12.30.2004

The US, the UN, and the stingy comment


Boy, it seems like everybody in America is upset. In case you hadn't heard, the UN's Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland was giving a press briefing a couple of days ago and said the US was being stingy with the aid it was giving to tsunami victims.

Well, that's what the stories say anyway. Just do a google news search for UN and stingy and go back a couple of days to see the entire American press in an uproar. Colin Powell, the White House spokesman, the guy in charge of foreign aid, his assisstant director (sorry they're all faceless beaurocrats to me), and even president Bush took to the airwaves to blast the UN for such a ludicrous comment.
QUESTION: Mr. President, were you offended by the suggestion that rich nations have been stingy in the aid over the tsunami? Is this a sign of another rift with the U.N.?

BUSH: Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed...
Freepers called for the guys head and just about anywhere else you turn people have their underwear in a wad over it. I would too, if it were only true.

There don't seem to be any transcripts online but you can watch the video here. At around 40:00 he is asked what countries don't give much foreign aid. Note, they're not talking about aid for the tsunami victims, they're talking about the amount of foreign aid given yearly so all those headlines are false for that fact alone.

His reply is that there are no countries in the world that give 1 percent of their gross national income in foreign aid, adding that most western countries give about .1 or .2 percent. Then he makes the "stingy" comment:
"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries. And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really. ... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become."
So, pardon me, but I'd like to ask a question here. What is so offensive about that? How in the hell did people hear that and decide he was calling America stingy with tsunami aid? The headlines call it the "stingy slur" and they say "UN slams US as stingy over tsunami aid." He wasn't even talking about the tsunami you nitwits!

He did go on to mention the United States. He said that he'd like to add that people in many western countries like the US, the European Union and Norway (his home country) actually wanted to give more money in foreign aid but their governments think the taxpayers are under too much of a burden already and think they want to give less. "It's not true," he said. "They want to give more."

How the hell is that offensive? It's a compliment for cryin' out loud! And even if it were offensive, why should we be the ones to get all pissed over it? He was talking about 11 other countries including his own his home nation too.

I do have to disagree though. Forgive me for saying so but I don't think most Americans want to give more in foreign aid. I'm sorry to say it but I think it's true. It's funny, me saying that should be more offensive than what he said.

Oh boy did everyone get pissed. Our response to this has been totally embarrassing. The top political leaders of our nation bitched and they whined, the head of foreign aid said that we only give .2% but since we're so rich that's a hell of a lot of money. I agree, but doesn't this remind you of that old story where a poor man only has $10 and gives $5 to charity while the rich man has $100 and gives $20 then brags that he gave so much? Couldn't we get a beaurocrat that can handle this a little better please? We don't need no stinking pat on the back, not from the UN or anyone. It's especially embarrassing to watch us pat ourselves on the back to soothe the fires of this "slur" that took place only in our imagination.

We have no right to be upset. First he wasn't even talking about the tsunami, second he didn't complain that we don't give enough he only said that no one gives 1% and he said the word "stingy" in an offhand way. This is a guy who oversees relief efforts across the globe so I'd say that if every country gave 10 percent he'd still think it wasn't enough. I can't blame him. I imagine watching children starve to death would do that to a person. But lastly, if we think we're good people doing the right thing then what do we have to be upset about? What do they call people who fly off the handle when their imagination tells them they're being criticized? There's 117,000 dead and rising, and we wanna play the victim?



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