Saturday, January 01, 2005

Political Christian Right Failing To Act

Below is an excerpt from Bill Berkowitz's "The Christian Right's Compassion Deficit", brought to you by Dissident Voice on 12/30/04. Please note that he explicitly points out that some evangelical organizations are raising funds. The essay complements some of what I argue below. Thanks to Rahul for bringing this to my attention. Crossposted at Dark Days Ahead.

It took President Bush three days to ready himself to go before the television cameras and make a public statement about Sunday's devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck southern Asia. Even though he was late, and much more money will be needed, the president pledged at least $35 million in aid to the victims of the disaster. But, as of December 30, some of the president's major family-values constituents have yet to be heard from: It's business as usual at the web sites of the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Coral Ridge Ministries.

These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.
In fact, there is no mention of the giant earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Asia. There are no headlines about the dead, injured or the tremendous damage; there are no urgent appeals for donations; there are no phone numbers to call; there are no links to organizations collecting money and providing aid for the victims

In fact, there is no mention of the giant earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Asia. There are no headlines about the dead, injured or the tremendous damage; there are no urgent appeals for donations; there are no phone numbers to call; there are no links to organizations collecting money and providing aid for the victims...

At townhall.com, the mother of all conservative web sites and "the first truly interactive community on the Internet to bring Internet users, conservative public policy organizations, congressional staff, and political activists together under the broad umbrella of 'conservative' thoughts, ideas and actions," current headlines are totally absent earthquake/tsunami news. Here are the top five stories as of December 29: "Reggie White, defender of faith -- on and off the field"; "Focus should shift from testing to teaching"; "False friends"; "Cheap drugs or safe drugs?"; and "European court forces Microsoft to alter its products."
Over at falwell.com, the Rev. Jerry Falwell is explaining "The True Meaning of Christmas," recruiting for his new organization, The Moral Majority Coalition, and soliciting cruisers for a late July sojourn aboard the Queen Mary II.


Read the rest at Dissident Voice.

"We will do whatever is necessary"

Continuing along the same vein as Alex Steffen's essay, don't you wish you had heard this at some point this week?

"This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do whatever is necessary -- we will spend whatever is necessary -- to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure,"
-Bush, prior to asking for $87 billion for Iraq War

Source: CNN.com, 9/8/03

Are you an American Upset with U.S. Response?

This is an excerpt from "The America I Wish We'd been This Week", an essay at WorldChanging by Alex Steffen. Crossposted at DarkDaysAhead...

The America I Wish We'd Been This Week

This is a personal essay, likely to make some people angry but perhaps to many others seem worth the read. It's about the kind of nation I wish the United States had shown itself to be this week.

The White House just announced that the US will contribute US$350 million to the relief efforts. First of all, let me say that I'm proud that my government is beginning to respond in a way more proportional to the magnitude of the crisis. Then, let me say something clear and unequivocal: it is nowhere near enough.

Rather than go into a whole thing about why I think that, let me instead draw a picture: I wish we were the America that would look at a tragedy like this and, without hesitation, live up to its highest ideals.

Imagine, if instead of offering a few million dollars and a press release, the president had flown to Indonesia, and, standing in solidarity with the victims, had announced that the United States government was going to, say, cover one third of the relief and reconstruction costs, a figure of five billion dollars. Imagine further, that the president took the opportunity to reaffirm the US commitment to compassion and global cooperation in pursuit of freedom and prosperity, as, in another context, another president once did...

Read the rest at WorldChanging

Friday, December 31, 2004

News agency reports Indonesian Army Still Attacking Rebels in Aceh

I really hope this isn't fucking true. Source: AFP via The Australian

"We continue to launch raids into suspected GAM (Free Aceh Movement) areas and our vigilance remains high."
-Indonesian Lieutenant Colonel Nachrowi

U.S. Increases Tsunami Aid to 350 Million

Crossposted at Dark Days Ahead...

Hmm. Shows you what a little embarrassment and pressure can do. I say people continue to write, e-mail, and call to ensure that the U.S. government knows how much Americans care about this issue.

Here's the news, courtesy Yahoo! News.

Appeal from Delhi Tsunami Relief Committee

From Habitat International Coalition website, crossposted at TsunamiHelp:

Five days after the tsunami of 26 December, news continues to pour in of increasing number of deaths and destruction of homes and livelihoods in South and South East Asia. UN agencies, governments and civil society groups all over the world have launched several relief and rehabilitation initiatives. Unfortunately due to the massive scale of destruction, there is an urgent need to step up efforts.

