Food and clean water and medical care is what we should send to Middle East (Pakistan) — not bullets…

August 24, 2010

With their Middle Eastern garb, especially the women in their veils and shawls, it all looks so biblical, and what could be more biblical than flood and famine?

The numbers are astounding: 20 million people affected. One fifth of the nation of Pakistan is flooded.

On the PBS report I saw, the people were saying that they were getting little to no help — fresh water if they were lucky. Some (probably many) have taken to drinking flood water (that can’t be healthy). And meanwhile, the report showed, babies are born — new lives starting is such misery. People have lost everything. Their homes along with the very earth many tilled and all depend upon, washed away.

But in my check of the news on the web, this flooding, said to be the worst in modern memory, is getting little coverage. (There is flooding in China as well.)

The U.S. and other nations are stepping in to help. But the U.S., for one, seems to be a lot quicker to kill people than to save people in the region — and that may seem unfair to say. But think how we will be remembered in that region of the world.

There is some complaint that the world response to the catastrophe is anemic.

Certainly, I would think, nations of the region should be quick to lend a hand. And one good thing, I understand archrival India has offered help and Pakistan has accepted.

One problem, brought out in the PBS story, is that we are talking about a war zone. There is concern for the safety of aid workers and the security of the supplies. Years of armed struggle in the area has also damaged infrastructure.

Another problem is that many in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world see it as us vs. them, them being their Islamic enemy. Why would you save the enemy? The vast majority of these folks, I imagine, are not political (and are not our enemies) — tribal maybe, but not terribly political in the worldly sense.

Also we are talking about rugged and often remote terrain.

But you can bet if the good guys, whomever they may be, don’t get their act together, the Taliban and Al Qaeda will move in as the rescuers and conquerors.

I think many people in that part of the world would really prefer strong men (and maybe strong women) as leaders over what is often pretend and quite corrupt forms of democracy.

A man being interviewed in Iraq complained of deplorable living conditions and a lack of reliable electricity. As I recall, he said that living conditions were much better under Saddam Hussein. But he did not miss Saddam, because under him everyone lived in fear.

But authoritarians can get things done. Mussolini made the trains run on time and Saddam kept the power lines on.

But what the people need more than Western democracy right now are strong men (and women) at the top who can get things done —- but who are nice.

While I think charity should begin at home and while I think we need to watch out for or own flock first, in such a catastrophe as faced in Pakistan, I would rather see our forces (civilian and military) used for good — rescue and delivering food and water and medical care, rather than for killing people.

We may well need the military for security (and manpower) in the aid effort, though.

But think about it. When the day comes, do you want to be able to tell God how many people you saved or how many people you killed. Does the U.S. want to be seen as the world’s savior or killer?