12/29/04 — Tsunami: U.S. response quick, generous

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Tsunami: U.S. response quick, generous

Thousands of people have been killed, many others are missing and damage is in the billions as a result of the tsunamis that struck Southeast Asia.

A tsunami — a new word to many among us — results from an earthquake under the ocean. It produces a horrific ripple effect that sends a series of huge tidal waves onto land masses hundreds of miles away.

Within hours of the news, the United States had pledged $15 million in aid and dispatched a flight of Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft to the area.

The U.S. response was typically swift, sincere and generous.

The reaction of Jan Egeland, under-secretary general of the United Nations, also was typical. He accused the United States of being “stingy” in its response.

He said the disaster was unprecedented, thus needing “unprecedented generosity” from nations and individuals in positions to help.

At the time Egeland spoke, the European Union had pledged $4 million — about a fourth of the U.S. initial commitment. France was sending “medicine and rescue help.”

Russia was sending two aircraft with emergency workers. Turkey dispatched a jet to evacuate its citizens stranded in the area.

Australia apparently came closest to the U.S. in terms of initial response. It pledged $7.8 million with promises of more to come.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said more U.S. aid also would follow.

The destruction was so immediate and widespread, a comprehensive assessment of needs will take days, even weeks. Contrary to Jan Egeland’s contemptuous criticism, the United States should not simply open the floodgates of financial aid even before those on the scene can make a reasonable determination of needs and how they can be met.

He can be assured that when those assessments are made, the United States will be first in line to help meet them.

Hopefully, however, the U.S. will make its contributions direct and through such agencies as the Red Cross — not through the U.N., which has a dismal record, best illustrated by its handling of the “Oil for Food” program in Iraq.

Published in Editorials on December 29, 2004 10:29 AM