God’s Vengeance for America’s Wealth

Do you remember the genuine wave of solidarity that swept across the Old Continent when the tsunami devastated six Asian countries last December? Now that the victim is the wealthy USA the scene is completely different. While private citizens have contributed to help fellow Americans to recover, most government officials have carefully avoided sponsoring any initiatives. A few of them also exploited the tragedy as an anti-American propaganda weapon.

Just to mention some examples, the German environmental minister Jürgen Trittin wrote: “The American president has closed his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes such as Katrina - in other words, disasters caused by a lack of climate protection measures - can visit on his country”. CNE blogger Edgar Gärtner quotes the following EU statement: “The Kyoto Protocol continues to be the central tool of the global strategy to halt climate change”.

Indeed, many radical environmentalists viewed Katrina as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming, despite a lack of scientific evidence. As a matter of fact historical records show that in the last century hurricanes have not significantly changed in frequency or intensity - see the figure below from the National Hurricane Center at NOAA.  Reading a summary of the actual scientific consensus on hurricanes and global warming might contribute substantially to the debate.


That said, the initial question - why Europeans react so differently to similar tragedies - is still to be answered. One reason may well be a sense of political rivalry. While countries in South-East Asia are not an obstacle to European political strategies, the US is - especially so long as the White House is in the hands of the Republicans. In a manner of speaking when one is not strong enough to win, one hopes that one’s opponent will lose, whatever “win” and “lose” mean in the international arena. (Some eurocrats believe the EU gains when and if our GDP is bigger than the US’s: this is a typical case where the EU’s performance cannot possibly exceed America’s, unless some exogenous tragedy such as Katrina shows up).

Yet I believe there is also a deeper reason, a sort of socialist commonplace widespread in Europe. Though in their criticism of Bush European officials maintained that all the victims in New Orleans were “black and poor”, not one of them organised fundraising campaigns to aid these poor blacks as they did to excess for the poor Asian victims of the tsunami.  Why? Because those who like to evoke the oppressed “poor black” in rhetoric know that he does not exist in fact. While poor Asians had little to lose by the tsunami, people in New Orleans - even the poorest - had comparatively much to lose. Consider also that in the popular perception every American is rich, no matter if many of the actual victims could not even afford a car. By the way, this is an issue that sooner or late the anti-car activists will have to deal with: how many lives would have been saved if more people had owned a car in New Orleans?

In a sense, there is a sort of satisfaction in the realisation that hurricanes strike regardless of personal income. They destroy the lives of the rich as well as the poor. Unlike hurricanes, many people do attach great importance to personal income. So when the rich man is in trouble, those who are comparatively less rich feel sort of pleased. Envy is just one step removed from cynicism. Perhaps that is the nemesis of the politically correct mood. Instead of seeing poverty as a problem which must be defeated, many believe Katrina is God’s vengeance against America’s wealth.


European governments helping USA

Governments from both Belgium and the Netherlands have flown (and sailed) teams to help the victims of Katrina. There has been extensive news coverage of the fact that the military units of those teams did not have the right to bear arms but relied upon American troops for security, so I am not sure how you missed that fact.

Later on, you contradict your own first paragraph by saying its the European public instead of 'most government officials' that did little compared with the Tsunami catastrophe in Asia, which you call a similar tragedy.

They are all but similar. The American Gulf is big but the area affected by the Tsunami is of an order of scale bigger still by whichever measure you use : area of land, number of people, number of states (and thus authorities) involved etc...

Not only that, victims of Katrina live in the most developped country in the world. Thus they had access to better mechanisms to prepare for tragedy (insurance, diversifaction of interests, solid construction work...) but they also have access to better mechanisms to help them get their life together (job opportunities elsewhere being the most notable but also support from richer communities and families for example)

Indeed - that's why the aid

Indeed - that's why the aid was wecome, but completely uneeded. The relations are in the offer and the acceptance.

This endless rattling on of invented notions that no help was rendered is simply insane and consistent with the open viciousness of mainstream European sentiment. I was among the people delivering equipment prior to Katrina's landfall. I did not count among the 45-60 000 federal personnel PRE-POSITIONED to respond.
Assets cant be concentrated inside the area that they are guessing will be overcome. You can't give away dissembled care packages and you can't fly destroyed helicopters.

They could only be certain about the approach of the storm in the last 24 hours, and managed to get 400000 people (80% of the population) out of N.O. in 18 hours.
The city was supposed to see to the safety of the remaining residents themselves and they didn't. Between the city's school and transit busses, they could have moved 22000 people per trip out. But to where? The storm was 400 km across.

Many Europeans, as well as leftist Americans tried to pin it (in order) on the following: global warming, racism, large corporations wanting to rebuild a city, and the White House. They are wrong on all fronts. Deserate in their hatred, they do what they have always done, which I have seen for 25 years having lived on both sides of the pond: somehow find a way to hate somebody, and somehow reflect well on themselves through their criticism.

It's adolescent of them and incredibly pathetic, but we're used to it. It's one of the reasons (like Bush's bathroom break being news, somehow) that Americans take very little of what they hear from the opposite side of the puddle seriously.

In the moments when I had to hear the endless harangues from Europeans living here about the same thing, my only thoughts were that I wish I could tell them to just sit down, shut up, and stay out of the way. The adults have work to do, and they don't need the ceaseless, slef-absorbed nagging.
That too hasn't changed in 25 years.