U.S. aid given freely, not of duty or a sense of shame

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005

We are amazed at the condemnation leveled against the UnitedStates government for its response to last weekend’s tsunamidisaster in Southeast Asia.

Last week, after the Bush administration pledged $15M to reliefefforts, Jan Egeland, the United Nations’ chief disaster reliefcoordinator, criticized Americans as “stingy” in giving aid topoorer nations.

The United States then upped its pledge to $35 million, and onFriday raised the total ten-fold to $350 million. However, thisstill did not satisfy many who have come to believe the UnitedStates “owes” the rest of the world.

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President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell indignantlyresponded last week that those comments were misguided.

The New York Times, in its Thursday editions, agreed withcritics of the United States’ offer and pointed out in an editorialthat the $15 million initially offered was less than what theRepublican’s would spend on President Bush’s inauguration inJanuary.

“We beg to differ (with Bush and Powell),” said the New YorkTimes editorial. “Mr. Egeland was right on target.”

Well, we beg to differ, too – with the Times and with othercritics both at home and abroad.

The United States’ $350 million pledge is more than that ofevery other single nation except Japan, which has raised its inital$30 million offer to $500 million. Among other countries pledgingaid are Britain with $28.7 million and Australia with $27million.

But have Britain and Australia – as well as the countries whohave stepped up to the plate offering far less – been labeled”stingy”?

No.

Perhaps it is because the world has not been conditioned to lookto those countries for a bailout when disaster befalls. Combinethat with the anti-American sentiment so prevalent in the worldtoday, and perhaps the criticism shouldn’t surprise us at all.

In addition to the $350 million pledged by the Bushadministration, countless private agencies, including the Red Crossand others, have mobilized to accept donations and funnel them tothe nations of Southeast Asia affected by this disaster of epicproportion.

Donations are flooding in at breakneck pace, proving Americansare certainly anything but stingy.

We, as a community and as a nation, can do so much for ourneighbors – even those half a world away –¬†in their times of need.Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the tsunami andtheir families as well as with rescue and relief workers who havegone to their aid.

Our money and relief supplies are also on the way –¬†freely givenbecause we are a generous people, not because we must be shamedinto giving.