• Marccooper5_1

Back To Home Page

« On Sontag | Main | There But For Fortune: An American Family »

Wednesday, December 29, 2004



"Spain has publicly committed about $68 million." (from linked article.) That's impressive for a relatively small country.

I'm sure we'll end up committing a lot more to this as the relief effort grows, because that's what Americans do. But it's a damn shame that this initial bout with cluelessness is what will tend to stick in memories.

The scale of this tragedy is nearly impossible to comprehend. My wife, a huge Law and Order fan, caught herself over the morning paper responding more viscerally to the news about Jerry Orbach than to the headlines declaring 10s of thousands of anonymous victims. In an attempt to personalize the tragedy, Good Morning America was even more...I don't know..either egregious or clueless, focusing a story about child victims solely on four white European children.

Every time I revisit the news, the death toll has climbed by 15-20 thousand. Unbelievable...Like something out of the Bible.

jim hitchcock

Leahy's absolutely right. We're spending an average of 9.5 million an hour on our war in Iraq, and Bush takes a break from brush clearing to brag about earmarking 35 million for disaster relief. Yet his aids have the temerity to suggest that the reputation of his administration worldwide is undeserved. Maybe, to paraphrase an old Country Joe McDonald song, he really thinks that `the only good Muslim is one thats dead'.

clipped from the Village Voice

The money being put up by the U.S. is nothing when compared to what’s going on in the corridors of Wall Street, where year-end bonuses for the securities industry are the big story in New York. Readers of The New York Times were greeted Tuesday morning with above-the-fold images of destruction in Asia and below-the-fold accountings of personal riches.

This year the New York state comptroller reports bonuses are estimated to total $15.9 billion. In a press release, the comptroller reports, “The $15.9 billion to be paid in 2004 divided among the approximately 158,000 securities industry employees in New York City works out to an average bonus of $100,400. This is slightly higher than last year's average of almost $99,700, and just short of the record of $101,000 paid in 2000 at the peak of the last Wall Street boom."

And what are the rich financiers going to do with their money? According to the report in Tuesday’s Times, one senior investment banker said, "I have a sailboat, a motor boat, an apartment, an S.U.V. What could I possibly need?" Then he thought of something: "Maybe a little Porsche for the Hamptons house, but probably not."

Josh Legere

Wow. Alexander Cockburn on Susan Sontag. What an awful thing to post!

His comments on Sontag remind me of the famous quote from Bull Durham when the Kevin Costner (crash davis) character asserts in an argument with the Susan Sarandon (Annie) character that the “the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap.” That could be true. I prefer her non-fiction. As for what Cockburn said about Sontag’s noble stand in regards to Yugoslavia, pure crap as usual. Like Seattle, Cockburn was nowhere near Sarajevo. To me, a fictional character in a film has more credibility than Cockburn. Sontag’s courage in regards to Yugoslavia cannot be viewed in retrospect as anything other than admirable.

Susan Sontag’s doodlings have more worth than anything Alexander Cockburn has ever written. I am sure he will come up with something snappy on Counterpunch to celebrate her death.

Hitchens wrote a good obit on Slate

Josh legere

Ooops... Wrong thread.

The best way thing for us all to do is donate some money to relief organizations.


What's also gulling about Bush is he used the oportunity to take a cheap jab at Clinton, for being too empathic in times of crises.


Glad you called it, Marc. But, truth be told, if I think too hard about Bush's absurd reaction ---or lack thereof---to what is shaping up to be the largest natural disaster in modern history...well, it makes me so angry I'm not entirely sure it's healthy.

So, I'm going to "make progress in the good," as the I Ching would no doubt wisely advise, by letting y'all know that, if you're looking for a place to donate toward disaster aid, Operation USA is one of the best organizations I've ever seen.

International relief tends to be big biz, but, Op USA is an exception. Richard Walden, the organization's founder, is an extremely bright, dedicated, very savvy guy. As a result, for 20 plus years, they've done the most with the least. (Only 2% of the funds donated go toward administration, the rest goes to relief supplies.) I traveled with them twice to SE Asia as a reporter when they first started up, and have followed them in the intervening years.

Anyway, if you're looking for a satisfying way to donate, you might check them out. I guarantee your money will get where it's supposed to go, not to non-profit administrators' salaries.

Here's the link: http://www.opusa.org/index.html


P.S. ....Rhetoric redial: It's ONE of the worst natural disasters in modern history, but not THE worst. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China killed at least 255,000 people. The 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh killed 139,000.

Michael Turner

Bush may be clueless, but maybe he's waiting for a PR coup: the American people (not their government) will very likely end up topping the donor list in total contributions. And maybe we'll even score high on a per capita basis as well. Then he'll congratulate us all, in a month or so, and while he's at it, he'll slip in something in the same speech about faith-based initiatives. It would be just like him, wouldn't it?


I have some links for disaster relief on my blog. http://gmscorner.blogspot.com/2004/12/of-tsunamis-and-disaster.html

As one of the readers notes, don't forget to donate blood.

too many steves

Yeah, we needed to be reminded of how lacking in empathy and public displays of sympathy Bush is.



