Monday, January 10, 2005

Relief efforts continue

My thoughts are with all of those struggling to keep on after the massive quake and waves, with all who are grieving, and those seeking meaning to this massive tragedy.

There was a half-decent attempt on NPR this morning at bringing together comparative religious perspectives on how and why this tsunami occured. A buddhist monk mentioned the over 50 temples washed away along the shoreline, and how aggrieved he was to have known so many communities that have perished; a hindu woman talked about karma and blamed individual actions in this or other liftimes for the reasons people perished, and the importance of seeking forgiveness from a punishing god; a jewish perspective offered there is no reason to seek blame from those who died, scores of whom were children.

the reality is that these events are the result of pressures built up over massive lengths of time.



rising water.

an image that haunts me now is at a muslim school along the coast in india, where a group of children, caught in a schoolroom with waters rising, were found together, holding hands.

below is some info about Via Campesina, an organization that supports local and self-organized disaster relief:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Via Campesina Relief Effort Update
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Supporting Via Campesina's relief and reconstruction efforts are an effective way to help tsunami survivors because:

* Via Campesina gives all donations directly to the communities that know best how and where to use it for relief and rebuilding
* Local, self-organized disaster relief has worked well in previous disasters, proving its efficacy in regions such as Africa, Asia and Latin America
* Giving local people and organizations control of these funds strengthens and empowers the community, not some aid agency or government
* With true people-to-people aid, you can be assured that 100 percent of the aid gets to people who are the neediest

Report from Via Campesina

Because of your continuing support, Via Campesina is already doing important work in relief and rebuilding efforts to areas devastated by the Tsunami.

In a recent Via Campesina dispatch, farmers from Via Campesina member organization the Indonesian National Peasant Federation (FSPI) are sending fresh food to North Sumatra and Aceh. On January 4, Via Campesina began sending bananas, cassava, fruits, rice, chilies, potatoes and fresh vegetables, local produce that is more nutritious than the usual instant noodles and biscuits sent by many international aid organizations. Also included are cooking tools, clothes, infant formula, drinking water and burial tools.

In Sri Lanka, local fishing organizations are working closely with community and youth groups clearing debris, building shelters and rebuilding fishing boats. Via Campesina has also arranged for counseling for refugees, including arranging for women's groups to attend the special needs of women impacted by this disaster.

In India, grassroots affiliates have arranged donations of land to build shelters and community kitchens for survivors. They are also repairing or rebuilding fishing boats for displaced fishing villages.

Meanwhile in Thailand, Via Campesina member group the Assembly of Poor is investigating the extent of damage and helping with emergency needs throughout coastal communities where many lost their lives and livelihoods.

See more at Via

Normally I don't think I would add a nationally syndicated anything to this page, but this commentary in today's paper deserves attention.

'Tsunami' victims we don't count

In Iraq we kill off thousands of innocent civilians with our own hands, and we reject any attempt to comprehend what we have done

Derrick Z. Jackson, Washington Post Writers Group. Derrick Z. Jackson is a
syndicated columnist based in Boston

January 10, 2005

Secretary of State Colin Powell tours tsunami-stricken Banda Aceh, the devastated main city of northern Sumatra, and says, "I cannot begin to imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave."

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a resolution that said: "The tsunami disaster constitutes a humanitarian tragedy of incredible proportions. ... My heart goes out to the victims of this tragedy."

Last and hardly least, President Bush said: "The devastation in the region defies comprehension. ... Our flags will fly at half-staff to honor the victims of this disaster. We mourn especially the tens of thousands of children who are lost. We think of the tens of thousands more who will grow up without their parents or their brothers or their sisters. We hold in our prayers all the people whose fate is still unknown."

In the abstract, the outpouring was appropriate. In context, the sympathy was a stench unto itself. Tens of thousands of people die by an act of nature and we say we cannot imagine the horror. We say it defies comprehension. We call it a catastrophe.

In Iraq we kill off thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of innocent civilians with our own hands, and we reject any attempt to comprehend what we have done. Countless Iraqi civilians are homeless. We call it liberation.

Bush quoted all the numbers for the tsunami in speeches last week. Then he said: 150,000 lives lost, including 90,000 in Indonesia; perhaps 5 million homeless; millions vulnerable to disease. That stands in hypocritical contrast to the refusal to count the Iraqi civilians killed in his invasion over false claims of weapons of mass destruction and the crime-ridden chaos of an occupation that did not plan on an "insurgency."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Iraq commander Tommy Franks both said, "We don't do body counts." Then, right in our faces, Powell said civilian casualty figures were "relatively low." Central Command spokesman Pete Mitchell hailed the invasion for its "unbelievably low amount of collateral damage and needless civilian death." Paul Bremer, Bush's former civilian reconstruction envoy, said, "We have freed people with one of the great military battles of all time, in a period of three weeks, with almost no collateral damage, very few civilian deaths, and they are now free."

The White House left the counting to journalists, doctors, think tanks, and human rights groups. The numbers range from conservative guesses of 3,200 in the first few weeks of the war and occupation to estimates ranging from 15,000 to 100,000. No matter if the number was 3,200 or 32,000, this atrocity of silence makes the torture in Abu Ghraib pale in comparison.

No flags have been flown at half-staff for Iraqi civilians. There have been no moments of silence in Congress. There have been no speeches by Bush mourning "the tens of thousands of children who are lost." Americans have not been asked to think of the "tens of thousands more who will grow up without their parents or their brothers or their sisters."

In a nation that supposedly re-elected Bush on "moral values," there have been no prayers from the White House for "all the people whose fate is still unknown" in Iraq. This was a bipartisan hypocrisy. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fell into the trap of favoritism, fueling the appearance that this war was a religious crusade.

At the beginning of the war she said, "We pray for the swift and successful disarmament of Iraq with the least possible loss of life among our forces and the civilians of Iraq." But then she closed her message with: "May God bless our courageous forces and their brave families. May God bless the president of the United States. And may God bless America."

Not once did Pelosi or any American politician say in the last two years, "God bless Iraqi civilians" or any variant. Only one time has Bush uttered "God bless the people of Iraq," and that was in announcing Saddam Hussein's capture. Not once has he asked God's blessing for the courageous civilians and the families of Iraq who had no choice but to brave our bombs.

Let us do what we can for the victims of the tsunami. But no matter what donations we spare, the offerings will not spare us from history's judgment, if not God's. Lugar said his heart goes out to the victims of the tsunami. No hearts have gone out to Iraqi civilians in this heartless cover-up.

Powell said of the tsunami, "The power of the wave to destroy bridges, to destroy factories, to destroy homes, to destroy crops, to destroy everything in its path is amazing." He said, "I have never seen anything like it in my experience." Yes, he has. It was in Iraq. The tsunami was us.

Copyright (c) 2005 Chicago Tribune


Post a Comment

<< Home