We are blowing a golden opportunity
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Earlier this year, when a devastating earthquake racked Haiti, the United States and its people rushed to the aid of the Haitian people with an impressive $2.5 billion in aid. That earthquake virtually destroyed the capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing tens of thousands and leaving nearly a million people displaced and homeless.
But over a month after the massive flooding in Pakistan, which has driven 10 million people from their homes, which no longer exist, our response has been paltry and as many as 3 million people are still waiting for food, safe drinking water, and medical aid – a truly desperate situation.
Why have we not responded to this crisis with a massive aid program? Not only is there a crying humanitarian need, but Pakistan is a critical ally in our battle with the Taliban and al Qaida. We have poured an average of over $4 billion/year of foreign aid into Iraq, nearly $1.5 billion/year into Afghanistan, but have given less than $1/2 billion/year to Pakistan. Even more dismaying is the fact that we have spent an average of $100 billion/year on the war in Iraq for seven years, and $40 billion/year on the war in Afghanistan for ten years, the cost of which will probably escalate significantly as we step up our commitment there, but we seem unwilling to commit just a few billion dollars to a crash relief program in Pakistan. The flooding in Pakistan, although catastrophic for that country, is a wonderful opportunity for the United States to show its compassion and willingness to help the people of a Muslim country in distress. We have changed our strategy in Afghanistan to an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, and we have been given a tremendous opportunity to do the same convincingly in Pakistan. The Taliban are rushing in with aid to gain the favor and support of the Pakistanis, and we are letting them outmaneuver us in that battle. And we have the means (if not the will) to provide enough aid to make the Taliban look like pikers. We can not only meet the desperately needed immediate needs, but also the long-term cost of rebuilding.
Without this major commitment, we run the very real risk of failure of the government of Pakistan, which is on very shaky ground, and seeing the Taliban take over the country, with the dire consequences that might have. So where is our government with its massive ability to come to the aid of the Pakistani people? Where are the rock stars with their huge potential to draw millions of people to the cause? And where are the American people with their ability to make major difference in the lives of the people of Pakistan?
We have been given a golden opportunity not only to win the gratitude of the Pakistani people, but to impress the millions of people throughout the Muslim world with the goodness of our hearts – and we are letting it slip through our fingers. Shame on us!
– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent
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