Glass Houses

Article excerpt


Glass houses

In the wake of last week's devastating tsunami and the United States' initial response to the disaster, a common buzzword in European circles centered on America's "stinginess."

Since then, of course, Americans have responded the way we always do - delivering more relief supplies to tsunami survivors than any other country.

"The United States has made a significant financial contribution, but we have done much more than that," reporters were reminded yesterday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, citing everything from the U.S. military response to deliver food, water and medicine, to former President George Bush and former President Bill Clinton spearheading an unprecedented private fund-raising drive.

In the midst of this massive U.S. outpouring, we read that the mother ship of the European Union, Belgium - which lists 629 of its countrymen as missing in the Indian Ocean tsunami - has responded to the crisis by organizing a relief team called B-FAST (Belgian First Aid and Support Team). Or, maybe, not-so-FAST.

Our Belgian source, reading from the front page of the newspaper Metro, relays that an assisting Belgian doctor, Luc Beaucourt, is complaining about the commitment of Belgium's civil servants toward efforts to find missing Belgians and assist thousands of others in peril.

The doctor says the team is dragging its feet, if not responding at all, and calls on the Belgian prime minister's office to take the reins. (Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut denies the charges, saying that the team has done some work.)

According to the article, among the main reasons that B-FAST is not working so well is the result of weak leadership and bureaucratic administrative procedures. Plus, the past few days were a "bank holiday."

Man of prayer

Here, word for word, is what President Bush wrote above his signature in the condolence books of four embassies - those of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand - the countries most affected by last week's deadly tsunami.

Indonesia: "May God bless all who suffer."

India: "We pray for the victims of this terrible disaster and we stand firmly with the people of India as she recovers."

Sri Lanka: "We pray for victims and families of this epic disaster, and the American government and American people are dedicated to helping you recover. …