- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2005

Like you, I have been reading about the post-tsunami efforts that have touched the hearts and wallets of people everywhere. I found interesting the overall disjointed coverage of the disaster, and found particulary distasteful the news stories and commentaries that focused on the “stingy” angles and those that tried to divine religious angles. Most alarming of all is the fact that Somalia, a nation already under siege from within, and other African nations struck by the tsunami, are barely given any mention.

We’ve seen or heard tell of the devastation in Indonesia, where Secretary of State Colin Powell painted in 24 words the clearest picture to date of the natural disaster that produced 500 mph waves on the day after Christmas and left unimaginable destruction in its wake: “I’ve been in war and I’ve been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this.” Those are from the mouth of the soldier/diplomat who has left his mark around the globe.

Then there are the stories that accused Big Wealthy America of being stingy. My take on the shortest version goes like this: The Bush administration announced it would contribute $15 million, while criticism flew fast and hard that America must do more; the Bush administration eventually pledged $350 million, while critics shrugged and said the president only upped the ante to appease Muslims.

Yet, even Arab nations were given the blues, with the Mideast press slamming hardest against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As The Washington Times reported yesterday, an editorial in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas criticized Arab leaders for their willingness to import Southeast Asians “as menial employees within their oil-rich states, but were not able to view the Muslims [from those Asian nations] as Islamic equals.”

Somehow, that argument just doesn’t seem to jibe with what all is being said about the religious angles. The tsunami was, without a doubt, God’s will and God’s work. But God’s venegance upon wealthy Muslims? Upon Americans and other Westerners?

If you cruise the Internet, you’ll find oodles of examples of which I write. Memri.org, the Web site of the pro-Israel Middle East Media Research Institute, offers this from a Saudi cleric: “The problem is that the (Christian) holidays are accompanied by forbidden things, by immorality, abomination, adultery, alcohol, drunken dancing … and revelry.” A Saudi sheik went so far as to say: “These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities, and even entire countries, are Allah’s punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims.”

The earthquake, which hit 9.0 on the Richter scale, sent its raging waves out from the seabed off Sumatra, the Indonesian isle, and struck Sri Lanka and other island nations exceptionally hard. The death tolls continue to mount, and homelessness, public-health worries and infrastucture damage in Southeast Asia and East Africa are of a scale never before seen in the age of television, let alone the Internet.

That is why — despite the religious bigotries in the West and the East — reaction was swift. From individual donors to volunteers to military support, people and nations around the world are being charitable. It’s what civilized people do and do best when people are stricken so incredibly hard by no fault of their own.

That is why we need to pay closer attention to Somalia. Remember Somalia? The country on the Horn that has been run by warlord militias since 1991? The country that has been on its knees with war, famine, drought and indifference from the West? The country whose “leaders” operate in neighboring Nairobi, Kenya, because of internal security threats and outright lawlessness in their capital?

Yeah, that Somalia. It is there where, like other coastal towns, many of the dead and missing are fishermen — fishermen who barely made a living and whose families are now isolated and left without a breadwinner because of the tsunami.

UNICEF, a champion of the plight of women and children, and the U.N. World Food Program are making special efforts — and thank the heavens that they are. You can donate on the Web and even designate Somalian relief (similar to how the United Way accepts donations).

Seize this seismic moment. Imagine the deadly irony of Somalia’s children or pregnant women surviving the tsunami and the wrath of the warlords, only to have their lives threatened by filthy drinking water, starvation or communicable disease.

Won’t you help?

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