Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

Eye On The Hurricane

by Courtney Stewart
American Reporter Correspondent
Boston, Mass.

BOSTON -- Is President George W. Bush too proud to accept international charity?

Too many news reports are confirming America's deficient emergency management assets. The war in Iraq and tax cuts are frequently seen as reasons why the federal government has failed to save saved lives, sustain life and support recovery and law enforcement operations in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. But they are not the only explanations.

Members of the international community have not only offered the emergency release of their own strategic gasoline stocks and emergency funds, but more critically, offered their support in the form of items including food, medical supplies, water pumps and emergency shelters. Friday evening Secretary of State Condolezza Rice said the Department was coordinating closely with the Department of Homeland Security to match these offers of support with the needs on the ground.

An interagency committee has been created to examine the offers and decide which of more than 50 from other countries conform to what is needed and what they have the means to accept. The only thing an interagency committee should be spending its time doing is responding to each international offer with the names of contact people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Not only would those resources improve the situation of thousands of people, it would help America's battered image around the world.

America must not be too proud to accept any offer, no matter how small. There is little in the world that unites the global community, and and the Gulf Coast tragedy reminds us that we are sharing a very vulnerable planet.

The Bush administration may be making another incalculable foreign policy mistake by not taking advantage of these offers from nations that wish to establish solidarity with us in the tragedy caused by America's worst national disaster.

The United Nations has offered to help coordinate international relief. Nonetheless, not a single offer has been requested besides the release of strategic oil reserves at the IEA.

Below is a short list of aid that has been offered to the United States. While no offer has been turned down, no offer has yet to be officially accepted:

  • Canada has offered three warships and a coast guard vessel with emergency supplies and food, up to 1,000 divers, engineers and reconstruction experts could be aboard.
  • The Chinese government is prepared to send rescue workers, including medical experts.
  • Russia has offered to help with rescue efforts, but is still awaiting a reply from Washington. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said: "Above all with heavy transport planes, which can be loaded with helicopters and generators - as there is no electricity in the area of the catastrophe." (One late news report said that offer had been rejected.)
  • Singapore has offered to send Chinook helicopters following a request by the United States to Fort Polk, La., to help ferry supplies and undertake airlift missions.
  • The Swedish Rescue Authority said it was on stand-by to supply water purifying equipment, healthcare supplies and emergency shelters if needed.
  • Venezuela has also offered humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area, a price reduction on heating oil for the poor, and a million gallons of gas to ease our shortages.

It may not be the case that America is poorer than other nations, or that it has greater needs, but we do ourselves a disservice in failing to joining the rest of humanity by at least symbolically accepting the help they have generously offered.

Courtney Stewart is a Research Associate at the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies in Boston. Contact her at stewart@idds.org

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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