Where is the charity?

Where is the charity?
: I’m surprised and saddened that we have not seen an outpouring of charity from the people of the U.S. to the people of Iraq — and I’m especially shocked that I have not seen this from the churches that opposed the war.

Why? It could be that we think they’re the enemy (though we helped enemies that attacked us, Germany and Japan). It could be that we think they’re strange (images on the evening news of millions of Muslims slicing their scalps with swords and beating themselves silly would add to that reputation). It could be that we think they’re oil-rich and don’t need help (though, obviously, they need more than just royalty checks to build a sustainable economy). It could be that our economy’s still to much of a mess and we hope we don’t have to volunteer (tsk-tsk). It could be that we are buying the Iraqi PR and we think we’ll be out of there in a month (letting one tyranny replace another; that would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it?).

There’s no excuse. We should be reaching out to help build a successful society — a tolerant society that accepts its various flavors of Islam (not just the biggest) as well as outsiders; a robust economy that shares the wealth of oil broadly and uses it to build a stronger base of expertise and value; a learned culture that builds on the land’s tremendous history and creates a future based on free sharing of information and opinions.

But instead, when I go to Google News and search for “Iraq” and “charity,” what I get are links about British MP George Galloway allegedly using a charity to take money from Saddam Hussein; an indictment for using a charity to send money to Saddam; heads of charities protesting war; and problems with getting charity to Iraq. And I see this disturbing note: “U.S.-based relief agencies are mobilizing to feed and heal Iraq, but so far they are straining to illustrate the need to potential donors and reach those who are suffering. The chaos of war — followed by rampant looting and lawlessness — is partly to blame, they say, and many who might give are only beginning to focus on the plight of Iraqis. There has been no huge refugee crisis to galvanize donors, the agencies point out. Delay in sending relief could hamper the American campaign to demonstrate good will toward Iraq and quickly relieve widespread suffering.”

I’m a bit ashamed of us.

: Now as I’m thinking this through, I come across a fascinating story at the oddly named site Killing The Buddah by Tim Shorrock, the son of missionaries who went to Japan after World War II with the blessing and active support of Douglas McArthur and our occupation government.

So began one of the strangest episodes of the Cold War: MacArthur’s attempt to harness Christianity in his mission to transform Japan into an anti-communist and pro-American bastion of democracy. Between 1946 and 1950, over 2,000 American teachers, social workers and evangelists came to Japan in response to a recruitment drive launched by mainstream churches and blessed at the highest levels of the U.S. government….

Going by numbers alone, the American crusade was a miserable failure. In the political turbulence after World War II, millions of Japanese joined the Japanese Communist Party and aligned themselves with the Japanese Left to organize and join labor unions and demonstrate against the spread and testing of nuclear weapons. Fifty-six years after the war, the number of Japanese who call themselves Christians remains around one-half of one percent of the population, the same level it was before Pearl Harbor.

But judged on human terms, the American missionary influx after 1945 was profound; it helped heal the wounds of war and exposed the defeated Japanese to a new kind of American, neither businessman nor soldier, willing to forgo the comforts of home to share in the uncertainties and poverty of postwar Japan. “They were young and idealistic, and identified with Japan,” recalls Kiyoko Takeda Cho, a prominent Christian intellectual who lives in Tokyo and was one of my parents

  • I have no idea about other churches but for months my church has had a country (US) wide effort for making various “kits”, sanitation, cooking, child-care, etc. for us as individual members. I mean we make them locally and then they are sent out by the church welfare dept. On a national level we give cash and not small amounts, either. BUT, you won’t find us in any google search as we believe in giving quietly. We are never listed in any ‘roster of charitable institutions’ because we like it that way. We also prefer a ‘hands on’ approach – we go to the site to make sure the aid goes where we intend it to go. I AN SURE THERE ARE MANY OTHERS LIKE US. There is more aid in heaven and earth than is dreampt of in your philosophy.
    Or, all that googles, ain’t all.

  • Charlie

    “Killing the Buddha” — just fyi, that’s a reference to an old Zen saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”
    Being an old Zen saying, there’s no telling what it really means, but you might take it as suggesting that excessive religiousity isn’t helpful….

  • I can think of a couple plausible reasons:
    1. Churches often line up their big programs well ahead of time and have committed their resources elsewhere.
    2. They’d rather give their money to poor countries. While the Iraqi people are in bad shape, they will soon have vast oil resources to pay for their own recovery. Most of the people in, say, sub-Saharan Africa lack that hope.

  • About the Budda comment: As I’ve read it, it would mean, “If you meet someone claiming to be God, or you think you have found God or know The Truth about God, then it is NOT God (because God is not easily discovered or understood).
    About the need for giving:
    The tales of scandal give one pause. We (Americans) have attempted to give privately to other nations before, and the money doesn’t seem to make it to the intended parties very often.
    And, even now, existing aid is still waiting to get into the country. I think there is a concern that it will just pile up at the border, waiting…
    And there is the concern that the money wiould be misused by the new regime, about which we know nothing.
    And remember the fiasco with the Red Cross 9/11 donations. That has probably caused a few to shy away.
    And we have already given, my spending millions of out tax dollars and blood in Iraq.
    Of course all of these excuses ring hollow when confronted with the need of the Iraqi people and the opportunity to show our friendship by helping them. We should give now. And make sure they get it.

  • Thanks for your blog, and for this very interesting post!
    I’ve just responded here.

