[News] Powell declares tsunami aid part of global war on terror
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 6 16:46:34 EST 2005
Powell declares tsunami aid part of global war on terror
Imperialism in Samaritans clothing
By Bill Van Auken
6 January 2005
During his whirlwind tour of the tsunami-devastated nations of South Asia,
US Secretary of State Colin Powell let slip that the begrudging and belated
funding offered by Washington to the ongoing relief effort is all part of
its global war on terror.
Speaking of US aid and the participation of the American military in relief
efforts, Powell declared: It dries up those pools of dissatisfaction that
might give rise to terrorist activity. That supports not only our national
security interest but the national security interests of the countries
Noting that the majority of the victims of the tsunami were Muslims, the US
Secretary of State continued: Wed be doing it regardless of religion, but
I think it does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an
opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action.
Powells trip is largely an exercise in damage control. It is aimed at
overcoming the well-founded international perception that the government of
the most powerful imperialist country in the worldand specifically its
president, George W. Bushreacted with appalling indifference to the worst
natural catastrophe in living memory.
The US Secretary of State has been accompanied by Floridas Governor Jeb
Bush, who seems to be acting as a personal emissary for his older brother,
while exploiting the international tragedy to further his own political
ambitions by appearing to be grappling with a global crisis.
What of the claim that Washingtons reaction to the massive destruction and
lost of life wrought by the tsunami is an expression of American
generosity, American values in action?
Generosity implies selflessness, hardly a characteristic of US foreign
policy. On the contrary, the successive decisions to increase US aid from
an obscene $15 million, to $35 million and finally $350 million were taken
with a calculated view toward the immense damage that Washingtons
miserliness was inflicting upon US imperialisms global image.
As Powell acknowledges, the aid is part and parcel of a war on terror
that is directed at furthering US global economic and political hegemony by
means of military power and aggression.
No doubt, the shock of the tsunamis devastation and the unimaginable loss
of human life have led to expressions of what might genuinely be described
as American values, but not from the administration in Washington.
The open-heartedness and political naiveté associated with the generosity
of the American people has been on display across the United States, with
students and youth organizing bake sales and other activities to raise
money for the victims, and many thousands donating to fund appeals.
It is noteworthy that US television and newspapers have accurately
portrayed the scale of the disaster. Once American ruling circles
determined that the Bush administrations initial disdain for the suffering
caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake was untenable, the corporate media
conglomerates swung into action, providing non-stop coverage of the
catastrophe. Graphic and chilling images of rows of corpses, parents
carrying the bodies of their young children and villages reduced to rubble
have been shown nightly to US viewing audiences.
One cannot help contrast this coverage to the medias cowardly and
complicit silence in response to the human catastrophe created by the US
invasion and occupation of Iraq. Images of the dead, of sobbing parents
clutching the bodies of children killed by US bombardments and of blocks
reduced to rubble are readily available, but rigorously censored by
Americas vaunted free press.
Describing a helicopter flight over Banda Aceh in Indonesia, Powell said he
had never seen anything like it in his military and government career.
I cannot imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the
people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by
this wave, he said. The power of the wave to destroy bridges, to destroy
factories, to destroy homes, to destroy crops, to destroy everything in its
path is amazing.
Perhaps the US Secretary of State would have benefited from a low-flying
helicopter ride over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, though continued
resistance to the US occupiers there would no doubt have precluded such a tour.
Such a flight would have afforded a view of what a man-made tsunami has
left of one of Iraqs principal urban centers. The fabled city of mosques
lies in ruins as the result of a tidal wave of fire and steel unleashed by
US warplanes, artillery and tanks.
What of the horror of the Iraqi families who heard the roar of ceaseless US
aerial bombardment and the thunder of cannon barrages for days before
American tanks finished laying waste to their city? Does Colin Powell try
to imagine what went through their minds? How many of their lives were
snuffed out is something that neither the US government nor the US mass
media even bothers to consider.
