We were the world

You have to ask yourself how a country such as the U.S.—the richest, most powerful country in the world—can be so woefully ill prepared to deal with something like Hurricane Katrina.

 

It’s not only shocking, it’s embarrassing, and we are quickly becoming the laughing-stock of the world. Two pieces published today show the stark differences between what the U.S. sees, and how the rest of the world sees us (I’ve color-coded the two pieces to better show the freakish parallels):

 

 

US accepts nearly $1b in foreign aid

Thursday, Sept. 8 in Boston.com

 

WASHINGTON — The State Department has announced that it has accepted nearly a billion dollars in pledges of foreign aid following Hurricane Katrina, including hundreds of millions in cash to be donated directly to the federal government as well as planeloads of ready-to-eat meals, tents, and baby formula.

 

The assistance is beginning to pour in from countries large and small, a week after President Bush said on ABC’s ”Good Morning America" that he had not asked for foreign assistance and didn’t think the United States needed it.

 

Yesterday, Harry Thomas Jr., the State Department executive secretary who is helping to coordinate the foreign relief effort, denied that the Bush administration was lukewarm toward accepting the help.

 

 

U.S. unprepared to receive foreign aid

Friday, Sept. 9 in the International Herald Journal

 

WASHINGTON — Generous offers of aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina are pouring in from scores of countries, but in many cases the United States is unprepared to receive the goods. As a result, the U.S. State Department is pressing countries that have offered the use of helicopters, water purification equipment and telecommunications gear – among other items – to provide cash or ready-to-eat meals instead. Even with difficulties delivering foreign aid, it is beginning to arrive at or near the Gulf Coast, including ready-to-eat meals from Britain, tents from France, and first-aid kits and baby formula from Italy.

 

But the United States is more accustomed to giving aid than receiving it, and the Bush administration seemed to have trouble accepting the role reversal.

 

Early last week, President George W. Bush said the United States could take care of itself. "I do expect a lot of sympathy, and perhaps some will send cash dollars," he said. "But this country is going to rise up and take care of it."

 

 

”Not in the State Department," Thomas said, without referring to the White House. ”We welcomed all offers. This is unprecedented."

 

As the proportion of the crisis became apparent, the view changed. But preparations to receive anything but the simplest forms of aid have not caught up. Thomas explained that the United States has no experience with situations like these. "This is unprecedented," he said several times to reporters Wednesday.

 

 

Aid officials in Poland and Austria said yesterday they had not yet heard back from the United States about whether their offers of aid had been accepted. Planeloads of supplies waited yesterday morning in Sweden and India without word from the US government on whether or when they would receive permission to land in the United States.

 

When Sweden received the American request, it loaded a Hercules C-130 plane with water purification equipment, emergency power generators and components for a temporary cellphone network. The plane has been ready to take off since noon Saturday, but on Thursday it still had not been given clearance by Washington. "We are still waiting for the green light," Victoria Forslund said at the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm.

 

 

A Mexican army convoy and a navy ship stocked with food, supplies, and specialists made their way north toward the US border last night, days after Mexico extended its offer of assistance. On Tuesday, the first planeload of tents arrived from France at a military airport in Little Rock, Ark., after officials spent all weekend trying to determine where the shipment should land. Another French plane filled with food was due to land yesterday in Biloxi, Miss.

 

Sweden is not the only country that has encountered problems delivering aid to the United States. France, Germany, India and Taiwan, among others, are awaiting answers to offers.

 

 

Aid officials in Poland and Austria said yesterday they had not yet heard back from the United States about whether their offers of aid had been accepted. Planeloads of supplies waited yesterday morning in Sweden and India without word from the US government on whether or when they would receive permission to land in the United States.

 

The slow pace of aid acceptance, after the urgency of the U.S. request, has bemused many countries. Thomas, the State Department secretary, said embassy officers in each country have tried to explain why the aid requests are being handled as they are and insisted "every country has heard back from us."

 

But as Europe prepares more supplies, officials there say they are beginning to wonder whether the aid is really needed or will ever be used.

 

 

But what’s even scarier is what countries we’ve actually accepted aid from so far. Sounds like a who’s who of oil rich and/or nations that stand to gain or keep something politically to me (well, except for Ireland, which was smart enough to give straight up to the Red Cross):

 

Donations

Kuwait : $400 million in oil and $100 million cash

United Arab Emirates : $100 million cash

Qatar : $100 million cash

Republic of Korea: $30 million cash and in-kind donations

Australia : $7.6 million

China : $5.1 million cash and relief supplies

India : $5 million cash

Ireland : $1 million to Red Cross

Iraq : $1 million cash

Bangladesh : $1 million cash

Azerbaijan : $500,000 cash

Gabon : $500,000 cash

Afghanistan : $100,000 cash

Armenia : $100,000 cash

Bahamas : $50,000 cash

Maldives : $25,000 cash

Sri Lanka : $25,000 cash

Bosnia : $6,414 cash

 

SOURCE: US State Department

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