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Posted on 01/29/2005 6:10:22 PM PST by 1066AD
US Navy officer attacks 'travelling circus of aid workers' for impeding the tsunami relief effort in Indonesia By Philip Sherwell in Washington and Inigo Gilmore in Banda Aceh (Filed: 30/01/2005)
A US Navy officer serving on the Abraham Lincoln, the aircraft carrier at the heart of the Indonesia tsunami relief effort, has attacked United Nations officials, aid workers and the media for impeding flights to help the survivors.
Criticising their behaviour and demands, the officer declared: "My warship has been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of trifling do-gooders."
The relief effort has been a 'frustrating and needlessly dangerous exercise' due in part to a 'travelling circus'
The officer, writing on a website popular with American military personnel under the pen name Ed Stanton, also said that the carrier's combat-readiness and its pilots' safety had been jeopardised by Indonesian military restrictions as they tried to carry out relief operations.
Stanton wrote his column after three weeks off the Indonesian coast. "It has been a frustrating and needlessly dangerous exercise, made even more difficult by the Indonesian government and a travelling circus of so-called aid workers who have invaded our spaces," he said.
"Mixed in were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military officers looking like tourists on their way to Disneyland."
Stanton's attack was rejected by UN officials in Banda Aceh, who praised the American military. On the ground, however, some aid workers also complained about UN bureaucracy, while Acehnese told of inefficiencies in the aid operation.
Among Stanton's gripes was the complaint that the navy's Seahawk helicopters were required to spend much of their time ferrying relief workers around before bringing them back to their "guest bedrooms".
Aid teams, he said, "threw themselves at the mercy" of the US Navy because there were no five-star hotels but declined to pay for meals.
Stanton was similarly scathing of television crews. "We had to dedicate two helos [helicopters] and a C-2 cargo plane for Dan Rather and his entourage of door-holders and briefcase-carriers from CBS News," he claimed.
In their defence, journalists said that the helicopters were also carrying relief supplies.
The job of the Indonesian officers on board, he felt, "apparently is to encourage our leaving as soon as possible. They want our money and help but they don't want their population to see that the Americans are doing far more for them in two weeks than their own government has ever done for them".
He was also furious that the Indonesians refused to allow the Americans to use their airspace for routine training and flight operations "while we are saving the lives of their people, some of whom wear Bin Laden T-shirts as they grab at our food and water".
As a result, Stanton wrote, pilots were not meeting safety regulations because they could not train and practise enough. "The longer we stay here helping these people, the more dangerous it gets to operate," he said. "It is time to give this mission to somebody other than the US Navy."
Stanton's views were not welcomed by the military. Lt David Benham, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, said: "The comments do not reflect the position of the US government. We are working closely with the governments and organisations out there. They want us there and we want to be there."
The Lincoln is, however, understood to have moved farther offshore because of the sensitivities of the Indonesian authorities.
UN officials in Banda Aceh rejected Stanton's accusations. Jasper Lund, the co-ordinator, said: "We could not just get 10 helicopters in the air like that and the help of the Americans was crucial.
"I can understand if some commander gets worked up, because he sees their role as helping those starving on the ground with their helicopters, but it is a misunderstanding to think we were doing anything to prevent this."
He said that claims that UN officials refused to pay bills were hard to believe as they received meal allowances.
Heather Hill, the World Food Programme's spokesman in Banda Aceh, said it was true that UN officials had carried out "assessments" but she rejected suggestions that they hampered operations.
She said that it had taken time to get to positions "in country" but they had now reached remote places. "No one is living off caviar. Conditions are hard but people are motivated by the idea of being part of this historic mission."
A Spanish aid agency worker in Banda Aceh, however, said that some UN officials had appeared arrogant, and suggested that the UN was hindered by bureaucracy.
"It is a huge machine and it moves very slowly," he said. "It takes 50 pages of bureaucratic work just to move one nail. This can be a problem and that is why some Americans are probably upset. They like to just get on with it."
Diplomad blog has some pithy comments too.
Ed Stanton is a courageous man, letting his career crash and burn like this. Bravo, Sir.
"[T]he officer declared: "My warship has been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of trifling do-gooders."
I find it hard to believe an American would have used the word "trifling" but maybe I'm wrong.
Brave guy, but heaven help him for speaking out about the worthless powdered princes of the U.N. Hope this doesn't cost him his career.
Did someone get this over to Ratherbiased.com?
trifling has become a slang word in many urban areas for nonsense or ignorance. Ignorant is another commonly used word now.
Woops, forgot link to Diplomad's blog:
How does the fact that they recieve meal allowances mean they actually pay their bills?
he's gotta point.
all of my life i've wondered why tv voyeurs focus on human disasters, like flies on do-do.
say a prayer for the voyeurs.
Th original Stanton post has been taken down, but there's a portion of it at http://countrystore.blogspot.com/2005_01_16_countrystore_archive.html#110639877778988792
Do you have a link to the story? The link in the thread is not coming up with the story.
It is refreshing to hear something other than diplomatic talk, although I am not happy to have to hear once again about the antics of the U.N.
The article said that Ed Stanton is a pen name, so maybe the office who wrote this won't get in trouble.
I love reading the Diplomad :)
Good for him...
This letter has been debunked by a NON-anonymous sailor on that very ship.
I hope he is about ready to retire and will run for public office. It sounds as though he is the type of courageous individual the US needs in these pathetically PC times.
Same came to me. It's a UK type of word. But this man may have been all over and picked up a few British expressions.
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