Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Tsunami? Blame America -
Posted on 01/08/2005 5:09:17 PM PST by UnklGene
Tsunami? Blame America -
By MARK STEYN
Humanitarian honchos and Euro-libs denounce Washington's response to the Asia disaster
A week ago, people kept asking me for my opinion of the tsunami, and to be honest I didn't have one. It didn't seem the kind of thing to have an "opinion" on, even for an opinion columnist - not like who should win the election or whether we should have toppled Saddam. It was obviously a catastrophe, and it was certain the death toll would rise and keep rising, and other than that there didn't seem a lot to opine about.
I've never subscribed to the late British prime minister Harold Macmillan's tediously over-venerated bit of political wisdom as to what he feared most: "Events, dear boy, events."
Most "events" - even acts of God - come, to one degree or another, politically predetermined: Almost exactly a year before the tsunamis, there were two earthquakes - one measuring 6.5 in California, one of 6.3 in Iran. The Californian quake killed two people and did little physical damage. The Iranian one killed 40,000 and reduced an entire city to rubble - not just the glories of ancient Persia, but all the schools and hospitals from the Seventies and Eighties.
The event in itself wasn't devastating; the conditions on the ground made it so. That said, a sudden unprecedented surge by the Indian Ocean is as near to a pure "event" as one can get, and it seemed churlish to huff afterwards about why the governments of Somalia or the Maldives hadn't made a tsunami warning system one of their budgetary priorities.
But the waters recede and the familiar contours of the political landscape re-emerge - in this case, the need to fit everything to the Great Universal Theory of the age, that whatever happens the real issue is the rottenness of America.
Jan Egeland, the Norwegian bureaucrat who's the big humanitarian honcho at the UN, got the ball rolling with some remarks about the "stinginess" of certain wealthy nations. And former British international development secretary Clare Short piled on, and then the global media chipped in: The Guardian's Polly Toynbee reminded readers that "'Charity begins at home' is the mean-minded dictum of the Right."
But even in the supposedly conservative Daily Telegraph, reader Robert Eddison dismissed the "paltry $15 million from Washington" as "worse than stingy - The offer - since shamefacedly upped to $35 million - equates to what? Three oil tycoons' combined annual salary."
Eddison concluded with a stirring plea to the wicked Americans to mend their ways: "If Washington is to lay any claim to the moral, as distinct from the military, high ground, let it emulate Ireland and Norway's prompt and proportionate attempts to plug South-East Asia's gaping gap of need and help avert a further 80,000 deaths from infection and untreated wounds."
IF AMERICA were to emulate Ireland and Norway, there'd be a lot more dead Indonesians and Sri Lankans. Eddison may not have noticed, but the actual relief effort going on right now is being done by the Yanks: it's the USAF and a couple of diverted naval groups shuttling in food and medicine, with solid help from the Aussies, Singapore, and a couple of others. The Irish can't fly in relief supplies because they don't have any C-130s. All they can do is wait for the UN to swing by and pick up their check.
The Americans send the UN the occasional remittance, too. In fact, 40% of Jan Egeland's budget and 60% of all global food aid comes from Washington, which suggests the Europeans aren't being quite as "proportionate" as they like to boast.
But, when disaster strikes, what matters is not whether your check is "prompt" but whether you are. For all the money lavished on them, the UN is hard to rouse to action. Egeland's full-time round-the-clock 24/7 Big Humanitarians are conspicuous by their all but total absence on the ground.
In fact, they're doing exactly what that Daily Telegraph reader accused Washington of doing - Colin Powell, wrote Eddison, "is like a surgeon saying he must do a bandage count before he will be in a position to staunch the blood flow of a hemorrhaging patient."
That's the sclerotic UN bureaucracy. They've flown in (or nearby, or overhead) a couple of experts to assess the situation and they've issued press releases boasting about the assessments. In Sri Lanka, Egeland's staff informs us, "UNFPA is carrying out reproductive health assessments."
One of the heartening aspects of the situation is how easy it is to make a difference. By the weekend, the Australians had managed not just to restore the water supply in Aceh but to improve it. Even before the tsunami, most residents of the city boiled their water. But 10 army engineers from Darwin have managed to crack open the main lines and hook them up to a mobile filtration unit. This is nothing to do with Egeland and his office or how big a check the Norwegians sent.
