If you want to see what people are really made of, just put them in a pressure cooker and crank up the heat. The recent tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia has served to bring out both the best and the worst in people. None of the results are too surprising.
People in Phuket were actually still trying to out-surf the killer wave when the Bush-haters started whining about the US President being on ‘vacation’ at his Texas ranch. The same folks who are always calling Bush a “moron” were apoplectic over the fact that he didn't use his supposed Rain Man-like gifts to predict precisely when the tidal wave was going to hit, and then make sure that he was back in DC to handle the crisis when it did.
Michael Moore already made that movie, and it was tedious the first time. But that didn’t stop people in other countries from adapting their own versions. Despite the fact that it was the Christmas holiday season, vacationing Prime Ministers Paul Martin (Canada) and Tony Blair (Great Britain) were also worked over by Joe Six-Pack, playing “armchair general” and directing aid and rescue efforts from the comfort of his living room by yelling at the news coverage on his TV screen, rum-and-eggnog in hand.
Next came the cries that Bush, Blair and Martin were giving too little aid, too late. Pundits in print and online were saying how embarrassed they were for their own countries, since their leaders had the audacity to actually step back and survey the damage instead of just handing blank checks to the devastated countries: “Why do they need reconnaissance teams? Can’t they see on TV how much damage there is?” Sure. As Dan Rather demonstrated during the last Presidential campaign, if someone on TV shows us something (ie. that Microsoft Word existed in the 70s) then obviously it must be true.
Before cutting a check to a largely Muslim area that’s known as a terrorist haven, you’d think people would be in favour of vetting things out, first. All of these countries have weak central governments, corrupt authorities and lousy economies--making them ripe for terrorist activity. Imagine what might happen if aid money given to Sri Lanka ended up in the hands of the Tamil Tigers. These guerrillas make Palestinian suicide bombers look like schoolyard sissies with Barbie backpacks, and have managed to assassinate both a Sri Lankan Prime Minister and an Indian PM-to-be (Rajiv Gandhi).
Indonesian-based Islamic militants from the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah have recently homicide bombed a Bali nightclub, a US consular office, a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, and an Australian Embassy.
As for Thailand, the Asia Times puts it succinctly: “[Thai intelligence] agencies have long suspected -- or known -- that Islamic extremists, under the gun in their own countries since the Bali bombings...have been hiding out in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country that has a sizable and disgruntled Muslim minority in its south.”
A picture recently obtained by Getty Images shows a local boy sporting a black t-shirt with a colour portrait of Osama bin Laden, while helping to carry a tsunami victim’s body. Throwing wads of cash at these people -- no matter how much or how quickly -- will not undo the brainwashing that has many of them believing that Bush, Blair, Martin and the Westerners they represent are all a bunch of “infidels”. Although bin Laden hasn’t come through with any humanitarian aid for his supporters in one of the world’s most densely populated Muslim areas, it doesn’t seem to matter. They aren’t likely to notice that the disaster was Allah’s mess in the first place, or that he’s now doing squat-all to help clean it up. So people need simmer down and wait for Western leaders to ensure that their aid packages are going to actually get into the right hands--rather than having them immediately bend over for “the cause”, close their eyes, and wait for their contribution to boomerang back in the form of a big, 9/11-type enema.
Criticisms are being leveled at Bush as a result of some appointments he has made in dealing with the disaster. Liberals are suggesting that Bush sent his brother -- Florida Governor, Jeb -- to tour the disaster zone with Secretary of State Colin Powell because Jeb is being groomed to continue the Bush dynasty. The only other people currently in the USA who are as qualified as Jeb Bush to deal with disasters of such epic proportions might be former Kerry Campaign strategist and renowned political train-wreck expert, Bob Shrum, and songstress-wannabe Ashlee Simpson (who is reportedly still in hiding after her Orange Bowl screech-fest the other day). Regardless of his family connections, partisan politics, or future plans, the key fact here is that Jeb has successfully pulled his own state through various hurricane crises. Period.
Conservatives have wondered aloud if Bush erred in appointing former President Bill Clinton to head up private fundraising efforts along with his father, former President Bush, Sr. Partisan politics aside, both of these men are perfect candidates for the job. Perhaps Bush Sr. can use his clout as a member of the Carlyle Group -- an international investment firm with ties to the Saudi Arabian government -- to squeeze the wealthy sheiks and royals over there for more than the $30 million pittance they’ve coughed up so far. There are probably toilets in Saudi royal palaces that are worth more than this.
Meanwhile, China isn’t pulling its weight either, pledging only $60 million to efforts thus far. Given Clinton’s past success in soliciting funds from China and other foreign sources, who could possibly be better for a gig like this? The following excerpt from a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee report is a ringing endorsement of Clinton’s gifts in this regard:
“[Clinton] and his aides demeaned the offices of the President and Vice President, took advantage of minority groups, pulled down all the barriers that would normally be in place to keep out illegal contributions, pressured policy makers, and left themselves open to strong suspicion that they were selling not only access to high-ranking officials, but policy as well. Millions of dollars were raised in illegal contributions, much of it from foreign sources. When these abuses were discovered, the result was numerous Fifth Amendment claims, flights from the country, and stonewalling from the White House and the DNC.”
And finally, even Hollywood stars are showing their true colours in the midst of crisis. While some are opening their wallets, others are just opening their mouths, as usual. Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio have made sizable contributions to charitable organizations, while perennial loudmouth Barbra Streisand is donating the gift of her wisdom. Her latest website statement, dated January 4th, offers the following:
“When politicians…ignore the responsibilities that accompany inordinate power -- speak. When they imperil the possibilities for peace -- speak. And above all, when they demand silence -- speak. Never more than now, the hope and promise of America rests on a rising, insuppressible chorus of voices -- whispering, shouting, proclaiming, protesting, advocating, resisting, singing, supporting, celebrating ... and persevering. Speak!”
How about shutting up for once, Babs, and putting your money where your mouth is?
Once again, George W. Bush is the one to have taken some initiative on the world stage and formed a coalition to actually get something done for the good of humanity. Instead of attacking him, maybe the America-bashers can ask where the heck Allah is with the broom, and whether Osama’s donation of aid to all of his Muslim brethren is in the mail.