Why Blame the USA?

One of my onetime regular readers posted a link to an article about “The Role of U.S. Criminal Negligence on a Global Scale”. Look at this silliness:

At least 55,000 people were killed by the tsunami that devastated coastlines from Indonesia to Somalia. Almost a third of the dead are children. Thousands are still missing and millions are homeless in 11 countries. Hundreds of thousands have lost everything, and millions face a bleak future because of polluted drinking water, a lack of sanitation and no health services, according to UN undersecretary Jan Egeland, who is in charge of emergency relief coordination.

And the US is criminally negligent here?

Look, I’m aganst the war in Iraq, believe me. But you know, the US didn’t create this tsunami. The US isn’t responsible for installing bouys so the rest of the world can knows whether a tsunami is approaching their shores. Okay, this bit here makes me a little nervous about stupidity on the part of some NOAA employees:

Although the local governments had no real warning, the U.S. government did, and it failed to pass along the information. Within minutes of the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, U.S. scientists working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspected that a deadly wave was spreading through the Indian Ocean. They did not call anyone in the governments in the area. Jeff LaDouce, an official in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that they e-mailed Indonesian officials, but said that he wasnt aware what happened after they sent the e-mails.

In this day of instant communications, controlled in a large part by the U.S., it is possible to communicate within minutes to every part of the globe. It is beyond belief that the officials at the NOAA could not find any method to directly and immediately contact civilian authorities in the area. Their decision not to do so may have cost thousands of lives.

After all, it’s stupid to email when you could call instead, and given the fact that they managed to call a naval base with adequate time to avert major damage, one would think that the same would be possible elsewhere.

So not calling was an idiotic mistake—not on the part of the USA, necessarily, unless it was standard policy to call military installations abroad but not foreign officials. Unless that is the case, the only people we can blame are the scientists who didn’t bother to call, but sent an email instead.

But wait a second… would calling have done as much good as the author of that article implies? I mean, a naval base is a relatively easy thing to mobilize. The people in them are generally somewhat more disciplined, organized, and better trained regarding how to conduct oneself than your average civilian. While I can see a mass panic sweeping the coast of Southeast and South Asian countries, I’d don’t imagine they even would have had the necessary resources to notify, let alone evacuate, the majority of the people who were threatened.

And anyway, if the US scientists are negligent for not directly warning the people, how much more negligent are the officials in those countries affected, who did not install what the author herself admits to be relatively cheap and simple devices that could serve as a warning system? As much as I would like to find new ways for spending the money America’s been wasting on their ridiculous war with Iraq, and as much as I agree with criticisms of that war, I do not think it’s right to heap responsibility onto the back of America for every disaster that hits the world. While they have the most money, and it behooves them to help others when they can because of that, it’s not America’s fault if Southeast and South Asian governments didn’t bother to invest in a relatively cheap (and, if they banded together in the investment, affordable) early warning system. There is no doubt in my mind that Thailand alone could have afforded to install all the bouys needed for all of Southern Asia if necessary, for example; the profits from Phuket alone could have done it.

That said, giving aid is a good idea. I’ve just heard from Myoung Jae that camp we’ll be running starting next week is going to try to collect donations from the families of the kids attending, as well as people working at the camp, and get them to UNICEF. Good, good.

2 thoughts on “Why Blame the USA?

  1. Some things could have been prevented though, for instance: people would not have been on the beach when the waves hit (I saw videos of the wave just rolling up over sunbathers), the train that was flipped could have not been running, that sort of thing. I think it’s pretty specious to imply that a warning would not have done any good.

  2. You’re right, a warning *may* have done some good. From what I saw in Thailand when I was there, I’m not sure it *would* have, but it’s possible some people could have been saved.

    That doesn’t negate the fact that even the non-issuing of a warning is not the fault of “The USA” in some monolithic way. The author of the article I linked to seems to find some correspondence between the idiocy of a couple of climatologists and the war in Iraq.

    What disgusted me about the article was that it was being used as a kind of pony upon which the author could ride, proclaiming her dissent against the Iraq war. I agree the war has been ridiculous and stupid, but not every issue is about the failings of the USA, on the other hand. What I see is another American making this all about America.

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