Editorial Roundup for Monday — November 07, 2005

• On the Pakistani earthquake and Lewis Libby


On the Pakistani earthquake and Lewis Libby

Financial Times, London, Oct. 3

Natural disasters are remembered first, for the suffering they cause, second, for the suffering that might have been avoided had relief efforts been more generous and timely. Earthquake-ravaged Pakistan has already suffered terribly on both counts. But a rapid increase in aid could still prevent many deaths and win hearts and minds in a strategically vital corner of the Islamic world.

With winter imminent and much essential infrastructure destroyed, a second wave of deaths could double the current count of at least 54,000. The United Nations now says that $550 million is needed to fund lifesaving programs for the 3 million displaced people. This is a big increase on the U.N.’s previous request for $312 million, and far from the $67 million in contributions and $28 million in pledges it has so far received.

The international community must give more aid — and quickly. Inaction will mean not only many avoidable deaths. It will also fuel mounting resentment against the west in Pakistan as, inevitably, the inadequate response to the earthquake is compared with generous response to the December tsunami. That relief effort was more than 80 percent funded within 10 days of the disaster.

Although it killed fewer people, the earthquake displaced and injured more than the tsunami. The relief effort faces greater logistical challenges.

Many of the homeless are in high Himalayan villages where they risk freezing to death without tents. These are in short supply and have been distributed to only a fraction of those who need them, with just a few weeks left before temperatures fall steeply.

Compounding the problem is poor accessibility, as most of the few roads have been blocked by landslides. Helicopters are essential to the relief effort, and they are in scarce supply.

When Pakistan effectively declined India’s offer of helicopters it lost an opportunity to ease long-standing tensions in Kashmir. But the real concern is growing support for jihad groups, who are helping displaced people and garnering sympathy for their cause.

Al-Qaeda understands what is at stake. Last week Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden’s deputy, called on Muslims to help earthquake victims.

If western countries fill the vacuum left by the inadequate national relief effort they, rather than extremists, can hope to win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people.

In Indonesia, support for violence against civilians in defense of Islam fell from 27 to 15 per cent between 2002 and 2005 — a decline attributed partly to the U.S. tsunami relief effort.

In an interview … Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, suggested waiting “for a while” before accusing countries of not doing enough. But the situation is worsening daily. Immediate action is needed to avert a second disaster that could have far-reaching consequences.

The Seattle Post—Intelligencer, Oct. 3

There is a cancer on the presidency, and it cannot be exorcised by the resignation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Libby, assistant to the president and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, has been indicted on five federal counts, including obstruction of justice, making false statement and perjury. The charges stem from the investigation into a leak disclosing that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a covert CIA operative.

Based on the allegations special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald laid out in the indictments, it’s increasingly evident that officials within the Bush administration disclosed Plame’s identity as part of an effort to discredit Wilson’s criticism of one of the pretexts for war against Iraq. …

No matter where the investigation goes from here, the question is why President Bush didn’t fire Libby long ago if his role in outing Plame was as clear as the indictments indicate. It raises the uncomfortable and inevitable question: What did the president know and when did he know it?

The larger, more important context goes beyond palace intrigue: the lengths to which the Bush administration was willing to go to protect its trumpedup justifications for an unjustifiable war.

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