Saturday, October 08, 2005
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit northeastern Pakistan at approximately 8:40am local time on Saturday. The quake did some damage in Islamabad but it appears that the brunt of the destruction and death will be felt by Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
I woke up to that news this mornings. The death toll is expected to be in the thousands. My immediate first thought was of the people who were suffering. By the time I heard the news it was under an hour from sunset in Pakistan and rescue efforts were ongoing to locate and free those trapped in the rubble. We are all members of the same human race and I was immediately saddened thinking of those who remained alive but trapped. Close on the heels of that I thought about the families of those who lost a loved on in the blink of an eye. Ever since hurricane Katrina I find myself accutely sensitive to stories of human suffering and my grief at the thought of the Pakistani families affected was immediate.On the heels of those kinds of thoughts came a rush of over geo-political considerations. For one, I went and found a map of Pakistan to understand where the earthquake had its greatest devastation georgraphically. I thought of Pakistan's nuclear capabilities and wondered at the location of the warheads they possess and their relative stability. I thought also of the assumption that Osama Bin Laden is somewhere in the mountainous region of Pakistan and wondered randomly (and ironically) if an act of God would finally spell his demise.
Perusing the map didn't give me an answer to the first - I have no idea where Pakiistan's nuclear weapons are housed - and I saw further that the earthquake likely had no effect on the region where OBL is suspected to be holed up.
On the heels of that I thought aobut the Kashmir region, hotly contested by both Pakistan and India. Given that that region was most direly affected, I wondered if Condoleeza Rice had considered some kind of effort to engage both sides in working together towards relief. I can't say what she did or did not do - I can only say that the news isn't currently reporting any public statements by her office as to coordinating diplomatic relief efforts.
I did find this article which told of a diplomatic offer from India to Pakistan to assist in relief and rescue in any way that it could.
I listened on CNN to the Prime Minister of Pakistan talk about "other countries" who had offered assistance to Pakistan. At the time of the interview (approximately 9:30am EST) the Prime Minister had yet to hear from the United States. A search of the news shows that the US has offered $100,000 in relief assistance to Pakistan. $100,000? Does that seema a bit light to anyone else but me?
Human suffering is human suffering. I do know that news reports said that the US offered the assistance of its military in the region as well as helicopters to aid in relief efforts. I have been unable to verify that through any other news reports. I know also (or at least it makes sense to me) that Pakistan would be unlikely to accept an offer that puts the US military inside its borders in any capacity due to Islamic militant tensions within the country itself. I would have liked to have seen some military-independent efforts to get skilled and trained search and rescue teams from the US into the devastated region. Humanitarian feet on the ground that are directly associated with the United States of America could go a long way towards the "hearts and minds" argument that the Administration seems to keep trying to make.
I don't know why, but I can't escape the idea that we've missed an opprotunity to show, on a national level, the compassion which I know Americans are capable of.
posted by RenaRF at 9:36 AM