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Commentary :: Peace & War

Tsunamis and Wars

The vast disparity between US government spending on wars and natural disasters and the reasons for the difference.
At first, President George W. Bush stated that the US contribution to aid for tsunami victims in Asia would be 15 million. Then, as embarrassment grew over the miserly nature of the contribution by the world's richest nation, the figure for the aid increased to 35 million and subsequently to 350 million. Consider that one B-2 bomber or nuclear powered submarine costs over 2 billion dollars or over 6 times the amount spent to help people suffering immensely from this terrible natural calamity. The US military budget is approaching 500 billion dollars a year and the amount spent on the Iraq war so far is well over 100 billion dollars. It is obvious that the priorities of the US government are much more inclined towards death, destruction and the theft of other people's natural resources than they are toward alleviating the suffering of poor people around the world. Believing that the US government is motivated by tender compassion for victims of this natural catastrophe, while it is simultaneously bombing into rubble cities like Fallujah in Iraq and poisoning their land with depleted uranium, is similar to believing the Mafia could suddenly transform themselves into the sisters of mercy. Of course, some aid must be given so that the great myth of the beneficence of the United States can continue unchallenged. The corporate media will greatly accentuate the magnanimity of US aid and then, Americans will ask after another attack: "Why do they hate us so much, when we have given them so much assistance in time of need?"

Even without natural disasters, millions of children die every year from starvation or from diseases caused by the lack of clean drinking water. It would take only a small portion of the Pentagon's annual budget to provide safe drinking water to the population of the Third World. Enough food is produced in the world each year to feed everyone, if poor people had the money to buy it. The answer to this problem is the abolition of the capitalist economic system and the further enrichment of the US ruling class at the expense of poor people here and abroad. However, the Pentagon's mission is the exact opposite of that. The Pentagon wants to perpetuate capitalism and enable even greater exploitation of Third Word people by American capitalists.

Nauseating and repugnant to an extreme are the pledges of aid by corporations like Nike and others which have profited for years from stealing the value of the labor power of the Indonesian people by paying them starvation wages. As an analogy, if a person were to steal ten dollars from his neighbor every day and replace it with 50 cents and then, slightly increase it to two dollars if the neighbor's house was flooded, I hardly think any objective observer could depict this action as generosity and compassion. However, the US corporate media will give all these corporations a tremendous public relations boost by totally ignoring their exploitative nature in Indonesia and only relaying stories of their great sympathy for suffering humanity. Capitalists have always used charity as a method of enhancing their public image and distracting attention from their crimes. After the Ludlow massacre of striking coal miners in Colorado, J.D. Rockefeller, who owned the mines, hired a public relations expert named Ivy Lee to repair his faltering public image by emphasizing his charitable contributions.

The US corporate media's reaction to the tsunami disaster in Asia is also very revealing as to their real objectives. An estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far in the war in Iraq. However, one does not see pictures of the destroyed houses, the corpses in the rubble and the wounded children crying for their parents in Iraq as one can easily see pictures of the victims of the tsunami hour after hour on all corporate television news channels. A saying of the corporate news media is that if it bleeds, it leads, but it bleeds a lot in Iraq and is almost totally ignored. Why is this? The answer is that there is a big difference between natural disasters and wars. There is little blame or criticism which can be leveled at those who own and dominate American society and their servants in government from natural disasters or so-called acts of God. However, wars are an entirely different matter. Wars are the deliberate actions of governments and can be prevented or stopped once they occur. Also, wars are extremely profitable for some corporations and many of these corporations own the US media. It could be very disadvantageous to the popularity of these wars among the American people if ugly images of corpses or crying children filled American television screens every night. Therefore, even though the casualty figures may be similar, there occurs the tremendous divergence in corporate news coverage of wars and natural calamities. This duplicity by the US corporate media adds significant evidence to the contention that they are not free and independent observers of the world situation, but are instead intimate collaborators with the US government and ruling class in their illegal, immoral wars and designs for empire.

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