I got an e-mail from my Mom this morning in which she said she "had a bone to pick" with the way the U.S. contributions to the relief effort in SE Asia were being portrayed in the media. She said that Americans were not "greedy, stingy, self-centered, boobs who refuse to help out those in trouble."
Here is my response to her rant.
I have no idea what you’re seeing and hearing in the domestic media there so I can only comment on the international coverage we see here. And over here, there is a clear distinction drawn between the American people (who are well-known for their personal generosity) and the U.S. government. It’s the *U.S. government*…specifically the White House…that is being hammered for it’s slow re-action to the disaster in SE Asia and the paltry initial sums pledged (first $15 million and later $35 million) for the recovery effort.
As I mentioned in my blog, $35 million is about the amount the U.S. government spends every day in Iraq BEFORE breakfast. (Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s estimate, not my own.) It’s an embarrassingly low sum when you consider it comes from the government of the world’s richest and most powerful nation. And it looks even worse when contrasted with the initial aid released by much smaller and less affluent nations. The government of Sweden, a country of just over 9 million people, had already committed $70 million at the time Colin Powell was making the rounds on CNN defending a U.S. figure that was half as much. Last count, the population of the U.S. was about 285 million people.
As of yesterday, the U.S. aid dollars were upped to $350 million…which is much better, but is still quite low against what other nations are giving. Again, using Sweden’s aid figure and population numbers for comparison, the U.S. would have to pledge about $2.1 BILLION to achieve the same level of financial commitment to the region. In any case, it never should have taken until New Year’s Eve for our government to come up with a decent figure. No matter how you slice it, the timing of the announcement gives the appearance that the U.S. didn’t "step up" until after there had been loud international criticism of its initial pledge.
Again, I can’t emphasize this enough…the criticism is of the U.S. GOVERNMENT…not individual citizens and private aid agencies that are giving time, resources and money at a level that is recognized, appreciated and highly admired the world over. This was a MAJOR screw-up on the part of the Bush II administration…another missed opportunity to show compassionate, humane world leadership and help improve our image abroad…especially in a part of the world heavily populated by Muslims. Sadly, no matter what the U.S. does from here on out, we’re never going to be able to correct the impression that we had to be "dragged" into the relief effort for the most catastrophic and far-reaching natural disaster of the last century.
If you’re upset about this, and you should be, then send a letter to Washington, DC (or the ranch in Crawford, Texas) and let Dubya know that you don’t appreciate the way your government has handled the situation. The "bone to pick" is with the leadership (i.e. the "greedy, stingy, self-centered, boob") in the White House.