Thursday, June 2

WHAT ABOUT IT: IS THE ASIAN TSUNAMI RELIEF GETTING TO THE INTENDED PEOPLE, MR. CLINTON?

Kindly read this and this, by way of background. Yes, there's a bit of reading to do, but it'll set the stage for the following. Trust me -- this is important stuff.

Now, then, could someone tell me why former President Clinton, on the heels of his just completed, exhausting tour of Asian tsunami relief sites, has not offered word one on whether or not the huge amounts of money and tons of supplies are getting to the people they were intended for and where the inevitable bottlenecks are located and why, and what's being done to eliminate the gridlock?

Neither he, nor former President Bush ('41), should be asking for charitable contributions without providing personally (or assuring that a third-party audit will) an accounting of the state of the relief efforts, good and bad.

Instead, all the MSM has been reporting is that Bill Clinton is in ill-health and exhausted from his peripatetic labors. If there's "transparency and accountability" in this report from the United Nations' Special Envoy (i.e., Bill Clinton) than I'm missing something.

The following doesn't tell me a damn thing:

On the issue of transparency and accountability, the Special Envoy told the journalists the United Nations and other actors have a huge responsibility to account for how they spend their money. Mr. Bowles said that PriceWater House Coopers had agreed to give the UN pro bono 8,000 hours for accounting services. He also said that Deloitte & Touche will provide the UN an additional 14,000 hours and that a UN website will soon be available to trace all UN funding and expenditures on tsunami-related relief and reconstruction.
After all, columnist Mark Steyn gave us this sobering, troubling information back on May 15th:

Five hundred containers, representing one-quarter of all aid sent to Sri Lanka since the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, are still sitting on the dock in Colombo, unclaimed or unprocessed.

At the Indonesian port of Medan, 1,500 containers of aid are still sitting on the dock.

Four months ago, did you chip in to the tsunami relief effort? Did your company? A Scottish subsidiary of the Body Shop donated a 40-foot container of "Lemon Squidgit" and other premium soap, which arrived at Medan in January and has languished there ever since because of "incomplete paperwork,'' according to Indonesian customs officials.

Well, those soapy Scots were winging it -- like so many of us, eager to help but too naive to understand that, no matter the scale of devastation visited upon a hapless developing nation, its obstructionist bureaucracy will emerge from the rubble unscathed. Yet, among the exhaustive examples of wasted Western generosity unearthed by the Financial Times, what struck me was not the free-lancers but the permanent floating crap game of international high-rollers who couldn't penetrate the labyrinth of Indonesian paperwork.

Diageo sent eight 20-foot containers of drinking water via the Red Cross. "We sent it directly to the Red Cross in order to get around the red tape," explained its Sydney office. It arrived in Medan in January and it's still there. The Indonesian Red Cross lost the paperwork.

UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, sent 14 ambulances to Indonesia, and they took two months to clear customs. Terrible as it was in its awesome fury, the tsunami was in the end transnational business as usual.