to guess how al Qaeda is responding to the disaster in Pakistan? Tristero:
The poor response of the international community to the victims of Kashmir was underscored by the United Nations saying that it had received only 27% of the $312 million of its flash appeal for quake relief - compared with 80% pledged within 10 days of a similar appeal to international donors after the tsunami of December 26.


What about the Islamist organizations of Pakistan; how did they respond? The same Kashmir leader told Reuters, "The jihadi groups are more sincerely taking part in relief operations. Those groups, which were branded bad by the government, are no doubt doing well and will influence people's sympathy in the future."
Al Qaeda and fundamentalist Islamic groups are jumping into the void providing money and workers in relief. They're also providing a message.

The actions by the western governments send a clear signal: "you don't matter". It's a message that reinforces a perception of western elitism and racism. Is it any wonder that radical fundamentalist groups are then embraced by the local populations? And remember this. Pakistan and India both have the bomb. The Kashmir region has been a hotbed of political conflict including near-nuclear war in the past.

Al Qaeda's fundamental message is that the western nations are corrupt, over-indulged, selfish and lacking in moral character. When the U.S. behaves according to the al Qaeda's script, we prove their case for them and miss an important opportunity to really fight the war on terrorism. To think we can do so with impunity is foolish.


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