The Blog

Who's Stingy Now?

The United Nations fritters away money while the American military steps in to help the hopeless in southeast Asia.

11:00 PM, Jan 6, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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IF YOU'RE GETTING OVER being steamed at Norwegian U.N. apparatchik Jan Egeland, who a week ago thought the U.S. response to the tsunami "stingy," then you need to check in at The Diplomad, a tremendous blog run by a State Department careerist serving abroad and which has done more for the reputation of State among conservatives in the past few months than 20 years of Council of Foreign Relations meets and greets. Short summary: Your worst fears about the United Nations are true.

With the oil-for-food-for-dictators scandals pushed temporarily into the background, it is easy to forget the absurdity of arguments in favor of a "lead role" for the United Nations. Why were there no calls for former Enron execs to take the lead role in the rebuilding of the Iraqi oil and gas industry? Why does the American press and the American left disconnect the Kofiklatch from the siphoned-off billions still being used to attack Americans and Iraqis from the meeting planners gathering at various relief conferences around the world.

And has the American left been heard from on the role of American sea power in the relief effort? Nancy Pelosi was up on her feet harrumphing about money spent in Iraq that couldn't be spent in Asia the other day, and I got to wondering if she had supported funding for the USS Abraham Lincoln. I couldn't find the answer, but my guess is that there are plenty of anti-military spending speeches by the House minority leader from the Reagan years. The Lincoln's keel was laid on November 3, 1984 and the carrier was christened on November 11, 1989. I'd love to see the vote tallies from the Democratic caucus on defense spending through those years. Of course it is the Lincoln which is delivering the crucial margin of life at this very hour. And not just one mighty carrier. From the under-publicized U.S. AID website devoted to the tsunami relief effort, these paragraphs:

* As of January 4, more than 13,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in providing relief support in the affected region. More than 1,400 of these are currently on the ground. With 20 ships and 75 aircraft, the U.S. military has provided a total of 610,000 lbs of relief supplies to the governments of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other affected nations as of January 5. In addition, U.S. military assets continue to provide vital medical transport. In addition to transporting the injured to local hospitals in Sri Lanka, four HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters based in Colombo are conducting aerial assessments and delivering relief supplies into affected areas.

* On January 5, the DOD reported that 28 cargo planes are flying transport missions in the affected areas. The U.S. military plans to dispatch additional aircraft to the area, four mortuary affairs teams to help recover human remains and identify victims, three civil affairs teams to help coordinate relief efforts, and engineering support teams to assist in assessing damaged infrastructure and in planning reconstruction. Two 10-person teams of military and civilian forensics specialists are in the region, ready to assist with victim recovery and identification.

A friend who just returned from a Mexico cruise told me that she could not believe the anti-American vitriol spewing forth from CNN International, which beats the constant drum that America is not doing enough. This while the IOUs are piling up, but the American military, supported in the Lincoln's case by six years of appropriations to build and 15 years of appropriations to operate, leads a huge effort to save lives.

The depth of American generosity and compassion for the lost and the devastated has not been measured, but perhaps soon the U.N. elite will get a taste of U.S. bitterness.

I suggest the Congress earmark some portion of our U.N. support for tsunami relief, and ship it through WorldVision, an agency that is usually first in and last to leave. WorldVision had more than 3,000 full-time staff in the affected countries before the tidal waves hit. It is a crime to spend money on paper shufflers where there are willing and able hands already in place and ready to help. It is bad enough that U.S. contributions to the U.N.'s coffers are often wasted, but worse that it is wasted on the ungrateful leeches of a big idea gone from embarrassing, to bad, to worse, to corrupt.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.