Thursday, December 30, 2004

Manufacturing consent? What about manufacturing total bullshit?

Several bloggers in the US have addressed this, but I had saved some webpages with the intention of writing on it anyhow. After the Christmas tsunami that caused the earth to wobble on its axis, the Bush administration came up with an aid package of US$15 million.

Later, a UN official quipped that wealthy nations were stingy as most rarely give more than 1 percent of their GDP for foreign relief or any kind of aid that could directly improve the lives of those suffering hunger, disease or natural disasters.

By one news cycle in the US, that statement had morphed into a direct criticism of the US, and every right winger in America was going bat-shit crazy over the UN's unmitigated gall to criticize the homeland. The theme was, as Colin Powell put it, "The US is not stingy." (dammit)

Here is one such example in a column by Jeff Crouere for Bayou Buzz, a web site dedicated to Louisiana politics:

Yesterday, a UN official claimed the US has been "stingy" in responding to the tsunami disaster in Asia. UN Humanitarian Aid Chief Jan Egeland made this appalling comment, which incredibly comes from a representative of an organization replete with mismanagement and fraud. The same organization that has mismanaged aid to countries in need all over the globe.
The US is the most generous nation on earth. After every international crisis, our country responds with government aid and our citizens respond with personal philanthropic donations. No matter whether the country is free or not, an ally or not, we respond because we care about humanity. The same cannot be said for many other countries.

In responding to this horrific disaster, our government initially pledged $15 billion. Now, Secretary of State Colin Powell is pledging even more aid. According to Powell, "The United States has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." Powell is correct. In this case, we are contributing humanitarian supplies and the military aircraft to send those supplies to the areas devastated. In addition, our disaster relief specialists have already been dispatched to several of the countries impacted.

The UN official's comments are not only wrong, they are spiteful and disgusting. If he wants to criticize, he should look in the mirror at his own pitiful organization.

The point of all this is that these guys are wrong on several counts. First off the UN official never said that the US was stingy. Secondly, on a list of thirty wealthy nations, the US comes in last as giving a smaller part of its GDP than most European countries. In terms of pure cash, yes the US gives a lot, in terms of measured commitment, it's a poor showing indeed.

Don't take my word for it. Here's part of a piece that ran in yesterday's Washington Post, which has information Mr. Crouere could have easily accessed through Google, thus saving him the time of writing such rubbish:

Still, the UN's Egeland complained on Monday that each of the richest nations gives less than 1 percent of its gross national product for foreign assistance, and many give 0.1 percent. "It is beyond me why we are so stingy, really," he told reporters.

Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the US often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the US gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.

Note the word "we." Oh yeah, the Bush administration upped its commitment for tsunami victims to US$35 million. His upcoming inauguration will total around US$40 million, not including security costs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post.

Here's a link to a blog by someone on the ground: