Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Bush Bristles at "Stingy"?

Bush finally has taken time from his vacation to play world leader and make a public statement, from his "ranch". It seems the term "stingy" has stuck in his craw a bit. Heavens, who could have dared question the War President and the US of A like that. Oh, yes, someone "ill-informed":
In his first remarks since the weekend disaster that so far has killed more than 76,000, Bush -- like some in his administration previously -- took umbrage at a U.N. official's suggestion that the world's richest nations were "stingy," and indicated much more is expected to be spent to help the victims.

"Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed," Bush said from his Texas ranch. "We're a very generous, kindhearted nation, and, you know, what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America."

Bush noted that the United States provided $2.4 billion "in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. ... That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year."
$2.4 Billion is a lot of aid! But didn't we spend $147 billion and counting on Iraq? What we've spent in Iraq could have funded all global anit-hunger efforts for six more years. As a percentage, $2.4 billion is only 1.6% of what we spent stoping Sadam from using his vanishing WMD's.

But you know what? Wow, 40% of all the relief aid given in the world! That's impressive. But what is the gross national product of the USA anyway? Well, in 2004 it was $10.9 Trillion. Only Japan has a GNP over $4 Trillion, with most of the other large industrialized nations falling between $1-2 trillion. So let's see: The US is the richest county in the world by nearly a factor of five, and we are donating 0.14% of our GNP. But a country like Norway, with a GNP of $190 Billion in 2003 - or 1.7% that of the US - is donating 0.90% of their GNP- or greater than six times that of the US.

The United States is a very generous and kindhearted nation as Mr. Bush correctly notes. But the United States is also a wealthy nation far beyond that of all other nations on this earth. Being a highly spiritual person, I'm sure the President consulted with his lord about his uniquely powerful position to be an instrument of God by helping those victims of this unprecedented natural disaster. I wonder if he read this verse from the apposle Mark in his bible:
"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.'" Mark 12:41-44
By remaining on vacation, announcing initially only a small sum of $15 million from the world's richest nation in response to a global national disaster, Bush couldn't have thumbed his nose much better once again at the rest of the world. This hasn't gone unnoticed. From Juan Cole:
Indeed, the worst-hit area of Indonesia is Aceh, the center of a Muslim separatist movement, and a gesture to Aceh from the US at this moment might have meant a lot in US-Muslim public relations. Bin Laden and Zawahiri sniffed around Aceh in hopes of recruiting operatives there, being experts in fishing in troubled waters. Doesn't the US want to outflank al-Qaeda? As it is, the president of the United States is invisible and on vacation (unlike several European heads of state), and could think of nothing better to do than announce a paltry pledge. As Harris and Wright rightly say, the rest of the world treated the US much better than this after September 11.
So let's recap: Bush stays on vacation when other world leaders cancel theirs. Bush offers an initially paltry sum of aid, until shamed into offering more. Bush makes no public statements on the disaster until shamed into it. Then Bush has the hubris to bristle at reactions to his pledges as stingy. Another opportunity missed. Another display of arrogance. Another reason given for the world to view America negatively. Thank you Mr. Bush.

Worst. President. Ever.