Marlowe's Shade

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cynicism towards US Relief Efforts from the Ivory Tower

From Shahid Alam the Northeastern University professor who recently compared the 9-11 murdering hijackers to the Minutemen of the American Revolution:

The following statement from outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell captures the contradictions in the American concepts of manifest destiny and its own perception as a nation apart from, and generally superior to, others. He was pontificating in Indonesia, the country worst hit by the recent Asian tsunami as well as being the most populous Muslim state, after the US government announced a substantial increase over its initial aid package offer for the disaster. “What it does in the Muslim world is (being) given an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action,” declared Powell. “America is not an anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim nation. America is a diverse society. We respect all religions.” Certainly the US is as ethnically diverse as they come and, equally assuredly, constitutionally it is as secular a state as any.

But perception and reality can sometimes make nonsense of long-held truisms. A cross-section of the media and citizens in several Muslim countries in the Middle East have taken the view that the US is providing aid primarily to serve its political purpose. It is exploiting the situation, as a Jordanian columnist sees it, to try to improve its image. And these two perceptions make interesting studies in contrast about American declarations and deeds. While an Iranian thinks that Americans talk more than they do, the leading Egyptian daily derides the initial US allocation of $15 million as being “less than what America spends every minute in its war in Iraq.” Washington later raised its pledge to $350 million as an exercise in damage control, but much damage had by then been done to the American image, and followed it by sending Powell to Jakarta to try his hand at disaster management, and he began his efforts by uttering the kind of words that sound hollow and irritate not a few, including Muslims.

In the article he can't deny that the US relief efforts are stunningly effective. But like the UN, posturing and PR are more important to him than actual results. What he actually knows about what is going on from his office on the Boston campus can be compared to an eyewitness like The Diplomad
papijoe 7:30 AM