It may not seem like much….

But I just gave what I could to the Red Cross to help the victims of this week’s tragedy in South Asia. I gave through Amazon and want to encourage everyone to give whatever they can. Talk is great, but these people need help that only money can buy.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Dear Richard,

During the debates that took place in response to the article you baked titled, “The Very Ugly American” (to be found in the December 20 Archive), you, in response to a comment made by Nik, claimed that the United States is “a leader in human rights” and that “when people are in trouble, when they need food dropped or relief, the US is usually the first to give.”

I am very heartened today, having just finished scanning the world’s press, to see that the United States, today at least, has received some positive press for a change – headlines like: “US public donates large sums to tsunami victims”.

Amazon customers alone have so far raised more than US$6 million. The American Red Cross said yesterday that it had received 18 million dollars and CARE USA more than 3.5 million dollars from the public, and the donations are expected soon to match the total pledged by the US government.

This, I think, is badly needed press for Americans – a reminder that most Americans are indeed decent, generous, warm-hearted people.

The same, sadly, cannot be said for US governments, both past and present – and particularly of the current regime in power – who, over recent days, has come under severe fire from the world’s media, for its lack of generosity in giving to the victims of the recent tsunami disasters. Leading French daily Le Figaro, for example, took a swipe the other day at the United States Government, saying Washington’s initial offer was “less than half the daily sales of dog and cat food in the US”. The French government has pledged US$56 million.

Indeed, the US Government continues to attract criticism for its “stingy” pledge to contribute $44 million in aid. Even a country with an economy as small as Australia’s (whose total population has only just reached 20 million) has donated almost this much. The Howard Government, who I intensely dislike, did at least pledge $35 million almost immediately after news of the tragedy reached Canberra, and has since announced that it will substantially increase this amount.

In a scathing editorial headed “Are We Stingy? Yes”, the New York Times described the Bush administration’s response as a “miserly drop in the bucket”. The United States, when measured using GDP, is the world’s wealthiest country.

I live in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, and so I can pick up two of Hong Kong’s television stations that broadcast in English: Pearl TV and ATV World. Both of these ran stories last Wednesday evening attacking the Bush administration for its poor effort and perceived lack of interest in the tsunami disaster. I imagine CCTV probably did the same.

You can imagine what many people throughout the world are now saying: the United States can afford to spend roughly 200 billion dollars on their illegal and murderous invasion of Iraq (a budget which represents only 4% of America’s annual GDP) and yet it is only prepared to donate a “stingy” US$44 million on helping the victims of the world’s biggest natural disaster. This is what many people are saying.

So I am very pleased, for Americans, that today’s headlines from around the world acknowledge the generosity of ordinary Americans, people like you Richard, who are, as usual, prepared to lend a helping hand to those in need.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

December 30, 2004 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

That NY Times editorial was superb. I, too, am totally ashamed of our president, yet again. 72 hours after the greatest disaster in many years, and he was still silent, clearing brush on his vacation and doing other urgent things. And that initial promise of $15 million made me sick, it was so embarrassing. $40 million for a one-night inauguration party — why don’t the American people see this in perspective? If they did, the outrage would be overwhelming. I am sure hoping this acts as a wake-up call to Bush’s callousness.

December 30, 2004 @ 8:06 pm | Comment

Urgh. Even though I have a link to Amazon on my site, I wish you gave through Doctors Without Borders.

I can’t stomach giving money to the IRC – an organization that compared the star of david to a swastika in their asinine rationalization for refusing to recognize Israel’s Magen David Adom. Asses.

December 31, 2004 @ 10:23 am | Comment

Well, I need to clarify and give credit to the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross withholds its dues to the International Red Cross – and still is withholding, going on I think at least 5 years – until IRC recognizes the Israeli rescue service.

So, it’s okay to give through the American Red Cross, and I’ll keep the button up on my blog, and donate with a clearer conscience.

December 31, 2004 @ 10:28 am | Comment

Today the announcement came that the US gave $350 million, a 10-fold increase – Good on the USA and good on Colin Powell (sorry, I have to take an oblique swipe at your president), but Powell has been the first to jump up (and take action) when the ‘stingy’ tag was cast at the US. I bet he has been instrumental in persuading Bush to cough up appropriately as a superpower ought to. My admiration for Powell continues to grow, and I regret he has to leave the Administration, when it so badly needs a man like him. Maybe 2008/9?

What is causing some angst and animosity has been the decision by the US to form a ‘core group’ for the tsunami relief and rehabilitaion of victims, comprising the 4 countries of the USA, India, Japan & Australia. But the UN and EU have been left out. After some deliberation, the UN was coopted, but only as a party to be informed.

The selection fo the US, India and Japan I can understand, but why leave out the UN and EU yet include a ‘small’ nation like Australia. This is a direct snub at the UN and EU – bearing in mind the EU collectivelly has contributed also $350 million and certainly way before today – this amount is increasing day by day. I gather it was persuation from India that the UN was subsequently coopted.

Why play silly beggar and the vindictive game of a spoilt brat? This is a humanitarian effort, and the UN and EU are too important to be marginalised.

India had to come out with a public assurance to allay concerns that the US decision could undermine the UN effort. I don’t see the wisdom of the US continuing the transatlantic tit for tat.

January 1, 2005 @ 6:05 am | Comment

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