A Flood of Callousness

The Beeb is reporting that more than 20 million residents in Pakistan have been forced out of their homes due to the widespread flooding that has left more than one-third of the country under water and an estimated 2,000 people drowned.

Cholera and other water-borne illnesses are widespread, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that more than 200,000 people are suffering from acute diarrhea and about that many people also experiencing acute respiratory problems.  Another 3.5 million children are at risk of water-borne illnesses, according to the United Nations.  The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a quarter million farm animals have been killed to date in the flooding and 700,000 hectares of farmland are destroyed.  The Pakistani government has been unable to respond to the crisis, with more than 6 million citizens living in the open countryside with no potable water or food.

The weather forecast for the coming weeks is more rain during the monsoon season.

BBC's map of the extent of the flooding

Yet there has been a strange silence in the United States about this crisis – relegated to perhaps a scrolling footnote during stories demonizing the man who wants to build a Muslim YMCA in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory two blocks from the World Trade Center buildings, or stories analyzing the STD and arrest status of the cast members of Jersey Shore.*

And the dollars that poured forth after the earthquake in Haiti and tsunami in south Asia are not coming forth to help the people of Pakistan.

One activist with Amnesty International describes the relative silence as “a crisis of empathy” by Westerners.  Rafia Zakaria writes:

“Catastrophe of this magnitude visited upon a country already flailing under the weight of terrorist attacks and poor governance is an indescribable tragedy.  But the dimensions of Pakistan’s calamity have been exacerbated not simply by the vagaries of nature but by the inability of the world to join the effort to save Pakistan’s submerged millions.

Shockingly the cavalcade of bereft images, emaciated men clutching driftwood, women grasping half naked babies and villages and towns inundated in the ubiquitous murky brown have all failed to arouse the world’s sympathy.  While millions around the globe opened their coffers for the victims of the Asian Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, few have done so for Pakistan.  Hollywood stars, usually quick to rally around victims of humanitarian catastrophe have been eerily silent in coming to the aid of millions of Pakistan’s hapless flood victims.

The U.S response, while widely publicized, has also been paltry relative to the magnitude of the catastrophe with only a few hundred million pledged; a far cry from the over one billion the United States spends on fighting the war on terror in Pakistan.  To date, only nineteen helicopters and two C-130s of the many hundreds stationed mere miles away from affected areas were actually being utilized for humanitarian efforts in Pakistan.  While news agencies decried how the floods may provide opportunities for militants to regroup, these fears have not led to any decisions that would divert significant military assets to humanitarian use in the region.

Unless ordinary people around the world donate to come to the aid of the millions waiting for help, Pakistanis will bear the burden of believing that in their gravest hour of need they have been forgotten and ignored.”

The anger against the US is growing and palpable in Pakistan.  One member of Parliament told a BBC correspondent, “The US is spending $5 billion a month in Afghanistan. That puts in context what they are giving to us.”

It’s not just the US government.  Donations to charitable groups are falling far short.

The United Nations’ leaders are begging for donations.  The Red Cross and Oxfam are not receiving any where near the amount of money needed to bring food and water and supplies to the 20 million displaced persons.  According to Oxfam officials, the amount of funding raised so far works out to $3 per flood-affected person, whereas the commitment after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake was $70 per person and $495 per person after the Haiti earthquake.

Why doesn’t the world care about Pakistanis?

While some have theorized that the lack of attention or donations is due to “compassion fatigue” or tighter budgets, I can’t help but wonder if the constant demonization of Muslims in the mainstream media, as best evidenced by the hysteria over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and the general ignorance of Americans about the religion and its followers (hint to 20% of Americans – Barack Obama is not Muslim) has led to a hardened heart to the suffering of the people of Pakistan.  One commentator has answered that question with “Because they live in Pakistan.”

But the suffering Pakistani children and families are not terrorists, they are human beings who are slowly dying.  The groups affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, however, are among the few who are getting to the suffering people with food, water, and medicine.

Should we be bombing Pakistani citizens with drone bombs or with USAID care packages?

If you’re interested in making a donation to a relief organization working in Pakistan, the New York Times has compiled a list of charities.

* Oh, and speaking of Jersey Shore, I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to learn that the cast of the show received a charitable donation of a truckload of condoms, vodka, and suntan lotion to get them through the rest of summer.


What are the Islamic oil kingdoms of the Middle East contributing to aid for Pakistan?

@Dodgerblue: Very good question, to which I do not know the answer but will now attempt to investigate.

@Dodgerblue: This says the Saudis have given $105 million, more than the US, and this report of a few days ago details other Arab countries’ donations.

@SanFranLefty: This may be one of an increasing number of climate change-related “natural” disasters as rainfall patterns change and intensify. Although China is catching up, or may have caught up, in current terms, the country with the largest historical contribution to greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is — us!!

@Dodgerblue: Oh silly, global warming is all a big hoax and it’s just a theory! You know, like gravity, plate tectonics, and evolution!

@SanFranLefty: I’m waiting to see whether the Obama Admin will do anything about it other than talk. So far, no. While the Chinese are gearing up to eat our lunch in solar and wind energy.

The conservatives we suffer want to make the U.S. a Christian national security state. We also have the Islamic Republic of _______, the Jewish State, and various other theocracies. Not that these people don’t need help – they do. And they deserve it. But isn’t some adult going to stand up at some point and say: “Hey – ceding your nation to an invisible man in the sky might not be the best idea.” Again I point out – it is a shame that we have a religious test for pubic office – candidates have to profess a belief in the invisible Sky God. And this is folly – the more time we spend fighting religious wars, the less time we have to clean up the mess we’ve made.

