Tuesday, December 28, 2004

U.S. Is Sending More Money

The official death toll from the earthquake-generated tsunamis in Southeast Asia has risen today to over 40,000. The United States has been shamed into pledging an additional $20 million on top of the $15 million initially promised for relief efforts in Southeast Asia. Jan Egeland, the chief of humanitarian operations at the United Nations, called the Bush administration's initial pledge of $15 million "stingy." Colin Powell immediately started working the talk shows and angrily denouncing the criticism, but Egeland is right. The work involved in helping the people and governments of the nine countries affected by this disaster is going to cost billions of dollars, and it's going to go on for years. The U.S. is the richest country in the world. We SHOULD give more and do more than any other country or group of countries in the world, because we CAN. The Bush administration has spent, at this instant, over $147 billion in Iraq, and that figure is increasing every second. Ronald Brownstein wrote yesterday in the Los Angeles Times that the United States is sending the wrong message by cutting taxes again and again at a time when American soldiers and their families are sacrificing their lives in every sense of that word. The same could be said of the message the United States is sending by allocating a paltry $35 million ($15 million plus the additional $20 million the U.S. was shamed into promising) to help survivors and prevent or at least alleviate the cataclysmic damage to countries in Southeast Asia from disease, hunger, and political instability to which this natural disaster could lead. What is it exactly we are telling the world when Australia has pledged $7.8 million -- fully half of America's initial pledge amount?

At least one sector of U.S. society deserves praise, however, for attempting to warn the affected countries that a tsunami was on the way. Scientists on the Pacific Coast who are trained to scan for tsunamis learned that an underwater earthquake had occurred off the coast of Indonesia, and immediately suspected that a lethal wave was building in the Indian Ocean. Unlike the Pacific Ocean, however, where there is a sophisticated system of sensors to detect earthquakes and possible tsunamis, there is no such technological warning system in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. scientists had no effective way to warn countries in the path of the tsunami that it was on the way, but still used what few contacts they had to at least try. Tragically, it wasn't enough; if the warnings had gotten through, thousands of lives could have been saved.

1 comment:

Katharine said...

Right on, Kathy!