Mon, May 26, 2008 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Withholding aid is cruel

J. Michael Cole’s suggestion that we refrain from sending aid to Myanmar and China based on the poor records of their governments is off base and downright cruel (“Why are we sending aid to China?”, May 23, page 8).

Helping those in need is the responsibility of all humankind, no matter how repulsive we find their government. Unfortunately, humanitarian crises take place almost exclusively in places with reprehensible governments, so by Cole’s logic we should never donate money to those in need, whether they be starving children in Africa or war victims in the Balkans, lest we “reward” their corrupt governments.

I don’t deny Cole’s argument that these governments may receive some residual benefit when we give, but where people are in need and children are dying and suffering, and if the government in question is unable (or unwilling) to provide adequate aid by itself, we have to bite the bullet and help those in need.

Cole also seems to forget that the money we give usually goes to non-governmental organizations and charitable groups, which then purchase food or send relief workers. Nobody would be dumb enough to write a check to Myanmar junta chief Than Shwe.

I don’t disagree that sending cash may provide some small support to these governments, but it is certainly not enough to make or break them. China’s government will do just fine whether we send aid or not. Only the children and other victims of this tragedy will suffer if we don’t.

Vincent Lalonde

Taipei

I was quite appalled by Cole’s piece. His insistence that we play politics during a time of national disaster is disturbing to say the least and immoral at its worst. This sort of selfish “the world revolves around Taiwan” mentality is what characterized the Chen years and led to Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation by not only China, but also the rest of the world.

I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand the Chinese response to international aid, and it’s nothing short of amazing. These people are not, as Cole suggests, glorifying the government that is doing more coordinating than contributing. Instead, they are touched beyond words by the generosity of individual Chinese in China and people in Taiwan. Similar to the Myanmar situation, I think most people realize that at the basic level, helping innocent people means far more than attempting to induce revolution by withholding aid.

The US publicly expressed the idea of dropping food and supplies into Myanmar by air, regardless of what the government had to say. I am proud the US puts the needs of ordinary citizens ahead of the need to use natural disasters as political leverage. There will be more time to pressure both China and Myanmar in the future. While people are dying on the ground, this should take a back seat to the more important issues at hand.

There are many problems between Taiwan and China that should be resolved sooner rather than later. But the kindness of the Taiwanese has done more than any conference or consensus between cross-strait officials ever could. The people of China are well aware of Taiwanese generosity, and I guarantee that whether the government likes or it not, public resistance to attacking Taiwan will be stronger than ever.

Japan has learned the lesson of an island, export-driven nation: In order to stay relevant, one must continue technological innovation as well as be a substantial international donor. Even though the Japanese army is not as mighty as others, Japan commands the respect of the world for its economic prowess and reputation as a responsible international actor.

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