While there is an immediate need to contribute towards relief operations which includes provision of drinking water, food, blankets and medical assistance, we also need to keep in mind that reconstruction and restoration of homes and livelihoods, particularly of fishing communities who have suffered the most, will be one of our biggest challenges over the next few months.
At the South Asia Regional Programme of Habitat International Coalition - Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN), we are in touch with partner organisations in affected areas and trying to raise funds to meet relief and rehabilitation needs. In New Delhi, we are a part of a consortium of concerned organisations and individuals that has come together to form the Delhi Tsunami Relief Committee to coordinate assistance and support to local organisations involved in the relief efforts. The Committee has agreed to focus on the most severely affected areas of the Andaman and Nicobar islands and in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Committee has also agreed to focus primarily on rehabilitation of the displaced and restoration of livelihoods.

For those interested in contributing to this effort, listed below are a few options
1. Delhi Tsunami Relief Fund,
Indian Social Institute,
10, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003, India
2. Association for India's Development (AID),
P.O. Box F, College Park,
MD-20741, USA.

Association for India's Development (AID) working among affected communities in Tamil Nadu in southern India. Contributions to AID can be made through secure on-line credit-card deductions from AID's website: http://survivors.aidindia.org/ where further details and updates will also be made available. Please indicate that your contribution is for the "Relief and Rehabilitation Fund". Contributions can also be sent by check made payable to "AID" mailed to: Please indicate "Relief and Rehabilitation Fund" in the check memo.

In India, cheques for AID can be mailed to AID-India, Old No 132, New No 242, Avvai Shanmugam Road, Gopalapuram, Chennai - 600 086, Tamil Nadu, India.

3. Our partners in Sri Lanka - Institute of Social Development is engaged in relief efforts in the eastern province of Sri Lanka and are in urgent need for funds. We request you to kindly support their efforts. For details contact K.Yogeswary at kandyisd AT sltnet D-O-T lk
For questions on relief efforts in India and Sri Lanka or on contributions to the Delhi Tsunami Relief Committee and Association for India's Development please contact Malavika Vartak at mvartak AT hic-sarp D-O-T org or Vishal Thakre at vthakre AT hic-sarp D-O-T org
We will continue to send you regular updates on relief and reconstruction efforts and on ways in which you can contribute.

HIC-HLRN will continue to work with affected communities beyond immediate relief, and into the second stage where will seek to ensure that the human rights approach is adopted in all rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

We look forward to your support
In solidarity
Miloon Kothari, Priti Darooka, Malavika Vartak, Shivani Chaudhry, Vishal Thakre

South Asia Regional Programme (SARP)Habitat International Coalition Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)B-28 Nizamuddin EastNew Delhi 110 013IndiaTel/Fax: 00 91 11 2435 8492
web: www.hic-sarp.org

Press Release urging Indonesian Government To Treat Acehnese Decently

I know very little about the Aceh situation, but International Labor Rights Fund is a fairly moderate, reputable international labor solidarity group. Two groups below are raising funds to be distributed to "grassroots" groups in Indonesia.


Contacts::Michael Beer, NI, 202-244-0951 (w), 703-875-9482 (h)Karen Orenstein, ETAN, 202-544-6911 (w), 202-319-1711 (h), Bama Athreya, ILRF, 703-328-1964 (cell)

December 30 -- U.S.-based groups with a long record of experience in theregion today called on the Indonesian government to not let politicsoverride the needs of people in tsunami-stricken Aceh. The groups includethe East Timor Action Network (ETAN), International Labor Rights Fund(ILRF) and Nonviolence International (NI). Contact information for expertson the region available for interview is listed at the end of this advisory.

"Delays by the Indonesian government in allowing international access toAceh may have needlessly cost precious lives. The government's apparent opening of Aceh must continue. The government must cut through its bureaucratic red tape so aid can get through as quickly as possible. International and Indonesian organizations must have unrestricted access toAceh. International media must be free to report on conditions and reliefefforts. Strict limits on internationals' time in Aceh must be lifted,"said Michael Beer of NI.

