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I Think I know How Cassandra Felt

Lord, sometimes I hate being right.

In David Gerrold's sci-fi classic "The War Against The Chtorr," his protagonist has developed an uncanny reputation for being able to predict the behavior of the alien invaders. It's the cause of much speculation about Mr. McCarthy, even some saying that he's somehow in league with them. Finally, someone enlightens him to this attitude, and he explains just how he's so good at it:

(Roughly paraphrased) "I just imagine the worst possible thing that can happen next, then prepare for it. And most of the time, I'm right."

Well, I've adopted that attitude towards certain highly-idealistic international organizations, and it's served me in good stead. The folks who choose the Nobel Peace Prize have been pretty consistent -- I simply expect them to pick the most PC person, the one who stands most publicly against American interests and the interests of freedom. And in the last seven years, I've been right four times as they honored Kofi Annan and the UN, Jimmy Carter, Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and now Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nearly three years ago, an earthquake struck the Indian Ocean, generating a tsunami that devastated much of the area -- especially Indonesia. That nation alone accounted for over half the estimated 230,000 people killed.

Immediately after the disaster, the United States was the greatest responder. Our Navy sent dozens of ships to the area for immediate rescue efforts, US charities raised literally billions in money, and the government spent a nigh-equal amount to help.

That wasn't enough for one UN official, Jan Egeland, who referred to the Western nations as "stingy." He was promptly (and rightfully) rebuked by President Bush, and he later had to eat his words.

At the time, I made a simple suggestion: why not simply give a whole hunk of money to the UN, then quietly watch like a hawk how that money is handled? It seemed a win-win scenario to me. Either the vast majority goes into disaster relief -- a good thing -- or, if the UN reverts to type, we would see them revert to their kleptocratic nature and waste most of it. At that point, we would have a nigh-unassailable moral club to demand real reform at the UN -- or a valid excuse to do what we should have done decades ago and gotten the hell out.

Well, my advice wasn't followed (no big surprise there), but it turns out that my cynical prediction was well-founded: it turns out that the UN has lost a shitload of money intended to tsunami reconstruction to fraud. And the dollar amount matches precisely one of the three amounts I had suggested as the "bait" -- half a billion dollars. That's "billion" with a "b," or $500,000,000.00.

While I'm flush with this success, I'll make another prediction: a couple of minor officials will get in trouble over this, and then it will all get swept under the rug and nothing really substantive will change.

Come on, UN. Come on, world. Prove me wrong.


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Comments (6)

In my opinion, the UN is ac... (Below threshold)

In my opinion, the UN is actually better than the sum of its parts. But most of those parts are dictatorships and cleptocracies, so that's not really saying much.

Is there a rug large enough... (Below threshold)

Is there a rug large enough to hide a half a billion dollars?

I suppose if there isn't the U.N. will pull a few of it *peacekeepers* off of child abuse duty to weave them one.

It should be some project, might even supplant those other great rug weavers of the world, the Iranians.

Oops! That would never happen.

This is nothing compared to... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

This is nothing compared to the cash "misplaced" in Iraq.

The tsunami relief "incompetence" has much more sinister roots as detailed in "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein.

Shorter dr lava:"Q... (Below threshold)

Shorter dr lava:

"Quick, look over there! Something shiny!"


Has anyone thought to look ... (Below threshold)

Has anyone thought to look in Sandy Berger's pants?

I mean, you were talking about things that got swept under rugs, right?

Jay, as you know, I've foll... (Below threshold)

Jay, as you know, I've followed this since I developed the Stingy List right after Egeland made his infamous comment.

The losses, and the lack of progress, are due to a host of reasons, with two standing out.

The UN sought to impose its own norms on the nations in the region. For example, it sought to move tens of thousands of shoredwellers back from the sea "for their protection". Since these folks make their living from the sea, it created a problem.

The UN stopped replacing fishing boats and prevented other groups from doing so, leaving thousands of families without a means of supporting themselves. The UN determined that the region was "overfished".

The UN flew its people in for meetings, having made its decisions in Geneva or New York. It demanded a level of planning for all projects that most Western countries would be hard-pressed to deliver. The people in the affected region quite rightly resented these "fly-in" experts.

The success stories are from agencies with people who live and work in the region. Most of them are religiously affiliated.

And, the national interests of the nations in the region have come in to play. India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia all have security interests that have come first before redevelopment.

Large amounts of the pledged aid remain to be disbursed. Many of the nations making pledges also engaged in a shell game. Their pledges actually consisted of low interest loans and incentives to purchase their goods and services. The media reported a number without reporting the funding sources and intent.






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