As of early this morning, the death toll has reached nearly 68,000 in the wake of the recent natural disasters.
And how much is the US giving in aid? $35 million. Now, $35 million is nothing to sneeze at. I might be able to live comfortably for the rest of my life on $35 million if the dollar doesn’t deflate any more. But to offer only $35 million in an area that requires billions of dollars in aid? I’m not the only one who thinks this is a horrible insult to the people living near the Indian Ocean.
Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums — as well as Bush’s decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy — showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
One would think that after the way the world came to aid the US after 9/11, Bush would be happy to return the favor:
Some foreign policy specialists said Bush’s actions and words both communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. “When that many human beings die — at the hands of terrorists or nature — you’ve got to show that this matters to you, that you care,” said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
There was an international outpouring of support after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. “It’s kind of freaky,” a senior career official said.
Now, I understand that the US only has a certain amount of money in its coffers. And I understand that we’re trillions of dollars in debt and so on and so on. We have a duty to help our fellow man (it’s . . . the Christian thing to do). $35 million is a good start. I just pray that Bush plans on giving more . . .
UPDATE: The Washington Post now reports that the death toll has surpassed 76,000.