Monday, January 03, 2005

Tsunami and the meaning of neo-imperialism 

As the new coalition of the willing battles the aftermath of the tsunami (and isn't it funny that there is such an overlap between the countries most generous and most active in the aid effort and those at the forefront of the fight against terror?), the international whining class takes the natural disaster as another great opportunity to castigate the evil West. Here are a few predictably stupid reactions form the commentariat:

Jeremy Seabrook: "As in all natural disasters, the victims are overwhelmingly the poorest." Seabrook will probably go on to write a book on how the West conspired to monopolize most of the tectonically-stable, non-hurricane exposed and flooding-free areas of the world, leaving the world's poor with all the disaster-prone left-overs. But in the meantime, he can let his one track mind roam free: "The ruins of Galle and Banda Aceh called forth images of Falluja, Mosul and Gaza. Imperial powers, it seems, anticipate the destructive capacity of nature." How clever of them. Not sure what the point is here, except that at least if the United States were actually a force of nature, the left wouldn't be able to criticise it. No such luck, though.

Mike Whitney: "Where was this 'free press' in Iraq when the death toll was skyrocketing towards 100,000?... If Iraq was covered like the tsunami, public support would erode more quickly than the Thai coastline, and Americans would have to buy their oil rather than extracting it at gunpoint. What good would that do? Looks like the media’s got it right; carnage IS different in Iraq than Thailand, Indonesia or India." Yes, Mark, one is a result of natural disaster and the other of war - not to mention the fact that it doesn't exist; 100,000 is a bogus figure. But look at the bright side: since the tsunami is covered like the tsunami, the public support for natural disasters will erode quicker than your credibility, and so pretty soon there won't be any earthquakes or floods to distract from a single-minded attack on the United States. Still, it's always morbidly fascinating to watch the mainstream media being attacked for not being sufficiently anti-war. And it might also come as a surprise to most of us that the US is actually getting its oil for free, as opposed to buying it. I guess the oil companies must be pocketing all the profits.

Some comments are simply beyond parody - Ray Hanania: "The Tsunami in South Asia has demonstrated how important the United Nations is to the world, and how political the resentment of Western and wealthy nations like the United States really is. Whether it is Kosovo, Iraq or Palestine, the UN is there to help as the nation’s most equipped to help seem driven more by political agendas." Which is why the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had to stopped by an unilateral US action, Saddam would still be in power today, and the Middle East conflict is in its sixth decade. Hanania is on the safer ground when he argues that "stepping in to assist the victims of cataclysmic tragedy may in fact be the UN’s primary mandate," which is why it would be good if the UN actually chose to concentrate its energies on that task.

And this, sadly from somebody on the political right (hat tip: Tim Blair) - Matthew Parris in an opinion piece titled "Imagine there were no cataclysms - what a dull world it would be": "I watched the TV pictures of the surge of ocean coming ashore, saw the buildings in its path, and had to stifle an inward 'Yes! Sweep them away! Show us how small is Man! Show us how easily this Universe can make matchwood of our dreams!' And no, you do not need to remind me that they were somebody else’s dreams, not mine. 'Show us,' I thought, 'how lives and livelihoods can be snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye'." Sadly, we don't need natural disasters to show us "how small is Man"; a op-ed from Matthew Parris will suffice. Sadly also, because Parris makes some good points about human fascination with disaster. Sadly in the third instance, because in real life Parris's enthusiasm would not survive his favorite coffee shop being flooded.


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