Friday, September 09, 2005
Biting the hand...
Some conservative bloggers and media in the USA (such as this ignoramus) have been criticising foreigners for not offering to help after Hurricane Katrina, and for failing to return past favours.
Well, excuse me. I think they'll find the facts don't fit their prejudices. A more liberal American blogger debunks some myths here. Meanwhile, Euractiv.com reports that any reluctance to provide help was in Washington rather than abroad:
Initial reluctance from the American President to accept foreign aid subsided once the extent of the destruction became apparent. A week after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the American Gulf Coast the Bush administration placed an official request for emergency assistance from the European Union and NATO. On 4 September a list from the US government was distributed to EU capitals detailing vitally-needed aid material such as generators, water pumps, ready-meals and tents.I get the impression that, while the USA may suffer from a shortage of aid, there is no shortage of finger-pointing. Rival Americans are playing this blame game mainly at each other's expense and the rest of the world is simply being hit by some of the crossfire.
According to Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, the EU has been ready to contribute to the US efforts aimed at alleviating the humanitarian crisis in New Orleans, yet the request for help only arrived after several days of "informal contacts and preparatory activities".
Offers of emergency relief have been flowing into Washington from foreign governments since the sheer scale of the tragedy became clear. The failure of the US government to react swiftly or take control of the situation has led to scathing attacks from various media.
According to some European observers, channeling the emergency aid through NATO and the European Union spares the Bush administration from the possible embarrassment of having to accept relief from individual governments and leaders to which it would rather not be indebted.
The EU's aid coordination office in Brussels will manage the aid from member countries that have pledged relief supplies. Emergency aid from the EU includes a crisis intervention team from the Austrian Red Cross; water purification units from Denmark and Sweden and 50,000 pre-prepared meals along with medical experts and disaster management specialists from the UK. Germany has offered to send airlift, vaccination, water-purification, medical-supply and pumping services, while France has agreed to donate 600 tents, 1,000 camp beds, 60 generators and three portable water-treatment plants as well as a 60-strong disaster relief team, two planes, two naval vessels and a hospital ship.
Statements from US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff implying that the depleted number of local authorities was largely at fault for the delayed response angered state officials who complained that federal authorities had failed to deliver urgent help on time and had even blocked some aid efforts.