U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland spoke true words when he was quoted in this NY Times article, UN Official Backs Down: Rich Nations Not ‘Stingy’:
Jan Egeland: spoke the truth & lived to regret it?? (credit: NRK.no)
Egeland, a Norwegian, pleaded at a Monday news conference for individuals and governments around the world to respond generously to the humanitarian disaster created by the tsunami that struck a broad swath of southern Asia on Sunday.
Asked about the response of rich nations to such crises, he said: “It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really.”
“If actually the foreign assistance of many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of their gross national income, I think that is stingy really. I don’t think that is very generous,” he said.
No sooner did he speak these stinging, but precisely accurate words than the U.S. UN-haters at Fox News and other right wing media outlets got themselves into high dudgeon and Egeland was forced to eat crow. But the damage was done and the Bush administration, reeling from crticism of its then $20-million commitment to tsunami relief upped the ante to a wonderfully generous $40 million (!) (Irate Over ‘Stingy’ Remark, U.S. Adds $20 Million to Disaster Aid). That’s probably half the cost of one of those F-16s flying over Iraqi skies! So pardon me if I’m still a bit underwhelmed.
We’ve just witnessed perhaps the greatest global natural disaster of this century and that’s all we can come up with? How meager and how pathetic. Imagine a tsunami engulfing Bush’s beloved Texas Gulf coast and how quickly and how generously our always charitably-minded president would respond.
Let’s resolve as private citizens to do what our government is too morally oblivious to do. Let’s see American citizens far outstrip the financial commitments of this niggardly government. Make your online contributions from this list provided by the Times.
Here’s some further background from the Times which puts the level of our global aid effort in further perspective:
The United Nations urged rich nations a quarter of a century ago to give away 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product every year in the form of development aid.
To date, however, just a handful of European nations, most of them in Scandinavia, actually meet that goal.
The United States, the world’s largest economy, earmarks 0.13 percent a year of its GDP to development aid. But that figure excludes aid to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as food aid, where the United States is the world’s largest donor.
So the U.S. donates one-sixth of the amount of aid that a 25 year-old UN guideline suggests. Now, that’s an ugly statistic!
I can’t believe how pathetic your statements are. The US has given way more than any other country. France has given under $250K.
Who cares what the UN recommended??? They will recommend anything to make the US look bad.
Be proud of the US – they are the most generous country on the earth.
Richard Silverstein says
Cap comes forward with yet another ill-informed, misleading comment…First, what does ‘the US has given away more than any other country” mean? In tsunami relief? In overall international relief funding? If you’re commenting on this particular disaster, you are dead wrong. India has allocated over $100 million in disaster relief–which beats us by a country mile. But even if we were the largest donor–considering how much larger our GDP is than any other nation on earth, I’d expect that we’d be the largest.
The UN recommendation that nations give away .7% of their GDP is a paltry request. The fact that we can muster barely one-sixth of that is utterly pathetic.
We are “the most generous country on earth?” How do you figure that? Perhaps you’re including the blessed gift of democracy our president is attempting to export unsuccessfully to Iraq and the poor, benighted nations of the Mideast? Ah, then we are generous indeed. Look at all the hatred, despair and violence our supposed benevolence has engendered through our “generosity.”
Public Good says
Why is the first reaction of so many people on so many issues`to criticise the US? We should be thankful that the US gives around 40% of all world aid considering how they are hated by so many in the world. And I don’t care what that works out per person or as a percentage of GDP or whatever. It is still substantial and makes the world a better place. It is sobering to note that the US was the largest public aid donor to Afghanistan both before and afer September 11; the country that harbored and trained the Islamic terrorists who deliberately targeted innocent US civilians for murder.
Of course the US could give more. All countries could. We all could. I wonder if those whinging about the US gave generously themselves. It would be a good idea if you are going to complain about anyone else giving to include in your comment whether or not you have already given generously yourself and to whom.
The point I am making is why single out the US here. For example while the world is grieving for the tsunami victims and nations have swung into action to help, it is business as usual for Islamic terrorists. They continue to create more victims in Iraq, deliberately targeting civilians for murder. Why? Because what they are terrified of more than anything is democracy, and the freedom and human rights which accompany it, especially for women. Why don’t they show some respect for their brothers and sisters killed in the disaster?
Why always single out the US for criticism.
The USA is singled out because
(a) it is the world’s richest nation, in a position to give more than most
(b) it is the world’s most powerful nation
(c) it has allocated $US 87 billion to fight a highly controversial pre-emptive war in Iraq (much more than is allocated to find bin Laden) – approximately 250 times the tsunami aid the government has allocated (more than 20000 times the initial pledge).
