Jon Dougherty's The Commoner

Daily rants on the illogic of the political Left.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Did the UN scam us for tsunami aid?

© 2005 Jon E. Dougherty
January 4, 2005

Within hours of learning how badly a series of quake-induced tsunamis had ravaged several Asian nations, President Bush was already pledging millions of taxpayer dollars for aid and assistance, to help the affected nations recover.

Indeed, this most generous of administrations has pledged and spent more than $100 billion since 9/11 to liberate millions of people, provide them with a fresh start, and help them recover from any number of horrors, hazards and disasters and dictators.

This is a familiar story. Throughout the years the United States, as we became the most economically successful country in the history of the world, has also become one of the most generous. Each and every year the American people and our government provide billions of dollars in aid and assistance to countries far less fortunate than our own. Granted, sometimes that aid is tied to the advancement of our own interests, but all things considered and generally speaking, we get very little in return for our charitable investments.

In many cases, we are often held in contempt despite our generosity. Enter the United Nations.

This is an organization that allows criminal rogue nations an equal say in world events, then criticizes democracies for their behavior. It is an organization that has bungled so many international operations on its own it has developed a reputation for being impotent. And under the "leadership" of its latest chief, Kofi Annan, tens of billions of dollars were "allegedly" pillaged by a madman via the UN's phony "oil-for-food" program to buy enough cover to get away with it. One of those bought off reportedly includes Annan's own son.

The primary funding mechanism for all of this has been the American people. Besides being the UN's largest financial contributor (every dollar the UN contributes to tsunami aid is funded in part by Americans), the United States has, throughout the decades, provided hundreds of billions of dollars in "extra" assistance, including military aid, when the impotent and hapless UN leadership gets itself into a bind.

The long and short of it is this: America and Americans have always stood for freedom, liberty, justice and generosity. The UN claims to have these qualities but the reality couldn't be further from the claim.

With this in mind, how is it that some self-important UN bureaucrat feels it is justified to describe U.S. generosity in terms of tsunami relief "stingy?"

UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said just that Dec. 27, shortly after Bush stepped up and became one of the first major Western nations to pledge any sort of aid, financial or otherwise.

"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," he told reporters. "There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."

Let's get real. The U.S. is stingy like the UN is efficient and relevant.

But doesn't Egeland know this? Yes. Does he also know such a comment would not only anger Americans but act as sort of a challenge to us as well? Could be.

Within 24 hours of Egeland's comment, Bush upped the dollar amount of U.S. assistance. Within the first few days, he cobbled together a coalition of nations including Japan, Australia and India to form an international aid group designed to provide tsunami assistance. And within a week he "donated" the use of an entire U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle group, complete with thousands of Marines to help distribute more aid and provide on-the-ground rescue assistance.

Total bill: Something closer to $1 billion, say some analysts. After all, moving around aircraft carrier battle groups isn't cheap.

In the end, it wouldn't surprise me to learn Egeland's comments were just another well-orchestrated UN scam, aimed at shaming the world's most generous and free nation into contributing much more than our fair share of assistance. Odd, isn't it, that Egeland only chastised the West, and not the oil-rich monarchies and sheikdoms of the Muslim world, or communist China, with its double-digit annual economic growth rate, or the African Union, which could draw from any number of fiscally solvent nations.

Liberals have argued that great responsibility and demand is often placed on the greatest powers. Maybe, but to that end a question must be asked: When is enough enough?

"For anyone confused about why the rest of the world might infer America is stingy, don't think of the enormity of U.S. aid as $35 million -- think of it as the wealthiest country on earth giving 65 percent of one baseball player's salary over four years (Pedro Martinez) to help mitigate the worst disaster in recorded world history," wrote one reader in a "Letter to the Editor" of the Boston Globe this week.

This mentality not only ignores the true "enormity of U.S. aid," it also undermines the selfless generosity demonstrated by generations of Americans throughout history. Seriously: What other nation can claim its government and its people are more generous than we?

And while all of this giving never ceases to amaze me, I still can't help but think we were duped into giving much more than even we were obliged to give, while other, equally able, nations have once again been given a pass by the UN.

Sometimes you just can't please people, no matter what you do for them. Before it criticizes us again, the world should consider how much worse off it would be if America stopped letting itself be talked into always being the world's sugar daddy.

Jon E. Dougherty is author of "Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border," and a correspondent for