- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

While the so-called Iraqi resistance was up to its usual tricks — murdering Iraqi policemen and civilians — the despised American imperialists were up to theirs also: carrying aid and succor into the midst of horror and affliction.

American Seahawk helicopters were airlifting supplies to tsunami-ravaged Sumatra. The United Nations emergency aid coordinator who made headlines for implying the U.S. response had been “stingy” lauded the choppers as “worth their weight in gold.” Well, yes, with no other access available to areas the great tidal wave had slammed hardest and deadliest.

U.S. ships were pouring into the Indian Ocean. The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was on hand. The hospital ship “Mercy,” with 1,000 beds, was reported to be coming quickly. Ditto, cargo jets and Hercules transports. The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, America Cares, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and other emergency-relief specialists were weighing in. Two 10-person teams of American forensic experts flew in to help identify the dead.

Across America, a tsunami of private donations to relief was curling toward shore. The American Red Cross said it had received through its Web site more than half of the $64 million it was committing to relief.

As the hat went around the room, American companies chipped in with gusto: $10 million from Coca-Cola; $3.5 million from Microsoft, plus $3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; $10 million from Pfizer and another $25 million in drugs; $5 million from ExxonMobil; $3 million from Merck; and so on. Churches continue passing the collection plate, taking in sums that will not soon be fully reckoned up. Pretty awful, aren’t we? Just a lot of imperialists trying to impose Big Macs and Paris Hilton on a purer, cleaner world than our own.

By contrast with, well, let’s see … the Abu Musab Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden foundations, the Al-Jazeera and Hamas trusts, the Saddam Hussein Institute — they’re lavishing how much money on mercy? None to speak of? Well, of course, we must remember that, to Americaphobes, not all of them Arabic, mercy mainly means chopping off the U.S. octopus’ tentacles.

Still, if anyone knows of an alternative to the United States of America, it’s time to inform the rest of us. France wouldn’t seem to qualify. What is the capacity of Jacques Chirac’s establishment for ministering to necessity and suffering on the enormous scale required in Asia just now? The French are good at praising their own refinement and good intentions. At other pursuits, such as organizing massive relief expeditions — or, for that matter, wanting to — they don’t quite rise to our level.

And where, by the way, are the Iranians? The Syrians? The Palestine Liberation Organization? All the people who quietly, sometimes noisily, cheer the homicidal maniacs working to ensure the Dark Ages enfold Iraq? No doubt many regard the need to manufacture improvised explosive devices as eclipsing the duty to assist even fellow Muslims.

The United States won’t get all the credit it deserves for humanitarianism on the grand scale. It never does, these days. And yet humanitarianism — as opposed to murder, the specialty of America’s enemies — is being shown in the Indian Ocean basin, thanks in no small measure to Americans.

Humanity’s essential nuttiness — its greed and jealousy, its rooted unwillingness to acknowledge the high and the good and the clean as against the low and the bad and the dirty — that nuttiness is never hidden very well. Americans share it, truth to tell: just not in the same proportion as bloodthirsty suicide bombers. A good thing for the world, too. If far from perfect, Americans try to operate their nation according to principles that distinguish them sharply from so many others: decency, openheartedness, generosity, love of freedom.

Can Zarqawi, bin Laden and company top us on that score? If they’re ever going to try, now’s the time.

William Murchison is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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