Let’s remember, the US forces have killed many more people in Iraq than all the terrorists and other countries forces combined.
It would be a simplistic extrapolation to say that the USA is in this position because of monumental greed. But if not for the international backlash, I wonder what the USA would have pledged? The initial $4 million? Or the $15 m or $35 m pledges that followed? $350 m is a good start, but frankly, more can be spent.
Colin Powell has already stated that more will be spent, and that it will run into the billions. I hope this happens.
Richard Silverstein says
Public Good: Comments like yours make my blood boil. I don’t need anyone like you to question my charitable giving. So even though you have no right to even ask this question I’ll tell you because you just piss me off so: my wife & I give a substantial portion of our disposable income to charity. We are Jews and for us tzedakah is one of the highest mitzvot one can perform. I volunteer for two non-profit organizations for which I also write fundraising letters which are sent to members. For 18 years, I was a non-profit fundraiser for hospitals, universities and two Jewish Fedeations. I’ve raised millions of dollars for these organizations. So don’t you dare talk to me about charity.
It’s interesting that you only wish to focus on a number, 40% that admittedly makes us look good as an aid donor. Or at least it APPEARS to make us look good. Yet you refuse to acknowledge an even more accurate indicator of our charitable inclination: per capital giving and giving as a percentage of GDP. 40% of a pittance (which is what the world’s nations now give in foreign aid) is just that, a pittance.
While our aid may marginally make the world a better place, our other policies both foreign and military make the world a horrible place. And why do you try to connect what is happening in Iraq with what is happening in the tsunami affected nations? What a twisted & tortured attempt you have made to try to link these two disparate phenomena!
I don’t think the Iraqi insurgents fighting our occupation owe any explantion to you or to the tsunami victims. While I abhor the violence they perpetrate against our troops, they are fighting a legitimate fight to remove foreign occupiers from their nation. Throughout history, peoples have done the same thing and they will always do the same thing if they find another nation oppresses them. Rebelling against tyranny (whether perceived or real) is part of human nature. And you’ll never be able to put that genie back in its bottle in Iraq. The battle for us is lost there and has been for some time.
And speaking of “Islamic terrorists,” there are a few wandering around Aceh rallying their fellow citizens for independence from the murderous Indonesian regime. While we’re pouring all that good U.S. food aid from helicopters down onto the Acehnese should we also send in some of our troops to fight against a legitimate Islamic-based movement for human rights and national sovereignty?? No doubt, you’d consider that a proper use of American power.
Public Good says
Richard unlike you my blood is not boiling. There is enough anger and hatred in the world today without people like you and I adding to it. We should all realise after the tsunami how vulnerable we are and that we need each other and should value each other as fellow human beings. We should be working together to make the world a better place.
You totally missed the point I was making. I did not say the US was giving enough. I said, of course they could give more. I did however say they gave 40% of total world aid, which is a substantial amount of the aid given no matter what statistics you use to decry it. I think it would surprise a few people, not you of course. And they gave despite the hatred for the US and given the thanks they had from, for example, countries like Afghanistan, the country that harboured and trained the Islamic terrorists who deliberately targeted innocent US civilians for murder. The US was before September 11, and still is, Afghanistan’s largest aid donor.
The point I made was, why do people so often seem to single out the US for criticism? No one for example was drawing attention to the fact that Islamic terrorists were showing no respect for their brothers and sisters who perished in the tsunami. There was not even a breather from their evil campaign. They continue on their horrible way to deliberately target civilians for murder in Iraq. Why? Because they are utterly terrified of the freedom and human rights democracy will bring, particularly for women.
Richard, are you trying to paint me as a defender of your military? I did not even mention your troops. I talked about Islamic terrorists’ deliberate murder of civilians in Iraq. You know just like they murdered your fellow citizens in New York and the young Australians on holiday in Bali. Islamic terrorists are deliberately murdering innocent civilians in Iraq to stop democracy, something they are far more terrified of than your troops. The quickest way to get rid of your troops would be to stop murdering innocent people and to let the elections happen. The US cannot wait to get out of Iraq.
And Richard the focus of my posting was not accusing people of not giving enough. I did say we all could give more but it was your posting that concentrated on making those accusations. I simply said, if anyone wants to criticise others for not giving enough to the tsunami victims maybe they should show how much they had given. I meant just to the tsunami Richard. You took the opportunity to tell us about all your other aid giving. And you have been very generous. You are to be commended. The world would be a better place if everyone gave as generously as you do.
I would have to really hate my own country to say it made the world a horrible place, like you said of your country. But of course I cannot speak for you, only for myself. I do not for one moment think the US is a perfect place but I think on balance US policies are at least neutral or make the world a better place than it would be without them. Without the US I would probably be living in a Nazi country now.
As for Aceh, my heart goes out to the people there. I cry when I see their suffering. It is a time to heal there, not to focus on violence. And no, I would not support sending your troops in there to wage war. Now to say I might support that is really a “twisted and tortured” connection to make. I abhor the deliberate targeting of innocent people for murder, no matter who they are and no matter by whom. We have had enough of that in the world. Let’s hope all the nations of the world, including the US, working together to help the tsunami victims will in some way be a move that may help foster a more peaceful world.
Peace to you Richard.
Public Good says
Richard I am sorry. I don’t know how it got posted three times. I’ll be really happy if you just read it once.
Richard Silverstein says
Public Good: We have very diff. ways of looking at the world. I see the world as a constant struggle to achieve some sort of grace or happiness which we rarely do achieve. There is too much hypocrisy, evil, oppression and whatever for me to see my way to your world view. You seem to believe that all is, or should be sweetness and light. Love should reign triumphant & joy last till the end of days. Gee, I’d like that too but…it ain’t gonna happen.
If all Americans complacently said “we’re all right, Jack. We’re the most generous people in the world. They world owes us a favor we’re so kind & nice to everyone,” well how much money do you think BUsh & Co. would be giving in foreign aid? Politicians like them ONLY respond positively either when it’s in their interest or when people make it so hot for them they have to do the right thing. I think you’re entirely too gullible when it comes to accepting the Bush-Good ‘Ol USA line of “we’re out to help our fellow man & isn’t it great that we can teach the heathens the way of democracy which shall lead them to light & happiness.”
I also don’t know why you’re so down on Afghanistan & blame the country itself & its inhabitants for what happened on 9/11. Under the Taliban, the country was hardly a state. It couldn’t control anything except its own brutality. So how is it responsible? Even when we invaded they hardly put up resistance. So how dangerous were the Afghan people to us? Was it a bad place? Were the Taliban bad people? Sure. But I blame Osama bin Laden & his current compatriots in crime: Al Qaeda.
To say that the Iraqi insurgents resort to terror because they are petrified of democracy and the new opportunities it will create in Iraq is to entirely miss the real point of the insurgency. I’ve already told you what that is so we’re repeating ourselves here but…the insurgents want an Iraq free of outsiders. We could be ardent religious fundamentalists (though not Muslim of course) or any other type of government, but they’d still hate us. Yes, they hate our democracy, but not for the reason your propose. They hate it because they believe that it has led our society into moral decadence. I don’t agree with them, but they have a right to their point of view (just not to export it to our shores in the form of terror). And they definitely have the right to resist the Bush policy in Iraq.
I do not hate my country as you suggest. I love my country. But my country is wounded and currently badly led. It is my responsibility as a citizen to speak out about the bad things going on in my name & brought to us by Bush et al. A king needs an honest advisor & not a sycophant. So our country needs honest, straightforward voices telling it what’s wrong & what’s right about our policies.
I think you are a bit of a Pollyana when it comes to this country and the propaganda that our right wing brethren try to espouse. Before you buy into that lock stock & barrel, you should learn more about our country & its internal politics. They much more complex & nuanced than your views seem to acknowledge.
The US is generous in terms of military support, migration and trade policy, ungenerous in aid. See here.
Richard Silverstein says
I think the blog post you link to is more tempered in its judgments of the issues than what you wrote in your brief comment.
As for the word “generous,” I think you & I are defining it differently. To me, generosity implies that I give freely of myself to someone in need and with little or no regard for my personal self-interest. To say that our “military support” is “generous” seem dubious to me. Yes, we provide much humanitarian assistance through our military & this is to be commended. But the primary mission of our military is not to be humane to those in need. This is perhaps the least important one of its goals as far as the U.S. population is concerned.
The U.S. does allow millions of people to flow into our borders and this might be seen as a “generous” impulse. But is it? Those millions of eager, hard-working idealistic immigrants fuel our economy and in future generations help generate all those technological & entrepreneurial innovations the U.S. is so admired for around the world. So such migration policy benefits us greatly–as much or more so than it benefits individual immigrants themselves. Generous? I dunno.
I’m not sure in what sense you mean that our trade policy is “generous.” Because we sell our bounty around the world? Well, perhaps. But our (& the World Bank/IMF’s) trade policies also cause huge amounts of misery in poor, developing countries. So calling this ‘geneorous’ seems problematic to me.