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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"German Callousness"

I stand corrected. . .sort of. Mr. Surly's most recent rant critisized the apparent lack of offers of assistance from other nations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. One eagle eyed commenter pointed out Germany had pledged assistance to the U.S. In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Surly checked this out at Spiegel Online. According to this article, private donations are not forthcoming because the there haven't been any requests yet, though apparently September 11 was the only time the German people expressed interest in making donations for a disaster in the U.S.

But it is true that Germany has offered help to the U.S. Check out this article from Spiegel Online. However, it turns out things might actually be worse in some ways than I thought:

For the record: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder offered his condolences to US President George W. Bush for the Hurricane Katrina disaster that has hit the Gulf Coast. Both he and his fellow Germans, Schröder wrote, feel "great sympathy for the fate of those people affected by the hurricane."Nice words to be sure, but that was it. No pledges of aid money, no announcements of immediate help -- although finally, two days later, the German interior minister did manage to come out with a hesitant offer of assistance. And let's be honest, the crisis region this time around isn't in the Third World, but is in the United States of America. There really isn't much of a need for German helpers -- experienced as they may be from aid missions from Kosovo to Afghanistan -- because the American authorities are already doing as much as can be done.Nevertheless, German aid money delivered to American aid agencies would surely be welcome on the other side of the Atlantic.

It's good to know the Germans have actually done the right thing, but there's probably some folks sitting on their roof tops right about now who would disagree that there isn't a need for German helpers -- some German helicopters could probably be put to some good use.

But apparently, people over here believe that the Americans over there don't really need help. Strange. The same people who normally spend their time pointing their holier-than-thou fingers at the ghettos and slums in the US, the same ones who describe America as an out-of-control capitalist monster, are now, when the Americans could really use a bit of help, oddly quiet.

Apparently the Americans had it coming: "The American president has closed his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes such as Katrina -- in other words, disasters caused by a lack of climate protection measures -- can visit on his country." Who wrote this? None other than Jürgen Trittin, Germany's minister of the environment.

At a moment when the dead on the Gulf Coast are still being counted, the German minister of the environment could think of nothing better to do than -- in an essay published Tuesday in the center-left daily Frankfurter Rundschau -- to blame the US itself for the catastrophe. The piece is 493 words long, and not a single one of them is wasted to express any sort of sympathy for the victims of the storm. The worst of it is that Trittin isn't alone with his cold, malicious tenor. The coverage from much of the German media tends in the same direction: If Bush had only listened to Uncle Trittin and signed the Kyoto Protocol, then this never would have happened.


This only underlines my basic premise: that the U.S., unlike other nations, is generous to a fault. The U.S. does not punish people in need because of political differences. A point the author of the Spiegel Online article hammers home in a cheap but effective shot:

The Germans, on the other hand, could have done a lot to prevent World War II. And yet, care packages still rained down from US troops.

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