31 December 2004

US Shamed Into Helping Tsunami Victims

After ignoring the needs of the victims and the calls of the rest of the world for leadership, it was the interest and generosity of the American people themselves (and, I strongly suspect, a cue from our Canadian neighbours) that finally spurred the government to come up with a semi-realistic amount of money to help with the greatest natural disaster in modern history. The administration -- probably under severe pressure from Colin Powell as a desperate last act of contrition -- has increased its pledge more than twentyfold, to $350M, from its initial and laughable pledge of $15M.

The final blow probably came when Powell was caught lying outright about the generosity of the government's initial pledge-hike to $35M. Powell claimed at the time that it was the largest pledge, but I guess someone pointed out to him that the EU had already pledged more than twice that amount.

Mark my words, the phrase "the leadership of the EU" is going to be heard a lot more often in the US over the next four years.

Meanwhile, the US has lost a golden opportunity to win over the country of Indonesia, boasting the world's largest Muslim population, over to the side of the democracy. Had this country responded immediately and generously -- as it would have under Clinton or Carter or another humanitarian president -- that $350M would have gone a loooooong way towards convincing Muslims that the US cares about them and is not actively trying to wipe them out. Now the money will just look like a "saving face" donation and any hope of goodwill is significantly reduced. Nice going, Bushies.

In the meantime, if you yourself haven't done anything to help, check the Apple.com homepage to find a list of legitimate charities that could really use your help immediately. As we've seen, we can't count on this government to do anything right, which means that the people must lead. Each of us is called -- will you answer?

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