[Marxism] Tsunami as an International Crime (statement from the Int'l Action Center)

Octob1917 at aol.com Octob1917 at aol.com
Wed Dec 29 03:23:58 MST 2004

55,000 Dead: The Role of U.S. Criminal Negligence on a
Global Scale

Casualties of a policy of war, negligence, and
corporate greed

Statement from the International Action Center

While earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters,
the decision to spend billions of dollars on wars of
conquest while ignoring simple measures that can save
human lives is not.

At least 55,000 people were killed by the tsunami that
devastated coastlines from Indonesia to Somalia.
Almost a third of the dead are children. Thousands are
still missing and millions are homeless in 11
countries. Hundreds of thousands have lost everything,
and millions face a bleak future because of polluted
drinking water, a lack of sanitation and no health
services, according to UN undersecretary Jan Egeland,
who is in charge of emergency relief coordination.

Egeland said, "We cannot fathom the cost of these poor
societies and the nameless fishermen and fishing
villages and so on that have just been wiped out.
Hundreds of thousands of livelihoods have gone."

No money for early warning system

Much of this death and destruction could have been
prevented with a simple and inexpensive system of
buoys. Officials in Thailand and Indonesia have said
that an immediate public warning could have saved
lives, but that they could not know of the danger
because there is no international system in place to
track tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.

Such a system is not difficult or expensive to
install. In fact, the detector buoys that monitor
tsunamis have been available for decades and the U.S.
has had a monitoring system in place for more than
half a century. More than 50 seismometers are
scattered across the Northwest to detect and measure
earthquakes that might spawn tsunamis. In the middle
of the Pacific are six buoys equipped with sensors
called "tsunameters" that measure small changes in
water pressure and programmed to automatically alert
the country's two tsunami-warning centers in Hawaii
and Alaska.

Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the NOAA Pacific Marine
Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, says just a few
buoys could do the job. Scientists wanted to place two
more tsunami meters in the Indian Ocean, including one
near Indonesia, but the plan had not been funded, said
Bernard. The tsunameters each cost only $250,000.

A mere half million dollars could have provided an
early warning system that could have saved thousands
of lives. This should be compared to the
$1,500,000,000 the U.S. spends every day to fund the
Pentagon war machine. This means that for what the
U.S. is spending for less than one second of bombing
and destruction it could construct a system that could
have prevented thousands of needless deaths. Lack of
funding for an inexpensive, low-tech early warning
system is simply criminal negligence.

Indian Minister of State for Science and Technology
Kapil Sibal said, “If the country had such an alert
system in place, we could have warned the coastal
areas of the imminent danger and avoided the loss of
life.” But there is no room in the Bush budget for
such life-saving measures; the U.S. government's
priorities are corporate profit and endless war.

At a meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic
Commission in June, experts concluded that the "Indian
Ocean has a significant threat from both local and
distant tsunamis" and should have a warning network.
But no action was agreed upon. Geologist Brian Atwater
of the U.S. Geological Survey said, "Sumatra has an
ample history of great earthquakes, which makes the
lack of a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean
all the more tragic. Everyone knew Sumatra was a
loaded gun."

U.S. government failed to warn region

Although the local governments had no real warning,
the U.S. government did, and it failed to pass along
the information. Within minutes of the massive 9.0
magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, U.S.
scientists working with National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspected that a
deadly wave was spreading through the Indian Ocean.
They did not call anyone in the governments in the
area. Jeff LaDouce, an official in the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that they
e-mailed Indonesian officials, but said that he wasn’t
aware what happened after they sent the e-mails.

In this day of instant communications, controlled in a
large part by the U.S., it is possible to communicate
within minutes to every part of the globe. It is
beyond belief that the officials at the NOAA could not
find any method to directly and immediately contact
civilian authorities in the area. Their decision not
to do so may have cost thousands of lives.

Even a few minutes warning would have given the
inhabitants a chance to seek higher ground. The NOAA
had several hours notice before the first waves hit
shore. Tim Walsh, geologic-hazards program manager for
the Washington State Department of Natural Resources,
said, "Fifty feet of elevation would be enough to
escape the worst of the waves. In most places, 25 feet
would be sufficient. If you go uphill or inland, the
effect of the tsunami will be diminished." But the
inhabitants of the area weren't given the warning - as
a result, television and radio alerts were not issued
in Thailand until nearly an hour after the waves had
hit and thousands were already dead.

The failure to make any real effort to warn the people
of the region, knowing that tens of thousands of lives
were at stake, is part of a pattern of imperial
contempt and racism that has become the cornerstone of
U.S. policies worldwide.

The NOAA immediately warned the U.S. Naval Station at
Diego Garcia, which suffered very little damage from
the tsunami. It is telling that the NOAA was able to
get the warning to the US Navy base in the area, but
wouldn't pick up the phone and call the civil
authorities in the region to warn them. They made sure
that a US military base was notified and did almost
nothing to issue a warning to the civilian inhabitants
who were in the direct path of the wave--a warning
that might have saved thousands of lives. This is
criminal negligence.

Disease may kill tens of thousands more

The 55,000 deaths directly resulting from the tsunami
are just the beginning of the tragedy. Disease could
claim as many victims as have been killed in the
weekend's earthquake-sparked tsunami, according to the
World Health Organization (WHO). Medical experts warn
that malaria, cholera and dengue fever are expected to
pose serious health threats to survivors in the area,
where waves spoiled drinking-water supplies, polluted
streets and homes with raw sewage, swept away medical
clinics, ruined food stocks and left acres of stagnant
ponds where malaria-carrying mosquitoes can breed.

"The biggest threat to survivors is from the spread
of infection through contamination of drinking water
and putrefying bodies left by the receding waters,"
said Jamie McGoldrick, a senior U.N. health official.

"Within a few days, we fear, there is going to be
outbreaks of disease," Indonesian Vice President Jusuf
Kalla said. "Cholera is going to be a problem. This is
going to be the most important thing in a few days."

The response of the U.S. government to this emergency
is to offer a paltry $15 million "aid package." To put
this in perspective, this is one tenth of one percent
of what Washington has spent thus far on the war
against the people of Iraq.

Money for human needs, not for war

The U.S. and British governments owe billions of
dollars in reparations to the countries of this region
and to all other formerly colonized countries. The
poverty and lack of infrastructure that contribute to
and exacerbate the scope of this disaster are the
direct result of colonial rule and neo-colonial
policies. Although economic and political policies
cannot control the weather, they can determine how a
nation is impacted by natural disasters.

We must hold the U.S. government accountable for their
role in tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of
deaths. We must demand that it stop spending $1.5
billion each day for war and occupation and instead
provide health care for the victims of this tragedy,
build an early warning system, and rebuild the homes
and infrastructure destroyed by the tsunami.

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