Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
Paul F. Heller: 'Relief disaster'
Thursday, December 30 @ 09:41:46 EST
By Paul F. Heller, Heller Mountain
Far from here, bulldozers are ripping open the earth. The holes they make will be filled quickly with over 75,000 bodies, with more washing ashore each day. The real problems, stemming from the diseases that go along with public decomposition, are on the way.
Not far from here, the president of the United States relaxes on his comfortable perch in Texas, having offered up a total of $35 million in aid toward a region that will need a hell of a lot more money than that. The initial pledge was for just $15 million, prompting a U.N. relief official to suggest that Western countries are being "stingy". That crack ruffled the feathers of lame duck Secretary of State Colin Powell, so another $20 million (accompanied by pocket lint) was offered.
The relief official, one Jan Egeland, then claimed to have been "misinterpreted" about his stinginess comment. What he meant, he clarified, was that Western aid in general toward worldwide disaster relief has been on the downslope over the past few years. The U.N. would like to see wealthy donor nations pledging a total of .7 (zero point seven) percent of their national economies to help the less fortunate. The U.S., with $2.4 billion in overall donations in the past year, has given .2 (zero point two) percent.
While the United States is certainly under no contract to be the world's doctor (or gravedigger), it does seem that $35 million is a thin slice in response to the worst earthquake-related catastrophe in the last hundred years.
Pouting Powell, suddenly echoing John Kerry, says that help is on the way. From this American's standpoint, a lot more should be, lest we lose even more global respect - if that's possible after our ham-fisted attempts at diplomacy of late. In contrast to the current paralysis of assistance, last year, the state of Florida had received $5 billion in relief funds, five billion dollars, before their hurricane season was even halfway through. But that was during an election cycle, and in a battleground state.
Where is the money? Well, maybe there is no money. The Bush administration has been borrowing to float its budgets for three straight years now. In the Clinton era, there seemed to be no bounds to the surpluses overflowing the treasury boxes, and so the last president might have been more able (certainly more willing) to help out than the current one. But there's more to lending a helping hand than simply opening one's wallet. Where are the troops, the Army Corps of Engineers? Tied down in Iraq, that's where, revisiting decades-old mass graves while fresh ones are being dug in Southern Asia.
So humanity suffers while the president runs his chainsaw for the benefit of bored reporters. The government spends a billion dollars a week making war, yet pledges the equivalent of a half-year's salary for Congress (benefits not included) for a region that will require an unspeakable amount of aid in the immediate future. But then, this was never a president who had his priorities straight. $480 billion a year in defense spending, for instance, doesn't make a lot of sense when you're running an annual budget deficit of roughly the same amount. Something's got to give, but it won't be us.
The war on terror is consuming the American taxpayer the way cancer consumes a patient. It has reached the point where legitimate causes have come forward with hat in hand, and we have to turn them down. For those who wear their Christianity on their sleeves when it suits their political purposes, the Republican-dominated government hasn't a thread of shame left to their name. How many lives have terrorists taken in the last century? Nowhere near 60,000 - and that toll will likely double when the final horrific tally makes itself available to the world.
I'm not going to pretend that any amount of scolding will shake anything loose from an uppity simpleton like George W. Bush, whose upcoming inauguration will cost just as much as we have offered those in dire need. Obviously, some form of mental deficiency does not allow him to feel the suffering of others. He and his equally ill neoconservative ilk have long since proven that point with their relentless political manipulation of 9/11.
I have faith, though, in my fellow Americans, most of whom are willing to help out in small increments. I'm sure we'd all do more, if only we had the Clinton economy back in our hands. All we need is information, and we'll do what we can. And if we have souls, if we have souls, we'll wish our representatives in government had done more.
Reprinted from Heller Mountain:
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman