Alleviating Tsunami-related Suffering Vital to
U.S. War on Terrorism
By Keith W. Rabin
The U.S. government would be well advised to dedicate itself to alleviating
the suffering now taking place as a result of the Tsunami flooding in South
and Southeast Asia. This would constitute a much-needed humanitarian gesture
and provide support for the dispossessed. It would also constitute a major
effort in the struggle to win the war against terrorism.
Indonesia, which has suffered the greatest amount of Tsunami-related damage
and the largest loss of life, is also the world’s largest Islamic country.
It is a secular-oriented democracy, which successfully held its first direct
presidential election this year despite three major terrorist bombings - in
Bali (2002), the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta (2003) and Australian Embassy (2004).
That is exactly the kind of society the U.S. should go out of its way to support.
Southern Thailand was also hit hard. It too has a large Muslim population,
which in recent months has been subject to substantial social unrest and tension.
Malaysia and Bangaldesh, as well as India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar were also
A dramatic initiative to reach out to those effected would generate tremendous
good will around the world. Images of U.S. troops, relief agencies and NGOs
reaching out with a helping hand could at a minimum prove an effective start
to replacing and countering the negative images such as those of the Abu Ghraib
prison and others that have caused such damage over the past few years. This
would be far more effective than previous public diplomacy efforts such as
the failed $15 million "Shared Values" television advertising campaign
which sought to portray happy Muslim-Americans to viewers in Islamic countries.
This is not to suggest U.S. authorities are ignoring this disaster. It has
been reported the U.S. Pacific Command’s Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier
has already sailed from Hong Kong to the Indian Ocean. Naval officials are
now seeking to determine how these and other resources can best render assistance
to effected countries. Officials from the U.S. Seventh Fleet have also diverted
six ships to support efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. In addition,
the Navy is fielding six P-3 patrol planes to perform reconnaissance operations
and the Air Force has committed eight C-130 cargo planes to carry relief supplies.
Recent reports also indicate U.S. Government aid is beginning to flow into
the region. In the Indonesian province of Aceh, which has sustained some of
the worst damage, UNDP estimates in one coastal city alone, Meulaboh, 40,000
people may have died. Supplies, however, are beginning to pile up at the closest
airport due to a lack of transportation. The International Organization for
Migration (IOM), which is largely funded by USAID, planned to send 25-30 trucks
on December 29 with fuel and other commodities. These trucks will remain in
Aceh to assist in distributing supplies. IOM is also planning to send generators
by plane. It has also been reported the UN intended to send an assessment team
to Aceh on that same day and that 100,000 safe water treatment kits provided
by the U.S. government through CARE were believed to be on the same flight.
While these and other efforts now under way are to be applauded, they remain
largely unknown. Most media accounts have instead focused on what was perceived
as a “miserly” U.S. contribution of $15 million, which was then
reluctantly raised by another $20 million. Instead of a perception that this
effort is an important U.S. priority, attention has been focused on a statement
by an “annoyed” Colin Powell who after hearing a negative comment
about the U.S. contribution remarked defensively " The United States has
given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination
of nations in the world”.
It may be true that given the sensitivities that exist in many of these countries
they would prefer a lower profile response. Admittedly, the U.S. can do little
without requests for support from the nations’ affected by this tragedy.
Furthermore, in the present environment it is not altogether clear how easy
it would be for these countries, especially those with predominantly Muslim
populations, to receive overt U.S. support -- especially if it is provided
by the U.S. military. That in a sense might explain the hesitancy expressed
in recent media reports by the U.S. Armed Forces as to how all the resources
that are now being sent into the Indian Ocean will be utilized.
For this reason it is especially important for U.S. leaders to be seen as strong
supporters of this effort, rather than as reluctant contributors who are participating
almost as an afterthought. President Bush, Secretary’s Powell and Rumsfeld
and other administration officials should therefore consider the need not only
to make the provision of relief support an important policy priority, but also
to follow up this up with public pronouncements of why this is so.
To do so is likely to pay immense dividends. In addition to improving the efficiency
of these efforts, this will also deliver a strong message that U.S. foreign
policy is not restricted to unilateral military intervention. The portrayal
of these positive images will not only help in our efforts to win over the “hearts
and minds” needed to reduce terrorism. It will also illustrate how a
mature, advance democracy responds to a global crisis and that Americans are
a caring people. It is time to begin changing the perception of America as
the “Great Satan” that exists in much of the Muslim world today.
Keith W. Rabin serves as president
of KWR International, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in the
delivery of research, business development and public/investor relations
services, with an emphasis on the Asia Pacific region.
AICC Relief Campaign
To: All Members and Friends
Date: December 28, 2004
Help is on the way to the devastated regions of Aceh, Sumatra where upwards
of 40,000 or more people have lost their lives and thousands more have been displaced. The
relief needs are enormous. Here's how you can donate directly to
Contribute to one or more of the organizations listed below. You
can learn more about their programs from their websites. The contacts listed
below know about our campaign and you may call them directly. Initially, all
groups will be doing the same basic relief work, ferrying water, fuel, food,
and clothing to the afflicted regions. It is not an exhaustive list;
there are other groups that are worthy recipients. But, these are
the groups we have had time to speak directly with who can earmark contributions for Indonesia. Please
share this information with your employees, who may want to contribute as individuals. You
may want to consider a matching program. You can send checks
payable to AICC and we will forward the funds to each of the organizations.
The groups below all have operations in Aceh and North Sumatra. All
have a US 501 3c tax status, for purposes of a tax deduction. When
making a contribution, please indicate to the respective organization that
you are earmarking the funds for Indonesia. Also, although I will not
make public your donation amount, please keep me informed of what you have
donated and to whom, if you can. Feel free to call me or any of
the people listed below. Our prayers are with Indonesia and the other nations
hit by this catastrophy.
American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce
317 Madison Ave., Suite 520
New York, NY 10017
phone: (212) 687-4505 fax: (212) 687-5844
cell: (646) 261-4620
Save the Children Inc. 54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06831
Director, Global Corporate Partnerships
Fleet Bank 777 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06115
Routing #011 500 010
Mercy Corps 3015 SW First Ave
Portland, OR 97201
Director, Global & Community Partnerships
Wells Fargo Bank, NA
Account #405 000 7228
Routing #1210 00248
Uplift International P.O. Box 15710
Seattle, Washington 98115 USA
Mark Schlansky Chairman & CEO
Bank of America
UNICEF will be added to this list when we receive their complete donation information.
©2004 KWR International