@blogenfreude: I think the average US ‘Merikan would vote for a Muslim for president over an agnostic non-believer.

The whole hoo-haw over whether or not Obama is a Mooslem and the ongoing “He’s not a Muslim” response reminds me of the old Seinfeld episode about people thinking someone is gay… “I’m not _____, not that there’s anything wrong with it…”

@SanFranLefty: You might as well ask whether the average US ’Merikan would prefer a murderer or a child molester.

@SanFranLefty: I’ve read that the Obama family has a Passover seder every year. That’s pretty suspicious right there. Semitic tribes, etc.

I haven’t looked at the list of charities, but I’d put my money on ICRC (water and sanitation), MSF (same – plus crayzee cute Franch – or Dutch! – guys/gals) and that refugee thingie the UN has. The ‘Murrican Red Cross is a 50/50 proposition, seeings how the Pakistani Red Crescent is probably trying to be the go-to conduit for ca$h. I could tell you off-line who to avoid.

Oh and Care packages? That’s CARE. USAID contracts stuff out…

I’m at a DazeIn outside the beltway, watching a screenful of Kardashians…this is a bad thing.

The way this country of ours shoots itself in the foot sometimes.

If one cares at all about international extremism and terorrism (as U.S. Americans looking for a fight seemingly do), one has to look at Pakistan as a big, huge question mark — particluarly as to the old “hearts and minds” deal. So if (a) Black Eagle and (b) the GOP frontline were Johnnies-on-the-spot and forked over a sizable chunk of The Munnie for supplies and such, it might have gone a long way to have Pakistanis say, “you know what, those Americans are not a bad bunch of folks.”

But, no. There are zoning issues to work out back here — we’re just getting hammered with the paperwork these days.

Incidentally: these Pakistanis seem to have come down with a serious case of poor. New Orleanians would be forgiven for walking out of this movie early.

@chicago bureau:
Exactly. A little compassion can go a long way, but well…

@chicago bureau: Unfortunately the Pakis aren’t known for any good jazz or zydeco music, not to mention tasty food to keep the rest of the world interested in their fate. They are anonymous brown adults and children dying, and like you pointed out, the US of Ay is blowing our last fucking chance to win some hearts and minds. Instead, the Saudis and their crazy extremist madrassas are coming to town with gallons of water and bags of rice.

TJ: “I take Obama at his word that he’s a Christian” sez Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

/head meet wall, over, and over, and over…

hey god? it’s me, baked. FUCK YOU. you don’t exist except in our fairy tales and you’re doing a great job of fucking up the entire world.
…now if we all had the same fairy tale, or none at all, imagine what a wonderful world it could be.
cue: louis armstrong/john lennon

/banging weeping head, move over lefty

I don’t think we can ever win hearts and minds there whatever we do or don’t do. I wonder will India step in?

@baked: I could so worship Apollo (for obvious reasons) and Pallas Athena. Or the Norse one who got ambushed and died then was resurrected. I like the Norse ones best though they might be a bit heavy on the furniture, clanking about and such as. Or even the maples on the hill above the house. I could worship wood. An American god of the forests: Brad? No. He’s the god of surf. Woody? Duh.

my puppy IN THE CRATE (!) is starting to whine, will be back to discuss possible gods with you and did something happen to illya? the god of my tweens? i’m scanning stinque, and have been on news blackout. the wet paki’s are ripping me up.

@baked: my puppy IN THE CRATE. I’m so proud of you. See what happens when you listen?

the rat has her…i would like to announce she had her first PERFECT day yesterday–not ONE accident!!!

appollo, athena, we know how that turned out for the greeks, don’t we?
and i don’t want to hear about anything resurrecting from the dead besides vampires and zombies, ok? here’s a fresh idea…why don’t we worship people. it hasn’t been done, i’d like to give that a whirl. i thought about dogs, but they don’t look so good in red ties, and cats didn’t do much for the egyptians.
how awesome would it be if all the paki’s cried out, ” i am not an ANIMAL!” (pop quiz..name the movie)
so yeah, people. lets worship HUMAN LIFE.
(and i’m not talking about feti here…that ain’t human til the mommy says so)

@baked: We already worship people. Isn’t that what celebrity is all about? I’m not sure that Britney is any better than Catherine of Sienna.

hmm, good point mum. imagine a world w/out celebrity worship. a world where every child is teated with love and respect. you know what happens when you embrace and live these values? you get gunned down in front of your building.
going to the garden now to regain composure enough to go to the phone store and refrain from shoving it down some imoran’s throat.

“if there really is a god, he’s a total fuck-up”
—-George Carlin

@chicago bureau: There is an Army War College case study I read of special forces neutralizing Islamic insurgent influence in villages in the Philippine southern islands during the 1990s by asking villagers what they cared about and when hearing what they wanted most was potable water and doctors for the babies set about delivering all of that. Locals began rejecting the islamocrazies as useless allahfascists. The program itself was the precipitate of scholarship with provenance dating back to the 1960s. One of the unsung tragedies of the military confrontation with the islamocrazies is how prepared the military was for it and how their research and experience told them military responses were beside the point and how completely wasted that insight was on the Cheney cult which was hungry to cash in on 9/11.

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