Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse: The international effort that went into coordinating relief after the 2004 tsunami has to be repeated, but in much harsher, trickier, uglier political circumstances. Yes, we should help the Burmese, even against the will of their irrational leaders. Yes, we should think hard about the right way to do it. And, yes, there isn’t much time to ruminate about any of this.
~ Anne Applebaum
The situation facing the Burmese and the Chinese in the face of natural disaster is in dire need of attention. Some reports and media outlets are offering figures as high as 125,000 dead and 2.4 million at risk due to starvation and disease. The numbers in Burma alone are staggering. In fact, the amount of suffering civilians has led lawmakers including President George Bush to respond swiftly.
In response to these combined natural disasters, the United States has come forward with close to 20 million dollars in aid and the international community has “responded by offering over 100 million”
It seems as if the United States and indeed the world at large has taken the advice of Applebaum. Swift action in the face of “irrational leaders” will save lives and reduce the suffering of victims.
Sadly, Western media outlets fail to compare this humanitarian crisis to the US created crisis taking place daily in the Middle East, namely in Iraq, where over 4 million have been displaced and are living in squalid conditions. This humanitarian crisis has been named the largest humanitarian and displacement crisis in the world, and goes on largely unnoticed.
In a recently released report published by Refugees International, (Uprooted and Unstable, 2008) “the needs of the displaced are not adequately addressed by the Government of Iraq or the international community.”
Indeed, when compared to the billions of dollars (most recently 165 billion) President George Bush requests from US taxpayers to pay for the continued military presence in Iraq annually, a mere 35 million in humanitarian aid was requested for the fiscal year 2008. The report goes on to note, “This vacuum is quickly being filled by militias and other armed groups, who engage in hearts and minds campaigns and provide assistance as a means of building support for their political and military goals.”
The Iraqi government fragmented and corrupt has done little to assist their own people in providing basic services and aid, according to Refugees International, “It is unable and unwilling to use its important resources to respond appropriately to the humanitarian crisis.” However, in sharp contrast, as reported by Democracy Now! the Iraqi government “has now become one of the largest purchasers of US arms” worldwide.
Yet, in spite of the dire humanitarian situation in Iraq, the continued hypocrisies and politicization of convenient crisis’s, and the obvious blunder of pushing Iraqi civilians towards militias and radical groups, Western media and politicians will continue to distract voters from the real issues underlying continued destabilization of Iraq…the deliberate denial of Iraq’s humanitarian crisis.
One can easily take the words of Applebaum and make them apply to Iraq, “Yes, we should help the Iraqis, even against the will of irrational leaders like George Bush. Yes, we should think hard about the right way to do it. And, yes, there isn’t much time to ruminate about any of this.
You can do something…here.