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December 31, 2004

tsunami#3: priorities

The death toll from tsunami caused by the earthquake on Sunday continues to mount. In the devastated Aceh region of northwestern Indonesia access restrictions to the conflict zone, bureaucratic incompetence and disorganization, and a simple lack of infrastructure, transport, and resources in a poor nation continues to block the lifesaving food, water and medicine reaching many of those in need.

This needs to be said:


What is worse is that though lots of big, generous promises are made, many of them are not kept. John Quiggin has more on this side of things.

What is sad is the way the right cannot resist playing politics with this tragedy. Have a look at Gerard Baker's construction of a narrative about the Americans being blamed for the devastation caused by the Sumatran earthquake.I kid you not.

I guess the reasoning is this. You have to blame someone don't you, and, as God is dead, so it's either a cruel nature or the Americans. This then provides an excuse to have a go at the left's rabid anti-Americanism. And away Barker goes. This stuff is published in The Times and is then recycled in The Australian.

Just to show that I'm not making this up consider Gerard Baker's anti-Americanism "argument" in this paragraph:

"In the past three days I have been impressed by the originality of the latest critiques of the evil Americans. The earthquake and tsunami apparently had something to do with global warming, environmentalists say, caused of course by greedy American motorists. Then there was the rumour that the US military base at Diego Garcia was forewarned of the impending disaster and presumably because of some CIA-approved plot to undermine Islamic movements in Indonesia and Thailand did nothing about it.

To be fair, even the most animated America-hater, though, baulks at the idea of blaming George W. Bush for the destruction and death in southern Asia. But the US is blamed for not responding generously enough to help the victims of the catastrophe. A UN official this week derided Washington's contribution as stingy.

It is a label that fits the general image abroad of greedy, self-absorbed Americans. They neither know nor care much about the woes of the rest of the world, do they?....I have been sneeringly asked once or twice this week by contemptuous British friends."

Baker goes from the paranoid left, to some British friends, to the UN! Very elastic "reasoning" that. The rest of the article is then taken up with the tight "refutation" of the "argument".It ends with based on a celebration of technology that allows us to control and master nature.

QED. And the old cliches are reinforced to boot.

Amazing. Simply amazing. I read it three times. I'm still shaking my head at the elasticity parading as witty rhetoric. The tectonic plates on the seabed off Sumatra slipped and collided. Nature has real powers. It is not a construct.

It is not just the lack of reasoning that is amazing. What is astounding is that Baker misses the realpolitik politics of America's image in the region by a country mile; and he fails to engage with the substantive argument against the US. The US offer of $35 million--up from the initial $15 million---is a miserly drop in the bucket. It is less than less than half what the Republicans will spend celebrating the Bush presidential inauguration later this month.

Some would say, aw heck, it's the silly season, after all. Give the poor old righties like Gerard Baker a break. And we know the neo-con's next line about the money--it's all about the US needing a strong military to defend freedom from the evil Islamofascist terrorists who hate us for what we are.

I cannot resist a bit of fun. My guess is that The Times is still suffering from from the cheap Xmas drinks put on by its proprietor at the office party.A low budget, cost saving Xmas cheer is what you'd expect isn't it. After all, the proprietor is an American. And Baker lives in Washington does he not? Does not George Bush lives on a ranch in Texas? I meet a journalist once who told that .....The Times has gone downhill because it has been too Americanized etc etc.

See how you can do anything you want with Baker's kind of elasticity.

We should forget the nonsense in the op-ed pages in The Australian and turn to Geoffrey MG's Beyond Wallacia, which is much more informative about what is a happening on the ground in northwestern Indonesia.

Wikipedia has a very good entry on the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

Wizbang takes a different political tack to Gerard Baker.The right care more about the tsunami and its devastation than the left because the latter have posted less than the right on this issue.

"Still I have to wonder... We are continually told how much more liberals care more about their fellow man than conservatives, yet 60,000 people are presumed dead and many of the liberals hardly mention it...The numbers don't seem to tell the same story."

Best to let that one about liberals lacking compassion go whizzing bye. It is an American game.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at December 31, 2004 08:41 AM

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