I was always struck by the fact that Bush didn't attend James Byrd's funeral while governor in Texas. Despite his conspicuous religiosity, something is missing from his heart.
I hope those bankers reconsider spending their bonuses.
Doctors Without Borders is another good place to donate: doctorswithoutborders.com.


Michael Turner, you're my Cooper Comments Hero.

Why does everyone think that all the decency in the world has to be vectored through the United States government? Is it so that they can grab a piece of it because they're taxpayers?

Mavis Beacon

I'm not interested in Bush's withdrawal as a measure of his human compassion-the debate about his private feelings is ancillary to examining his political actions/goals (he is, after all, very powerful). As noted on Juan Cole and in Marc's post, staying sequestered in Crawford is primarily a major failure of statesmanship. If it isn't lazyness or incompetance that prevented the President from immediatly flying to Indonesia or making public outreach to devastated muslims, then what is it? What policy objective is served by inaction during crisis? They tell us this is the battle for hearts and minds.


It didn't take long for the blame Bush crowd to come out. Yeah, this is all his fault. I even heard one person say that this is Bush's fault because of global warming. Really, aren't these complaints about Bush pretty pathetic?

One, wherever the President goes, his job and the White House go with him. He's never not at work. He can monitor and respond to world events from Texas as well as he can from the capital. So, quit the complaints about him being on vacation and not on the job.

Next, many of us red staters see more accomplished from substantive responses rather than symbolic gestures--about which most of you seem to whine. If a kid scrapes his leg, who helps more...the person who talks about feeling his pain or the person who gets the first aid kit?

Further, I think I understand most of you well enough to know that if Bush had come out with an immediate statement, you would have accused him of grandstanding for political points rather than helping. Wasn't it Kerry who accused Bush of being in the way of the response when Bush went to view the Florida hurricane destruction?

This reminds me of a sports analogy. One time I watched a football team gang-tackle the ball carrier. A fan for the team on offense said that the defensive players were too sorry to make a solo tackle. On the other hand, when his players made a gang-tackle, he boasted about their aggressive play and team work. That type of criticism and hypocrisy really gets old quick.

The world is always condemning America because of our strength; but, when there is a crisis, they expect our help and demand that we solve the problem. If we have to be a father to the world, then let's get a little appreciation. When Father's Day comes, I hope that the U.S. can get some nice ties or gift certificates to sports bars.


Oooh, I just hate the way he talks, and those stupid jesusland 'people' that voted him! Texas? Eeeuw. And everybody knows I support the troops and I am no fan of Saddam, but the process, man, you should have let it play out! Foreign aid? Give me a break. Thee's no oil, so why should he care? One word: Abu Ghraib!

Its your blog, Marc, but this is another example of why you folks are losing ground.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

Having been involved in disaster relief (including on several on the scene such as Mexico City earthquake 1985 which killed about 40,000 (officially 10,000), I want to comment that measuring cash contributions is silly. A major disaster is an extremely complex situation requiring all sorts of resources and organization. But since we are talking money, France sent only $750,000 and a few rescue teams. I don't hear any criticisms here.

So what is the US doing? We are providing that which we are uniquely suitable to provide - military assets. We are also giving some money, and individuals are donating to the many NGO's who know how to organize disaster relief:Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Relief, World Vision and others.

Military assets on the scene or enroute include 5 P-3 Orions - uniquely effective in searching for survivors at sea and with sensors useful for disaster surveys, Air Force C-130's carrying supplies, two naval groups including an aircraft carrier and an amphibious assault ship, a forward command element to organize all of this, KC-135 refueling aircraft that can also carry cargo. By the way, the amphibious group included 5,000 personnel who gave up their R&R on Guam to help.

Based on my experience, US embassies and consulates will also be involved.

If you want to count the bucks we are expending, look at what it costs to operate that equipment and how many soldiers are now spending their time on that effort.

The important thing to realize about these disasters is that the relief is international. Many nations contribute various kinds of specialist teams (often volunteers), or specialized technology. Individuals on the scene usually operate together without regard for politics or nationality. However, the coordination effort is immense, which is one reason it takes time before their efforts are visible.

Also the media picture of a disaster is very selective. In the Mexico City disaster, it looked on TV or in the papers like the city had been flattened, when in fact most buildings survived with minimal damage, and yet I saw no damage at all for the first 5 days I was there.


pj - Abu Ghraib is two words - the pictures, of course, were each worth a thousand.


You seem to put a great deal of stock in public relation images... a President fighting back tears as he acknowledges the enormous loss of life. I could really give a shit about the President timely or delayed "platitudinous condolences." I just want to know men, resources and funds are moving into the area at great speed. As for the commenter's suggestion that Bush fly to Indonesia to show how much he cares, had this occurred I'd be reading derisive comments about how he's so self-absorbed he's turning this tragedy into a public relations stunt. Given the security restrictions and expense, it would be inconceivable to fly Bush to Indonesia.

