Friday, May 23, 2008

Response to the two disasters markedly different

Looking at this chart makes me angry.

Reactions to the disasters (Times Online)


— Earthquake on May 12
74,000 dead or missing, 5 million homeless
— Foreign media given unfettered access
— Chinese Government has raised $500 million, Chinese Red Cross $400 million
— UN donated $8 million
— 250,000 temporary housing units under construction, 280,000 tents shipped and 5,000 epidemic prevention workers sent to 125 villages
— Hundreds of foreign aid workers
— US supplied spy satellite images for Chinese Government to examine dams, reservoirs, roads and bridges
— Investigation under way into whether public buildings were poorly constructed


— Cyclone struck on May 2
134,000 dead or missing, 2.4 million destitute
— Foreign media banned
— Disasters Emergency Committee has raised £8 million, UK pledged $10m, UN $10m, Japan $10m, US $3m, France $3m, Australia $2.8m
— Burma says it has spent $2 million on relief work
— World Food Programme fed 212,000 of the 750,000 people most in need after regime relented and allowed in nine UN helicopter flights
— Red Cross has distrubuted 20 planeloads of aid and Save the Children six. Save the Children has reached more than 160,000 people
— Offer of aid from US warship in area turned down

The disparity in the international response to the two disasters may be easy to explain (since the aid isn't reaching most victims of the disaster in Burma, what's the point of donating?), but at a more fundamental level, it's unforgivable.

There is no excuse for the widespread conviction that a group of criminals in uniform, men who have the audacity to call themselves "a government," must first approve before the strong, rich, and free peoples of the world go to the aid of the cyclone victims. We should be in there now, saving Burmese lives with our ships and helicopters. At the very least, we ought to be forcing a vote on the "responsibility to protect" at the United Nations. But with every passing day it is getting harder to escape the truth that we are tremendous cowards, one and all.

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