Give Me a Break on the Giving
By Alan Nathan | January 11, 2005

Progressives both at home and abroad strangely chastise the US for its parsimonious aid to the tsunami victims in Southeast Asia. I’m hard pressed to entertain a more archetypal representation of wanting math skills than those applied to this rationale. Once you compute all the cash, material and military infrastructure support complete with two aircraft carrier groups, personnel and 60+ helicopters, no country tops our donations in the aggregate. (And none of this includes the 350 million in private donations.) Equally misguided is the popular criticism holding that we’re the only country that tosses in our military when totaling its contributions. Perhaps the reason we’re the only ones tossing it in is that we’re the only ones with a military to toss. What
should be at issue is our collective international state of denial when prioritizing our responses to catastrophic events.

The body count from the tsunami disaster appears to be closing in on 160,000 and has evoked record-setting dollars in aid. However, the 700,000 slaughtered in Rwanda received only lipservice regret. The 1.3 million butchered by Saddam Hussein barely gets acknowledged. Question: Why does an event equaling 8% of these two genocidal death tolls receive so much more money and 90 times the press?

By way of a reference to percentage of GDP dollars given to the Tsunami Victims that excluded our cost of military distribution, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland singled out the United States as stingy. Isn’t it funny how the UN gets so puffed up with pride over the 4 billion dollars in aid they’re helping to coordinate for Southeast Asia while the 21 billion they lost to Hussein through The Oil For Food Program is treated as trivial? We’d have to raise 5 times more for these Tsunami survivors before we’d equal what the UN has already given to the now-jailed

In short, we seem more preoccupied with support that follows the crises we cannot control instead of giving it before the ones we can.

Alan Nathan, combative centrist, columnist, speaker and the nationally syndicated host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on the Radio America Network.