The region need cash, water, medicine, shelter. If the Bush toadies can make it happen without me having to see Bush's mug on tv showing me he truly, deeply cares, all the power to him.

Besides, this is Kofi Anan's and the UN's make or break moment.

Mavis Beacon

Well said, PJ. And may I add, Butt-titty butt-butt.

Woody, I gave options: either laziness or incompetence. Isn’t this, as Marc says, “a missed opportunity to offer an American face to the Muslim world other than a Marine in greasepaint.” Remember Bush’s public face in the wake of 9//11 – it gave many Americans comfort and trust in his leadership (though we could have done without the “crusade” comment). Why can’t he muster up something similar for this devastating tragedy?

Margarita, you also ignored an "or" in my statement. Bush is very good at American public relations and very poor at international public relations. I think the left has been consistant asking for more of the latter.

It seems this holiday season may afford "Too Many Steves" the option of reducing the length of his nomenclature. Is this your doing Marc?

OT-I'd love to hear from either Marc or Randy-Paul on the recent Venezuela situation. Chavez charging foreign funded dissidents with treason relates to our Ukraine discussion.


JMUF - France has sent over $20 million, not $750,000. (You must be getting your figures from The Disaster Relief Veterans for Truth.)

Also, while we're pointing out the foibles and obsessions of our political opponents ("it's Bush's fault") I couldn't help but notice that Moore turned this into an opportunity to point out the selectivity of the Liberal Media in making things look worse than they actually are. I'm still wondering why, for instance, the New York Times printed those pictures of the buildings in Mexico that were flattened by that quake, rather than pictures of the ones that were still standing. Reminds me of the way they completely distort what's happening in Iraq, eh ?

Marc Cooper

Criticism of Bush from the left has zero effect on him. Where are the honest critics within his camp? For those who support this war, I am sure you are as pained as anyone by the loss of American life and the sacrifices brought to bear. Wouldnt YOU have preferred a President able enough to have made a quick, public gesture toward Indonesia if nothing else for rank, political and dimplomatic gain? You dont think it important that what you call an epic length war be also fought on the diplomatic and political fronts? If you dont-- you dont understand history.

andrew gumbel

Two things to add to Marc's spot-on remarks:

1. Bush has a long track record of stunning indifference in the face of suffering and death. Remember him making fun of Karla Faye Tucker? Or his refusal to attend the funerals of the military dead in Iraq? People who've been around more presidents than this one have been struck by how unbothered he is about life-and-death decisions (except, of course, stem-cell research!)


2. One shouldn't underestimate how the tsunamis look to the fundamentalist Christian mindset. Yes, the best Muslims are dead Muslims, but remember also the pseudo-Biblical prophecies about the Tribulation that will herald the glorious return of JC. As far as the Bush grassroots are concerned, the more apocalyptic the tsunamis the better, because it means they're that much closer to that great Costco in the sky, where only true believers like themselves are members and the prices on prime rib are just outstanding.

too many steves

I, for one, long ago ceased judging a person's depth of feeling by how they did or did not show emotion. Having been accused of being stoic in the face of many of those tragic personal moments that life delivers to us all, I understand quite clearly that the expression on a person's face does not often tell the whole story of how they deeply they feel.

That said, I do wish President Bush would find a way to put a public face, in a timely manner, on how he feels. I also wish he would learn how to pronouce "nuclear". But, if wishes were horses, and all that.

There would be two principle benefits to doing so:

1. It would shut up many of his carpingest critics (present company excluded);

2. It would, as Marc so nicely states, serve a valuable geo-political purpose.

I am uneasy that Bush fails to see this but blame it on his broadly observed discomfort with public speaking. I am consoled by his commitment to action, even if it is often at the expense of (useful) words.

Mavis Beacon wrote: "...I gave options: either laziness or incompetence..."
Marc wrote: "Wouldnt YOU have preferred a President able enough to have made a quick, public gesture...."

It's interesting that the first impulse from the left is to criticize the President rather than express concern for the victims. That doesn't make them lazy or incompetent, but maybe they value political points over human suffering--sort of like the Democrats who care little about the tortures and murders suffered under Saddam Hussein.

I really don't think that an "instant" response from Bush would have been the right thing. His was fast enough.

One, we were still trying to get complete and accurate information from the devastated areas--so, any immediate response might be the wrong one. We needed facts, and Bush waited on those. That approach doesn't make him incompetent, lazy, or unable. That's being smart.

Second, nothing this President says is going to make the left or the Muslims like him, or our country, more or at all. That's a dream. There's no diplomatic gain to be made from people who hate you no matter what.

We're arguing the presidential election all over again, which the left lost. The majority of voters prefer substance over style.

Not everything in the disaster response will be perfect, but at least we're taking the right steps for the people who are suffering rather than worrying about the right steps for those seeking political advantages. That is the more humane approach and that, in the end, is the right approach.

(Sorry that I don't have a sports story to share with you here.)

The comments to this entry are closed.