Why is world suffering often more political than world’s conflicts? Could it be that helping the victims of conflict underscores the transgressions of the victors?
For that very reason, no international agency or world body has come under more political criticism than the United Nations. Yet stepping in to assist the victims of cataclysmic tragedy may in fact be the UN’s primary mandate.
You don’t have to go far in the United States to come across evidence of how much the UN is hated. Anti-UN billboards, slogans and bumper stickers are everywhere. Newspapers are filled with anti-UN rhetoric and the cable TV giants that fire the flames of demagoguery use the UN as timber.
But 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.
Americans hate causes they view as unpopular, like the Palestinians, and they view any support of their “enemies” as disloyal and treacherous. None has lingered longer than the tragedy of the Palestinians, caused in part by the manipulation of the UN after its founding by Western nations who favored Israel over justice.
In 1948, while the United States embraced the victor, the UN extended its arms to help the nearly 800,000 civilian refugees forced from homes by Israel’s military.
Under a UN partition plan pushed by the West, Israel was offered half the country. But months before Israel declared independence, it attacked and captured 10 major Arab cities located in the proposed “Arab State.” Slick propaganda shifted its aggression to resistance.
In the end, Israel not only controlled the half of Palestine it was given, but it also ended up occupying half of the land set aside for the Palestinians, an occupation faded from memories by time.
Tragedy is often the result of politics, and maybe that is why Americas were so slow in giving to help the Tsunami victims.
Or maybe, the real problem is that people in the West just don’t care for people in the Third World where suffering is expected.
The Tsunami erupted the day after Christmas near the city of Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia, expunging hundreds of cities in a dozen countries that hug the Indian Ocean an the Bay of Bengal to the north. The casualties continue to rise to staggering heights, starting at 10,000 on the first day and climbing to nearly 150,000 by weeks’ end.
In the Tsunami’s wake, only the voice of the UN stood resolute. The response of the world’s richest nations seemed stingy. The stingy ratio seemed to correspond to the ratio of wealth and anti-UN attacks.
President Bush finally upped America aide from $35 million to $350 million when provoked by France, a nation who gave more but whose per capita wealth can’t compare to America’s wealth.
And if thoughts of politics seemed remote, Bush formed his own four-nation coalition to disburse its aid.
But the Tsunami response also exposes the hypocrisy of the Arab and Islamic Worlds, nations located in the immediate area of the suffering. It is true that their embrace of the plight of the Palestinians has been as much about justice as it is about partisan politics.
Suffering is as much a political football to them as to America.
Arab American Institute President Jim Zogby, who speaks for the interests of many of these Arab/Islamic World governments, was on CNN on New Year’s day politely criticizing the Bush administration.
Much of that criticism is driven by American politics — Zogby is a Democrat and Bush is Republican.
But didn’t Zogby address the region he is most familiar with questioning the very Arab/Islamic countries that have funded his political agenda over the years?
The Tsunami demonstrates the real reason why the UN is so important to this world. It was mandated with many roles that don’t seem to work effectively: arbiter providing neutral observers to monitor cease fires and conflict resolution; and the one world body that is supposed to lead the war against oppression, a mandate that grew out of World War II.
But it’s real importance may be its ability to look beyond politics and help the victims of tragedy in a non-partisan manner that rises above the politics motivating reactions from France, the United States and the Arab/Islamic World.
If the UN did not exist, as many in Americans would wish, there is no doubt that the level of the suffering and death caused by the Tsunami would certainly be far higher than the toll is has so far claimed.