I think Bush is very lucky Sec. Powell is still around – this mission to the tsunami-devastated areas is exactly where his weight and prestige on the world stage is most effective:
- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the outpouring of American aid and humanitarian help in the region devastated by the tsunami may also help Muslim nations see the United States in a better light.
“What it does in the Muslim world, the rest of the world is giving an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action,” Powell said after meeting with Hassan Wirayuda, his Indonesian counterpart.
“America is not an anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim nation. America is a diverse society. We respect all religions,” he said
Unless they are trying to kill us, but that’s a separate story.
- Powell said he hopes Muslim countries see the wide range of U.S. aid and involvement around the world, of which the disaster relief is only the latest example. U.S. involvement and cooperation “is in the best interest of those countries and it’s in our best interest,” he said.
“It dries up those pools of dissatisfaction that give rise to terrorist activities,” Powell added.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Thailand’s Independent Television, Powell again rejected criticism of the U.S. response as being slow.
“Who criticized us? It wasn’t the countries in the region,” he said.
And, Powell said, he called the foreign ministers of the devastated countries right away and President Bush spoke to heads of government and state within 48 hours.
“So I don’t accept the criticism that some in the media have given to the United States that we were slow,” he said. [AP]
Whether you accept it or not, you were slow, but much to the administration’s credit, after the initial slow response, there has been a marked change of direction which is very positive from both a humanitarian and political (not Republican/Democratic, but U.S.-in-the-world) standpoint. So now we have something approaching a Marshall Plan:
- Thai officials told Powell the thing they most want is U.S. help for a warning system in the Indian Ocean and China Sea and Powell pledged U.S. technical help for some kind of a regional warning system.
“We’ll do everything we can to contribute,” he said.
Discussing U.S. aid in general, Powell said, “The United States has made a significant financial contribution [$350m pledged so far], but we have done much more than that.” He cited millions of dollars being raised in private donations in the United States even before President Bush announced Monday in Washington that his father, the first President Bush, and former President Clinton, will spearhead a fund-raising drive.
Powell also noted the massive U.S. military assistance now swinging into high gear that is delivering food, water and supplies and evacuating wounded.
It is time for us to show once again that we are as good at building as we are at destroying – a lot of people aren’t aware of that.