Fighting terrorism with humanitarian aid

By Eric Shilland, of Bangor, Maine, a doctor of osteopathic medicine who did part of his residency at Eastmoreland Hospital in Portland. [This item was written several days ago, so a couple of figures are slightly out of date. -Ed.]

I'm not sure how many of you have been paying attention to the tragedy currently unfolding in the Indian Ocean following the earthquakes and tidal waves that have struck the region. Currently the latest death toll is over 50,000 and still climbing, add on the wave of pandemic diseases that is inevitable and impending and the toll will be hundreds of thousands.

The United States announced $15 million in aid today to the region. I'd just like to point out that that figure is currently one-ten-thousandth of what has been spent in Iraq to date, not including what surprise price tags are impending when W starts "spending his political capital"

Now what does this have to do with the Indian Ocean you ask? Well more than "The War on Terrorism" has to do with Iraq I can assure you. Take a look at the nations involved in this latest natural disaster...


At this point I would like to wax eloquent on the root causes of terrorism, but am starting to grow tired of this endeavor and want to get on with my main point, so will leave this a relatively brief and unsupported statement. Terrorism is an act of desperation, which is made possible only by the horrible living conditions some are forced to live in and instigated by the prescence of a target which can be made to appear the scape goat of a given ideology.Terrorism cannot be effectively combated with conventional forces but only by removing the social pressures which drive and fuel it.

Which brings us round to my point. This tragedy of epic proportions offers the United States the opportunity to actually serve as it sees itself, the steward of the world, to help those in need because it possesses the resources and wherewithal to actually do it. Imagine for a moment towns and villages that were saved from further devastation by the prompt arrival of water purification systems, emergency sanitation, mosquito netting and tents. Pandemics of dengue, malaria, cholera, typhoid avoided. Tens of thousands of lives saved. All brought by US aid organizations. Help in rebuilding critical infrastructure, food supplies for those whose fishing boats have been reduced to kindling and fields have been salted with seawater. One would think that the recipients of this aid would be a little more favorable than if we leveled their houses, littered the landscape with depleted uranium, and caused massive water, fuel and electricity shortages. This is our target audience. This is an opportunity to affect world opinion and actually show the muslim world that America is not "The Great Satan" but actually capable and willing to lend a compassionate hand to those of the muslim faith (and others).

Would it work? Probably. Is it cost effective? A lot more so than our current plan. Is it a better way of living? You betcha. Are we going to do it? No. Our money is already earmarked for spreading more devastation around the world, for eliminating taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, and for short-term costs to dismantle what social protections we have in this country. But it's just a thought.

  • Aaron (unverified)


    Very well thought out article and welcome to BlueOregon.

    With several aftershocks of 5.0 and higher per day hitting the Bay of Bengal and/or the Sea of India regions, I see that this area will be at a critical juncture for political and economic stability for months; especially for Indonesia, Somalia, Burma, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The other powers in the region, China, India, Russia and Iran—too a lesser extent; stepping up to help will put more pressure on the US to open up its purse strings soon than later. As well, if the US comes in big, these other countries will have to do the same too safe face within the region. So we might get a "wealthy nations" pissing contest on who provide more for these countries in need.

    As an article earlier, from AFP, India is refusing, at this time; for relief aid since that they have the resources too deal with this crisis.

    My biggest concern is what you have pointed out—the potential pandemics of dengue, malaria, cholera, typhoid and other nasty diseases.

  • Mac Diva (unverified)

    This may have happened after Eric wrote his entry, but the American powers that be are not pleased with the United Nations for pointing out how stingy the aid contributions are so far. You can read about it here. I don't believe the American government has to do very much to win the approval of the populace. Americans generally overestimate how much the U.S. contributes to international aid.

    My other concern is that the 'faith based' private charities George W. is so fond of might try to turn this disaster into an opportunity for proselytizing if they are sent to those countries, as they have in Iraq. But, in balancing interests, their 'faith based' presence is better than nothing.

    Will Eric's post-Christmas wish come true? No.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    But, in balancing interests, their 'faith based' presence is better than nothing.

    I would not want too watch the news about proselytizing aid workers being hatched to death, because of their own stupidity for the lack of respect of foreign cultures and traditions; on the 5 o'clock news. The "G.W. spin doctors" would state it is a faction of al-Qaeda terrorists that are linked too this activity and "poof" all aid money from the federal government disappears. I would not want too put faith-based aid workers in harms way, from their own fanaticism or from foreign intolerance. Let the Red Crescent or other liked organizations help those areas that would have a potential conflict with “G. W. supporting faith based organizations”.

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