Not the issue

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2005

It was inevitable that someone would write the Empire comparing the expense of the Iraq war and the much smaller amount pledged as of now for relief to victims of the south Asian tsunami ("A more moral fight," Mark Stopha, Jan. 6). Such a sweeping indictment points out an irony, but beyond that is oversimplistic and unrealistic.

First, the writer suggests that our efforts in Iraq could or should have been privately funded, presumably because he resents his tax dollars being spent in that manner. Does that mean he's OK with it as long as it is paid for by those of us who don't see it simply as some evil exercise in imperialism? A user fee-funded foreign policy, so to speak? Maybe the suggestion is that the billions being spent to rid the world of a malignancy named Saddam Hussein should have been spent stockpiling relief supplies for an event that nobody in the world foresaw just two weeks ago.

He opines that the paltry $350 million pledged so far was "to save face from international political pressure." If so, it represents one of the few times this president has so easily caved in to that force. It also ignores the complexities of any massive relief effort. What difference does it really make how funding is obtained when the primary issue is getting aid to those in need? Money collected through private donations is worth just as much as that raised through taxation.

As it happens, funding is not the pressing need right now. Doctors Without Borders has actually issued a statement informing donors to keep their contributions for now because they have sufficient funding for the effort they are equipped to carry out. Worldwide, there has been almost $4 billion pledged to date to help deal with this catastrophe, a response that 20 years ago would have been unheard of. That figure doesn't include the daily expenses of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, which right now are providing logistical support that no other organizations in the world can replace.

Instead of carping about "How's that for 'moral,' America," people ought to cough up $100 for the American Red Cross.

Rick Kaufman


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