While the Pentagon and the media continuously spoke only of US forces
killing rebels and terrorists in Fallujah, the reports emerging from
initial attempts at recovery in the city tell a very different story.
The director of Fallujahs main hospital has reported that an emergency
team from the facility has thus far recovered more than 700 bodies from the
citys rubble. More than 550 were women and children, while the majority of
the men were elderly. Babies have been found dead in their homes from
malnutrition. The search has thus far only extended to a fraction of the
city, with other areas still inaccessible because of fighting.
The deaths in Fallujah are not included in the credible estimate made in a
study published last October in the British medical journal Lancet of over
100,000 additional violent deaths in Iraq since the US invasion, the
majority the result of US bombardments. The figure, which equals two thirds
of the current estimated death toll from the tsunami, has received scant
attention in the American media.
In addition to these violent deaths, there are many thousands
moreparticularly among young childrencaused by the destruction of the
countrys infrastructure, resulting in a lack of safe drinking water and
the unavailability of refrigeration and basic medicines. Taken together,
this human toll represents a manmade calamity that is on a par with the
natural disaster that has struck South Asia.
As for American values, it is fair to ask whose values were expressed in
the vile torture chambers created by the US military and the CIA in Abu
Ghraib, Guantanamo and many lesser-known American detention facilities
serving the war on terror?
Whose values led military interrogators and guards to shock Iraqi prisoners
with electrodes, light them on fire and subject them to sexual abuse and
It is now clear that the orders that gave riseand continue to
sanctionsuch atrocities came from the White House itself, embraced by Bush
and given a pseudo-legal justification by the man he has nominated to serve
as US attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.
Behind these depraved actions lie the values of a predatory and corrupt
ruling elite that is prepared to carry out mass murder and torture in order
to further enrich itself. It has been able to continue the criminal
enterprise in Iraq only by systematically lying to the American people and,
with the medias collaboration, covering up the scale of its crimes.
The hopes, more or less openly expressed by various leading figures in
Washington, that the participation of the US military in relief efforts in
South Asia will somehow erase the searing images of torture that emerged
from Abu Ghraib or of the mass destruction in Fallujah, will prove vain.
Few will be convinced that US imperialism has suddenly become a
Even after twice raising its aid pledge, Washingtons spending on tsunami
relief would barely cover two days of its continuing war in Iraq. On the
scales of American capitalism, values are measured in dollars and cents,
and the whole world knows it.
A little over a century ago, the great revolutionist Rosa Luxemburg wrote
an imperishable essay on the reaction of the great powers to another
devastating natural disaster, the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelee that wiped
out 40,000 people, virtually the entire population of the French Caribbean
colony of Martinique. [See Martinique
She brilliantly exposed the hypocritical expressions of sorrow over the
loss of life and pretensions of humanitarianism emanating from the capitals
of France, Britain, the US, Germany and Russia. The governments of each of
these countries, she pointed out, were responsible for bloodbaths carried
out either against their own working class or in savagely repressing
anti-colonial resistance from Africa to the Philippines.
Luxemburg wrote: And now they have all turned to Martinique, all one heart
and one mind again; they help, rescue, dry the tears and curse the
havoc-wreaking volcano. Mt. Pelee, greathearted giant, you can laugh; you
can look down in loathing at these benevolent murderers, at these weeping
carnivores, at these beasts in Samaritans clothing. But a day will come
when another volcano lifts its voice of thunder: a volcano that is seething
and boiling, whether you need it or not, and will sweep the whole
sanctimonious, blood-splattered culture from the face of the earth. And
only on its ruins will the nations come together in true humanity, which
will know but one deadly foeblind, dead nature.
In the light of recent events, these words remain evergreen. The
juxtaposition of massive human suffering and imperialist hypocrisy that has
characterized the aftermath of the South Asian tsunami is symptomatic of a
society rent by inequality and oppression and ripe for social revolution.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News