"Politics must not be allowed to override the needs of the Acehnese peoplein this tragic time," he added. As many as 100,000 people may have been killed in the Indonesian provincesof Aceh and North Sumatra as a result of an earthquake and tsunami thatstruck the region on December 26. The government initially kept the international community at bay as it apparently debated whether to openAceh up to foreigners. The province had been almost entirely closed to anyinternational presence due to military operations there. The Indonesian government's response remains slow and uncoordinated. The groups urged aid organizations and agencies to work as closely as possible with local civil society groups and to resist Indonesian government and military attempts to close non-governmental local groups outof the process."

The high level of corruption in Indonesia, especially in Aceh, and thegreat distrust of Aceh's central government make it crucial that aid groupsbe allowed to distribute urgently needed food, medical supplies, and otherassistance outside of government channels, distributing aid directly andthrough local NGOs," said Karen Orenstein of ETAN. ETAN, ILRF, and NI further urged the government of Indonesia to allow Acehnese outside of Indonesia -- many of whom fled political repression --to return to Aceh, if they so choose, to seek their relatives and lovedones and assist the relief effort.

Their return should take place without burdensome visa restrictions and without repercussions. Finally, the groups pointed out that this tragedy caused by naturaldisaster comes on top of an already devastating human-created tragedy. Since May 2003, more than 2000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Aceh while the province was under marital law and then a civilemergency. During a previous period of martial law from 1989 to 1998 some10,000 Acehnese perished. Despite the humanitarian catastrophe, there arestill reports of ongoing military operations against Acehnese rebels."We are gravely concerned about reports of cease-fire violations by the Indonesian military, who are allegedly attacking Acehnese guerillas insteadof focusing on the humanitarian disaster," said Bama Athreya of ILRF.

"The world must not forget that the people of Aceh have suffered massivehuman rights violations due to years of Indonesian military repression andguerilla operations by the Free Aceh Movement. Until very recently, the Indonesian government and armed forces had virtually sealed Aceh from anyforeign presence. The ceasefires declared by the Acehnese guerrillas and the Indonesian government this week are a crucial first step. All sides tothe decades-long conflict in Aceh must redouble efforts to find a peacefulsolution that strongly involves civil society," continued Athreya.

Two U.S.-based grassroots relief funds have been established for theearthquake/tsunami disaster in Aceh: Nonviolence International-USA, www.nonviolenceinternational.net and East Timor Action Network, www.etan.org. Funds raised by these groups will be sent directly to grassroots Acehnese humanitarian agencies and groups to save lives and relieve suffering. Bothhave the full backing of the expatriate Acehnese community in the U.S.

For interviews and other inquiries, media are advised to contact thefollowing U.S.-based experts on Aceh:Riva Syamsuddin, Acehnese activist and graduate of Syah Kuala University.Contact: 703-503-5272Munawar Zainal, Acehnese student activist with the Acheh Center inPennsylvania. Contact: 717-343-1598, Allan Nairn, award-winning independent journalist who has spent much timein Aceh, Indonesia and East Timor in the last few years. Contact:917-345-8020, Michael Beer, director of Nonviolence International (NI). The NI office inBanda Aceh was destroyed and several staff members remain missing. Beer hasbeen a frequent visitor to Aceh over the last 5 years. Contact:202-244-0951, 703-875-9482, Patrick McInnis, former staff in Aceh for Peace Brigades International andOxfam. McInnis served with the Carter Center as an election observer inAceh in October and is proficient in the local Acehnese language. Contact: 831-484-1318

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia.

The ILRF is a Washington, DC-based human rights advocacy organization whichhas long been active on behalf of labor rights in developing countries andwhich has brought suit against Exxon Mobil under the Alien Tort Claims Act for aiding and abetting torture and crimes against humanity in Aceh. NI-USA is located in Washington, DC. Our affiliate in Aceh is the PeaceEducation Program that teaches conflict resolution and nonviolence toIslamic clerics and youth.
NI serves as a resource center for nonviolentmovements around the world.


Lack of WORLD aid indefensible

"The World Bank pledged $250 million for the victims, bringing the total amount of promised international relief money to close to half a billion dollars, U.N. officials said."
Source: AP courtesy Yahoo!News, 12/31/04

500 million dollars? 5 days into this and all the countries in the world can only come up with is 500 million dollars? This is unbelievable! There're a 120,000 people dead so far, millions of people jobless and homeless, and this is all they've come up with so far.

Some links to efforts to push the American government to pay more are here and here. If you're from another country, particularly a wealthy European country or Japan, please post any similar efforts.

