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Shameful: Only 25 Nations Offer Help to the U.S.

Friday, 02 September 2005 12:00 AM

Now the U.S. is facing a catastrophe of its own from Hurricane Katrina.

Though the U.N.'s own top official for disaster relief has called Katrina one of "the largest, most destructive natural disasters ever," shamefully only a handful of nations – at last count just 25 nations of the 191 countries in the United Nations – have come forward to offer assistance.

And almost none have offered what America has so often provided: money.

And the aid so far offered by foreign nations amounts to a drop in the bucket considering the anticipated multi-billion-dollar cost of dealing with the immediate crisis and the reconstruction to follow.

President Bush has urged Americans to send cash donations to private relief organizations rather than in-kind contributions such as clothing and food.

The same could be applied to foreign nations, most of which have been on the receiving end of massive financial assistance from then U.S. over the years.

President Bush told ABC-TV Thursday morning: "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars.

"We would love help, but we're going to take care of our own business as well, and there's no doubt in my mind we'll succeed."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has decided that "no offer that can help alleviate the suffering of the people in the afflicted area will be refused," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The offers of assistance so far pale in comparison to the aid pledged by the U.S. for tsunami relief, including $346 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department for their relief efforts, $339 million for reconstruction and $168 million to help victims with food, shelter, housing and education.

In addition, a private fund-raising campaign led by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton brought in more than $1 billion for tsunami victims.

In fact, at least one-third of American households have donated money to an aid group in tsunami-hit nations.

Now the U.S. is trying to deal with the "American tsunami."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan acknowledged the extent of the disaster, saying through a spokesman: "The damage is far worse than any of us imagined at first. The American people – who have always been the most generous in responding to disasters in other parts of the world – have now themselves suffered a grievous blow."

But he went on to add: "Of course the United States is also the country in the world best prepared to cope with such a disaster."

While Annan has not spoken directly with President Bush, he did meet with America's U.N. ambassador John Bolton to convey the U.N.'s readiness to help.

While it is true that America indeed is a wealthy nation, a sentiment of help and support would be appropriate and courteous. Apparently, most nations do not believe in courtesy.

Of the nations that have offered assistance to the U.S., few have offered money. China, for example, presented $100,000 to the American Red Cross.

Russia has offered boats and aircraft. On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin offered to send a group of military special forces specializing in search and rescue to the region. That offer was rejected by the State Department.

Japan has promised tents, blankets and generators. Even France offered a fire brigade.

Germany is willing to provide communications equipment. Israel, which receives $2.2 billion in U.S. aid each year, has offered to send doctors, nurses, technicians and other experts in dealing with natural disasters, as well as field hospitals and medical kits.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the U.S., made a mocking offer to send cheap fuel and relief workers to the stricken area.

At about the same time he used the disaster as an opportunity to attack President Bush, calling him a "cowboy" who failed to manage the disaster.

Other nations that have offered some form of aid include Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Honduras, the UK, Greece, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

"They're the most powerful, wealthiest country in the world, but when something like this strikes, the poor and the vulnerable are the same all around the world," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

One nation not on the list is oil-rich Kuwait, which owes its very existence to America's liberation effort following Iraq's invasion.

In fact, a high-ranking Kuwaiti official has said Hurricane Katrina was sent by Allah, adding that "disaster will keep striking the unbelievers."

No matter how much foreign aid does arrive in the U.S., it's clear that America will have to shoulder almost all the financial burden in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The size of that burden became clear when President Bush asked Congress for an initial appropriation of $10 billion. Officials say the total cost of dealing with the reconstruction will be as high as $50 billion.

Meanwhile, the U.S. could find itself with a new security nightmare.

As the Pentagon prepares to send as many as 50,000 troops to the disaster region, the White House must also find the manpower for the U.N.'s special summit, due to convene in New York on September 12.

More than 150 heads of state are expected to attend.

One topic slated for discussion is progress in relief for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Said one U.N. official: "Now we have something new to add to the agenda."

In addition to Katrina, one topic the U.N. might include on their agenda: ingratitude.

Nations That Have Offered Katrina Hurricane Aid:



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Now the U.S. is facing a catastrophe of its own from Hurricane Katrina. Though the U.N.'s own top official for disaster relief has called Katrina one of "the largest, most destructive natural disasters ever," shamefully only a handful of nations - at last count just...
Friday, 02 September 2005 12:00 AM
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