Saturday, August 21, 2010

Up to the Neck in It

The monsoons weren't kind to Pakistan this year. The 'rainy' season caused notable damage in a lot of places. It might give pause to consider more of that 'extremes of weather' stuff Al Gore was pontificating about, if 'right thinking' individuals weren't convinced that extreme weather happens all the time. But I digress. It's not so much that the monsoon, this year, created a mess, it's the effect of that.

Pakistan is a unique country running from the Himalayas in the north, generally downhill to the south-west to the Indian ocean. And that is how the monsoon took it. Beginning with heavy rains in the mountainous north-east provinces, the mountain streams and rivers rapidly swelled their banks. The deluge swept away villages and left survivors stranded on high ground without food or shelter. It was almost a week before we, in the west, started hearing stories of the devastation. Among the first were that the 'taliban' were "taking advantage" of the situation by aiding those affected and that the Pakistani government had no resources nearby to help. Subsequent stories told of floods spreading to the central parts of the country, of dams washing away and again thousands stranded with no help. By that time NATO (the US ) had diverted six helicopters from Afghanistan - these were promptly grounded by bad weather - and the Pakistanis were diverting military helicopters to rescue work. Aside from that, it was noted that western aid was not arriving in any great quantity.

In the west, the story of the Pakistani floods received the same attention as the Chinese floods, or the Mexican floods, very little at all. The President of Pakistan, on a sort-of royal progress around the family estates in France actually got more press for nay-saying the war in Afghanistan. That 'normal' outburst of generous  appealing,  pledging and sending off airlifts of aid seen in other recent disasters just didn't happen this time. Just the opposite in fact - the 'where are all the muslims'  chorus went up.

Along with it was the tooth-sucking about the effect on the war - that the 'taliban' had somehow not been affected by the flood and were 'on the road' to taking back all the areas the government had destroyed fighting them for the past two years. The weather was even taking a toll on the drone strikes which only managed to kill a half company of insurgents. And there was expressed the fear that those nasty 'Talies' would be taking any resources given to the flood victims, so best not to give them anything at all. Let the taliban feed them from their ration dumps. Actually, this is a close to the truth as you're going to get, for those people ARE the 'Taliban', all of them. Now they're wet, cold, out in the open and they have nothing to eat but their kalashikovs, so it's a golden opportunity to put the kibosh on the insurgency with some benign neglect or 'grub for actionable intel' program.

Now the flooding is reaching into the more 'advanced' areas of the Pakistani south and, at last, the clarion call to assist is being blatted quietly. America, as usual, is leading the pack with a promised 100 million in humanitarian aid. Even Canada has 'promised' 33 million - but that's probably money we had already promised and I wouldn't count on a dime until the cheque gets cashed. Our Conservative government is big on letting the little guy pay first and then forgetting to cut the cheque themselves. We haven't heard yet from Franklin Graham's international 'ministry', but maybe they've got their hands full and warehouses emptying, getting Haiti ready for more of the same old, same old but with the real American Jesus and less of that MauMau juju papist stuff. Muslim organizations are mobilizing to send help, at least the ones that haven't been placed on the international blackball of terror list. This is where those 'sanctions' really start paying-off! Too bad it wasn't as wet in Iran. Maybe next time.

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