Lack of U.S. Aid Indefensible

Crossposted at Dark Days Ahead...
This is what the U.S. government's spending priorities are:

$15,000,000 allocated for tsunami victims initially (1)
$35,000,000 allocated after criticism that U.S. is stingy (2)
[Update 2]$350,000,000 allocated after further criticism that U.S. is stingy (3)
$1,000,000,000+ expected total aid for tsunami victims, according to Administration (4)
$5,000,000,000 aid requested by Bush FY 2005 for foreign militaries to receive U.S. weapons and equipment 2005 (5)
$19,000,000,000 expected total foreign aid approved by Congress FY 2005 (6)
$152,600,000,000 legislatively allocated so far for Iraq War (7)
$402,000,000,000 requested military budget by Bush administration FY 2005 (5)
$452,000,000,000 anticipated total military requests by Bush administration FY 2005 (5)

Sources:

(1) Times of India, 12/28/2004
(2) Xinhua, 12/29/2004
(3)
Channel News Asia, 12/31/04
(4) CBS News, 12/29/2004
(5)
Foreign Policy in Focus
(6) Catholic Relief Services
(7) This doesn't include the additional $50,000,000,000 per year beyond 2004 that the Iraq War will cost the U.S. if it maintains troops there. National Priorities Project [pdf]

Update 1:

"Several European countries far outdistanced the United States in pledges. They include Britain, $95 million; Sweden, $75.5 million; Spain, $68 million and France, $57 million"
Granted, they were more directly affected, but even so...

Another appeal for further U.S. Aid

From a post by Seth Green at Tsunami Help:

The non-partisan Americans for Informed Democracy (www.aidemocracy.org) has launched a letter signing effort that seeks to ensure a principled U.S. response to the tsunami disaster: see www.principledleadership.org . Often, U.S. policymakers believe that taxpayers feel burdened by U.S. development and disaster aid. As American citizens who deeply care about the victims of the tsunami disaster, Americans for Informed Democracy wants to ensure that policymakers know that American taxpayers stand behind South and Southeast Asia. The group is encouraging all U.S. citizens to visit www.principledleadership.org, sign on to the letter, and share the site with their colleagues.

(For more on this effort, see a piece in the Nation magazine at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/actnow?bid=4&pid=2092)
Seth Green, seth.green AT yale d-o-t edu, (202) 270 6268, www.aidemocracy.org

Beware of RSS affiliated groups collecting funds!

I am not an expert on this issue, but there have been many accounts of RSS and RSS affiliated groups collecting funds for disaster relief. I'm very conflicted about this because the need is obviously enormous and I'm a world away to be injecting my politics into this without having a full grasp of how many resources are available.

However, given that I have been led to believe that the RSS and its associated groups have been instrumental in promoting an ideology of Hindu supremacy in India, I feel the need to at least people make aware that these groups that have put out solicitations have ties (pulled off of TsunamiHelp):

SEVA BHARATHI TAMILNADU (EARTH QUAKE RELIEF A/C)(Income Tax exempted under section 80G)'Shakti' No.1, M.V.Naidu Street, Chetput, Chenai 600 031.Phone No. 044 - 2836 0243, 2836 1049e.mail: rsschennai AT eth DOT net & vskchennai AT vsnl DOT net.
Source: http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/2004/12/your-suggestions-and-links.html (search for RSS)

India Development Relief Fund (IDRF) [For more info on why you should not contribute to IDRF, visit http://stopfundinghate.org -Anonymous Poster on TsunamiHelp]

Jana Sankshema Samiti
Source: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/

Sewa International
Source: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/

Vishva Hindu Parishad
Source: Hindunet News

I know that there are others that have put out calls or are doing relief work, but I can't find them off hand. I'd appreciate if others would post them here or e-mail them to me.

Moveon.org pushes for pressure on U.S. Government to assist more

Cross posted on TsunamiHelp
From Chitra

Hi folks,
In addition to us giving our individual contributions for tsunami relief, its also important to pressure Bush and Congress to increase their financial commitment to relief efforts. Remember that earlier this year, Congress pledged $13 billion for hurricane relief efforts in Florida. Surely we can do better than the $35 million that has been pledged for South and Southeast Asia. Death toll is currently at 114 [thousand]. It takes one minute to pressure Congress.

Go to website below and please pass it on http://www.moveon.org/tsunamirelief/