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Catfish and Cod
Friday, October 31, 2003
NGO's turn tail and run.
(Link path: MSNBC)

It's easy to scare away European aid workers. All you have to do is send in one or two little car bombs, or do anything else that causes a few Europeans to die. Then you can sit back and watch them scurry away, leaving you to take over, terrorize, rape, and pillage as you see fit. The NGO's and Europeans will even help you -- they will insist on flimsy security to "avoid appearing too military" or "keep from frightening away those they want to help."

We've seen this pattern again and again. The UN compound insisted on having no military presence, US or otherwise. They were hit by a car bomb, and the near-immediate response was to pull out workers. This pullout has gone on sequentially, to the point at which there are virtually no non-Iraqi UN employees left in Iraq. (Good thing we didn't try to hand the occupation over to them, isn't it?)

The same pattern played itself out last week with the Red Cross. In exactly the same way, the Red Cross intentionally set up security barriers less effective than those employed at other sites around Baghdad, to "keep from becoming too inaccessible". A ambulance/car bomb was used, to great effectiveness, to slaughter innocent civilians. And what was the response of the Red Cross, an organization supposedly devoted to treating battlefield casualties? Why, to pull out, of course. While it's the Red Cross' job to be the guardians of fair play and humanitarian assistance, the ICRC's operations director Pierre Kraehenbuehl said that the staff’s “security has priority" and that the only reason the Red Cross is still in Iraq at all is that it "was required by the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare to remain in Iraq because it is an occupied country."

Doctors without Borders, another organization that supposedly sticks its head into the lion's mouth for the good of the afflicted of the world, isn't even sticking around to have its people attacked. They're executing a pre-emptive pullout. A spokesman said that "it's a balance between the security of the staff and the needs of the population on the ground." Yes, and which of the two goals does your action demonstrate is more important to you?

All these groups, of course, insist that they're not really leaving, that they have plenty of Iraqi personnel on-site, and they "remain committed to helping the people of Iraq." But what message does it send to the Iraqi personnel working for these NGO's, and to the Iraqi people in general," to see the supposed representatives of the "international community" scurry away in fear at the first sign of trouble? What signal does it send to their attackers, that they can't even comprehend being attacked -- they were "shocked by the recent bombing because [the Red Cross] maintains strict neutrality" -- because their own sense of humanity, justice, and fair play is the target of the attack?

Read the current discussions of the situation in the Middle Eastern press, and you'll discover that the Arab people are caught up by the perception of weakness -- be it their own perceived weakness in world and current affairs, or a perceived weakness in the ability of the Americans to acheive their goals in the region. Some columnists in the West think that we project an image of weakness by being "too nice" to the Iraqis in an arena that only respects strength. While Americans prefer to be nice people even in war, we can be as hard as we have to be if the situation calls for it. But I don't think that the UN or the European-left-dominated NGO's can harden in response to events -- and that's why (even though I'd prefer otherwise) they can't be entrusted with even a share of the responsibilities for rebuilding Iraq.

UPDATE: The UN Secretariat at least realizes the danger. Kofi Annan has called for a panel to suggest security upgrades for the UN worldwide. This is a good idea but I am still worried. The UN likes to discuss things fully and completely before doing anything; it's a tradition that arises from their diplomatic origins. The UN may move to improve their security, but if the terrorists innovate new attack methods faster than the UN changes its security profile, then the security improvements are worse than useless.