It started when I read Annan Stunned at Indonesia Devastation
Twelve days after the tsunami hit, Annan and World Bank President James Wolfensohn flew over the island's west coast and later drove around the shattered coastal town of Meulaboh, where families picked through piles of rubble six feet high.
"I have never seen such utter destruction mile after mile," a shaken Annan told reporters. "You wonder where are the people? What has happened to them?"
2005 has just begun but the quotation in italics is bound to be a contender for one of the stupidest comments of the year. Um, Kofi, do you watch the news? Let's just say that we can expect the fishing industry there to be catching more (and larger) fish in the near future.
Then there was the comment from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who called "the effort to identify thousands of bodies one of the biggest international forensic operations in history." This made me think of all of the Iraqi mass graves. (Hatra, for example.) Estimates place the number of people buried in these mass graves across Iraq at aproximately 300,000. Has there been no attempt to use forensics to find out who these people are? If there has been, was it not an international venture?
Anyway, this made me think of comparisons I've seen between the number of people killed on 9/11 and the number of estimated deaths from the tsunami. I don't see the value in this type of comparison since one was caused by a group of evil men and the other was a natural phenomenon.
Still, if you're making comparisons, the number of people killed by the tsunami are (at current estimates) only about half the number in Saddam's mass graves. This brought me back to thinking about Annan and the UN.
Why does the UN view a large number of deaths over a short period as worse than a larger number of deaths over decades? Although measures can be taken to help protect people from natural disaters, they are still fairly unpredictable. I don't think that it would be unreasonable to assume that if Saddam had been allowed to remain in power, he would have continued killing Iraqi people. So why did the UN refuse to do anything to remove him from power? Is it just a fancy janitorial service that goes in and cleans up after tragic events?
One last comment from the article, "[I]n an apparent sign that American relief agencies want to keep a lower profile, several trucks delivering supplies from U.S. AID removed large banners marking the source of the shipments."
Is this being done out of security concerns for the workers or out of a fear of offending Islamics? Or does that come down to the same thing - offending Islamic radicals endangers workers? Whatever reason, it's disappointing. Not that the point of providing aid is to receive recognition for having done so, but for people to know that Americans are generous and caring would be a good step in countering the anti-American propaganda to which so many people in the world are exposed.Posted by marybeth at January 7, 2005 04:31 PM News