Indeed, the effectiveness of these efforts seems to be what Clare Short finds so objectionable. Washington's announcement that it would be coordinating its disaster relief with Australia, India, and Japan smacked too much of another coalition of the willing. "I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN," she told the BBC. "Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority."
I DIDN'T catch the interview, but I'm assuming that, the Oil-for-Fraud program and the Child-Sex-for-Food program notwithstanding, Short managed to utter that last sentence with a straight face. But, if you're a homeless Sri Lankan, what matters is not who has the moral authority but who has the water tankers and medical helicopters.
President Bush didn't even bother mentioning the UN in his statement. Kofi Annan, by contrast, has decided that the Aussie-American coalition of the willing is, in fact, a UN operation whether they know it or not. "The core group will support the United Nations effort," he said. "That group will be in support of the efforts that the United Nations is leading."
So American personnel in American planes and American ships will deliver American food and American medicine and implement an American relief plan, but it's still a "UN-led effort."
That seems to be enough for Kofi. His "moral authority" is intact, and the European media can still bash the Yanks for their stinginess. Everybody's happy.
The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group.
... "I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN," [Clare Short] told the BBC. "Only really the UN can do that job."...
I agree. Only the U.N. can undermine the U.N.; and they have done so most effectively. The U.N. was created in the darkest moments of World War 2. That time is no longer the world we live in.
USGS lists the Bam quake at 6.6 and the California one at 6.5; I've been seeing 6.3 for the Bam quake more and more, not sure what the origin of that is.
The primary reason the Bam quake did so much damage was it was DIRECTLY under a medium-sized city, and the California one wasn't. I've noticed a bit of a gloatfest from people under the illusion that it's entirely American construction techniques that was the difference in deaths and damage.
Have a Bam-sized quake DIRECTLY under a city like Salt Lake City or some Midwestern city with limited seismic upgrades and you're going to have 5,000+ killed; you won't reach 40,000 killed, but it will be very, very bad.
America to the rescue, AS USUAL. Also AS USUAL, the UN is WORTHLESS!!!!
Steyn was being nice in this article.
Those idiots blame America forever .
Steyn is exceptional, as usual.
Where does she get off claiming the UN has MORAL AUTHORITY?? The oil for palaces scam has shown just how "moral" the UN is, the subsequent attempts to cover up
this scam show just who's "authority" was used to implement it in the first place.
Many other Useless Nations "relief" efforts have shown the world that buildings full of UNocrats, un compounds, SUV's and Land Rovers for UNocrats to drive do not do any good in the countries of the people they are supposed to be helping. Paying huge amounts of money just so UNocrats can sit in luxury and watch millions die from genocide, starvation and dictators isn't doing the world any good at all. inviting the worlds worst human rights violators to head the UN office for human rights is a sick joke.
It's time to put an end to this pink elephant, and create a more effective, less costly organization. I think a room with a big enough table and chairs is really all we need.
Oh, and leaders of countries willing to do what is needed, like George Bush, Toney Blair, and that Australian guy.
Lets give them to the Russians. As I look back it may have been a mistake to save them from speaking Russian.
When are we going to see some results from the UN in bringing peace to Sudan? They've had a committee working on that genocide problem for a while now and I haven't seen anything tangible from "the only body that has the moral authority" to help nations in need.
I can only assume it's because the number of innocents murdered hasn't topped the 1 million mark yet and they're waiting for that magic number to be exceeded before they deem it worthy of their attention.
I would also guess that's why they needed more time for the sanctions to work in Iraq because the official number of those murdered by Saddam Hussein was only around 900,000 or so.
Better yet. Since the French, Germans (The Children of Hitler), the Belgians (Southern part of the country the french speaking part) and others in the slime pit of Europe are in a massive boycott of anything American, I think it is time for all of us to stop buying anything made in Europe. Lets drive their unemployment rate to 20%, its already over 11% in parts of this triangle of hate America.
Just my personal humble opinion.
Yeah, it's over there as well. But the big diff is that this one is not unnecessarily excerpted.
I like elegant solutions. This one is surgically precise.
Another great article by Steyn. The fleet that the US sent in to assist must cost, at minimum 30 - 50 million dollars per day. Like Senator Everett Dirksen said years ago, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."
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