Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Aid Grows Amid Remarks About President's Absence

From the Washington Post via Raw Story:

"The Bush administration more than doubled its financial commitment yesterday to provide relief to nations suffering from the Indian Ocean tsunami, amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.

As the death toll surpassed 50,000 with no sign of abating, the U.S. Agency for International Development added $20 million to an earlier pledge of $15 million to provide relief, and the Pentagon dispatched an aircraft carrier and other military assets to the region. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in morning television appearances, chafed at a top U.N. aid official's comment on Monday that wealthy countries were being stingy with aid. 'The United States is not stingy,' Powell said on CNN.

Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums -- as well as Bush's decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy -- showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.


After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.
...
Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: 'The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' '
...
Some foreign policy specialists said Bush's actions and words both communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. 'When that many human beings die -- at the hands of terrorists or nature -- you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care,' said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.


There was an international outpouring of support after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. 'It's kind of freaky,' a senior career official said.
...
Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.

'People do watch and see what we do,' he said. 'Here's an opportunity to remind people of the good we do, and he [Bush] can do it without changing his policy on Iraq or terrorism.'
...
Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent."

Well, of course they don't see much of a need to attend to anything in that part of the world since brother Neil has sworn off Thai hookers. But Gelb is spot-on: the appropriate humanitarian--Christian--responses here are blindingly obvious, and it's also a slam-dunk opportunity to create a little good will in a geopolitically delicate region of the world. But the Boy King can't be bothered to set aside his cowboy fantasy for even a few minutes to convey his concerns and dig into the biggest honking wallet on the planet.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, how many of these countries were part of the coalition of the willing, hmmm?

9:32 AM  

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