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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Qatar and Katrina: A lesson for America?

Submerged cars in New Orleans during the hurricane
After the Katrina disaster, America's slow response was likened to that of a third world country. However, aid did come from unexpected parts of the world - from Qatar, formerly itself a dirt poor country, but now, on a GDP per person basis at least, far richer than America.

Qatar set up the Qatar Katrina fund, which, in partnership with local organisations, has been working in the fields of health care, education and housing. One American blogger wrote:

"The Children’s Hospital here, Habitat for Humanity, Tulane, Loyola and Louisiana State Universities, students seeking scholarships, the area’s homeless — all have benefited from the oil-and-gas-borne largess of Qatar, one of the most open-handed of the donors to come to the Gulf Coast’s aid after the disastrous 2005 storm. Two other Persian Gulf nations, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also given."

(Critical Dune)

Some American bloggers, some of whom want to bomb America's only real ally in the Gulf, have argued this gift is political. But even if it is political, how much nicer it is to help people than, say, invade and bomb a country half way round the world. In fact, Qatar's approach seems to be more akin of a hearts and minds policy - reaching out to people who are so different from them.

Certainly, the people who are being helped don't seem to care whether there is politics involved or not. One blogger, whose mother's life was saved by medical care funded by Qatar, wrote:

Because of the levee break and the mass floods that happened after the storm most of South Mississippi was forgotten by the press, and therefore, most of America.
The people of Qatar on the other hand did not forget.

Thanks to them my mother was able to get the medical care she needed.

Most folks have never even heard of Qatar. You only hear the bad stuff in the news. So here's something good to spread around...

(from BHeavenly)

Or rather more simply:

A thank you letter for Qatar
I am convinced that this is the policy America should be following. I first thought this in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit much of South East Asia.

Prior to the Tsnuami, Indonesia had been overwhelmingly anti-American, at least according to the opinion polls. However, the site of American forces helping Indonesians changed the opinions of many Indonesians.

American solider helping an Indonesian boy"A new poll by Terror Free Tomorrow demonstrates that one year after the tsunami in Indonesia, the dramatic increase in Indonesian support for the United States and against Bin Laden has continued. American humanitarian aid to tsunami victims last year caused an overwhelming change of opinion in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country."

(source Terror Free Tomorrow)

Even after a year, 63% of Indonesians had a more favourable attitude towards America, while the number of Indonesians who believed suicide attacks were acceptable declined from 27% after the 9/11 bombings to 2% a year after the Tsnuami.

I suggest that instead of trying to fight the terrorists head on in countries like Iraq, America should send its troops round the world helping people. The site of American soldiers handing out aid and American doctors treating sick people would go a lot further towards defeating terrorism than the war in Iraq.

It would also have the advantage of being a lot cheaper than invading countries - meaning that America might even be able to afford to deal with its own disasters rather than having to rely on the largess of the Qatar Emir.

Also see: The Qatar Katrina Fund

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