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by James Jennings
Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005 at 6:42 PM
The 0 million that Bush finally made available is embarrassing compared to the current arms budget of 1.7 billion. US relief for the catastrophe in Asia amounts to less than a thousandth of military spending.
“LESS THAN A THOUSANDTH OF ARMS SPENDING”
Interview with the Director of Conscience International, James E. Jennings on the Relief Promises of the US Government for Victims of the Flood Catastrophe
By Harald Neuber
[This interview originally published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis 1/06/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/r4/artikel/19/19172/1.html.]
Three days passed until the US president reacted to the flood catastrophe in Asia. During his vacation, George W. Bush at his Texas ranch declared emergency relief would be released for the victims of the tsunami in the amount of million. He would have preferred to forget it all. A storm of indignation followed the announcement. The coordinator of the United Nations, Jan Egeland, used the stingy US relief for a general criticism of the industrial nations. These nations can be motivated to emergency aid for long-term development cooperation. Deeds were often secondary to words.
Words were heard at the millennium summit of the UN. At that time in 2000, the wealthy UN member states in a pathetic declaration committed themselves to increasing aid to developing countries to 0.7 percent of their respective gross domestic product. Was Egeland’s criticism “very foolish and badly informed” as Bush replied to the criticism from UN headquarters in New York before he increased assistance to 0 million? Telepolis spoke with James E. Jennings, the director of the US relief organization Conscience International .
Mr. Jennings, there was harsh criticism of the first reactions of the US government in the course of the relief measures for the flood victims in Asia. President Bush rejected the complaints. Who was right?
James Jennings: The critics. Although the US is the wealthiest nation of the world, many other states offered more than one percent of their gross domestic product for aid for developing countries. The rate for the US is at 0.14 percent. Thus if one compares wealth and actual relief payments, the richest nation could be described as stingy, as former president Jimmy Carter said not long ago. The 0 million that Bush finally made available is embarrassing compared to the current arms budget of 1.7 billion. US relief for the catastrophe in Asia amounts to less than a thousandth of military spending.
The departing Secretary of State described this assistance as an important contribution to improve the respect of the US in the crisis region. What do you think of this opinion?
James Jennings: Unfortunately the public effect seems more important than the victims in the reactions of the US government. When Secretary of State Powell made his comment, he revealed more than he wanted. No one in the Muslim world will fall for this maneuver. On one side, help is offered while three hundred times more was already spent in bombing Muslims in Iraq.
Is US aid on the governmental plane is considered part of the so-called war against terrorism?
James Jennings: Yes, in a certain way. Political analysts from the military and the conservative camp have unanimously expressed their hopes that a long-term improvement of troop presence in south east Asia could arise out of the present humanitarian engagement.
Does the US population agree with the government?
James Jennings: The sympathy and readiness to help of the people are much greater. The donations are immense. Some people have given much money despite their limited means. However this contribution also appears meager when the 0 million in donations is compared with the 0 billion spent annually among us for alcohol, animal food and cosmetics.
Nevertheless criticism of the attitude of the US government is heard in the country.
James Jennings: Obviously many are critical of Bush’s policy. Nearly 60 million persons voted against Bush in the presidential election a few weeks ago. Nevertheless the support for the relief measures of the administration predominates because many people are not clear about the enormous disproportion to the military foreign policy. When people become conscious of this fact, they will begin voicing their criticism.
 http://www.conscienceinternational.org on the US government’s relief.
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