  • KC

    There are some major cultural differences between Japan & Iraq. I think that the rest of the world and Asia being gobsmacked at the time helped the Japanese think that maybe a more “western” route was the way to go. The rest of Asia was pretty much a shambles and as a Buddist/Confusian leaning anyway, there is a natural inclination to believe that the strongest is also the wisest and as we also know, the Japanese are very flexible – having re-invented themselves already once – and if the Americans were smart/powerful enough to beat them, why not emulate them? So, while they may not have taken the religion, they drank the kool-ade of the real religion. George W is king … The green one … Though with serious Buddist/Confusian overtones of strong keitrisu’s and government planning.
    Iraq is not in the same situation and in today’s televised global community, you cannot grow hothouse flowers in isolation anymore.
    The thing they have going for them is that they essentially invented trading and have capitalism DNA so they have that going for them. While the also respect the authority, the problem is Islam confounds us. They are like pissed off Amish. We don’t really understand the Amish. They think we’re heathens and crass but want to live near us so they can sell us things. We can live with their intolerance because they’re not going to take up arms and we like their woodwork and quilts. However, Islamists seem to hate us for intruding on their culture but yet they blame us for them wanting to smoke a Winston, drink a Coke, eat KFC and watch Bruce Willis.
    Obviously, it’s a generalization but even the most liberal seem to resent the culture but want to move here. (I’m Asian if that matters – I think my culture can handle me drinking a Coke and watching several dozens crappy Bruce Willis movies) but for the militants, even if the Palestine issues gets resolved, I just sense there’s always going to be something … And I think most Americans see them as pissed off Amish. We’d like to help but we think they’ll just more pissed and figure out how to drop a barn on us.

  • Theresa

    KC, nice analogy. I personally feel that no matter what we do in that part of the world, we will be seen as interfering and trying to take over. Look at Kuwait. While on the surface all is well, our troops stationed over there tell a different story. We liberated their asses and helped rebuild their country, but they still hate us being there. I’m sure the Qatari’s will start complaining as well, even though we have poured billions of dollars of aid into that sandbox and helped their economy significantly. Why aren’t the arab countries taking a lead role in this issue? They pissed and moaned about their poor brothers being killed by the imperialistic Americans and volunteered in droves (supposedly) to help fight. The only one I’ve read about doing anything at all is, of all places, Kuwait. That is truly remarkable considering what the Iraqi’s did to them during the occupation in 91. Seeing the anti-American crap starting already doesn’t help the situation either. The war isn’t even over and already the so very helpless Iraqi’s are bitchin about how things are worse now then under the Butcher of Baghdad’s regime. How do you deal with people like this? I imagine that no matter what happens good or bad, they will vilify us. America is the great satan after all. Perhaps the American public is sick and tired of having the hand they extend to that part of the world bitten. Like James Joyner stated in his post, sub-Saharan Africa would benefit greatly from our help and they might even appreciate it. God Bless America, our troops, and Mr. Bush.

  • Richard Webster

    I did a search using variations on charity such as donations, gifts to, contributions and used city names in Iraq. Also I used organizations known to engage in philantropic work worldwide and found a number of sites. I won’t list them because you’ll have more fun seeing what else the search brings up. You’ve got to know sites cost money to maintain. Some opt to send the money to the needy.
    Two things were of note: (1) There was a lot food and medical aid being sent from the US ans the UK into Iraq for the last ten plus years and (2)The vast proponderence of sites were asking for donations to either further the anti-war cause (sponsor a human shield)or to aim criticism at US/UK policy.
    I really like this site by the way – I’ve never been provoked to post remarks on another.
    I see a lot of good hearted people wanting the human condition to be better. Well, today it is. Another snake has been driven out.
    That being said I have to agitate for realism and patience. Sixty days ago, Saddam was still in power. We have just walked into a collapsing building and have begun to shore it up. We didn’t make the building that way Saddam and his thugs did. He had a limited budget because of the sanctions and chose weapons over people every time.
    He turned Iraq into a terrorist toll road and a weapons bazaar at the expense of his citizens. In doing so he created a huge welfare state in which the population was dependent on his regime for food and all other necessities of life. The Iraqi people were not working self-sufficient individuals seeing to the needs of their families, they were dependents of the state. They were not endowed with the sense that they had a stake in, let alone control of, their future. Their chief pasttime was that of any person from whatever stripe whose diginity and sense of self-worth has been coarsely torn from them – the nuturing of anger and resentment. But they could not speak for fear of torture and/or death not only for them but for their families.
    Now they can at least speak out. But what are they saying? Life sucks! Big surprise. If you have more than me – you suck! I’m stunned.
    As for the comparison to Japan and the Amish. Please. The Japanese were brought to their knees after establishing a huge empire in Asia through militaristic means. They were and are still the most Western of Asians. Religon and the state were joined in the person of the Emperor yet still held effectively apart. The Emporer did not make policy. There was tolerance for all religons. Hershey details this in his book Hiroshima when he speaks of the German missionaries’ point of view of the bombing.
    The Amish couldn’t care less if you are there or not. They live a simple austere life based on agriculture and don’t see the need to change. They could be selling honey to Martians for all it means to them. They are not running around fretting about whether the Martian economy can handle another two cents a jar. They have joined their religious beliefs to their community government, but they aren’t petitioning Washington to grant them independence. They believe in humility.
    The traditions of the Mideast are far removed from this. There has always been a state religon headed by the ruler of the empire. Some empires tolerant of outsiders, some not. Glories of civilization unrivaled in the world of the past are taught to the children of this region every day. We were once rulers of the world! That plays on the mind of men squatting in squalor in the shadow of a twelfth century mosque more beautiful than anything built there since.
    Most everyone I see posting here continues to prove that America and Americans want to make the world a better place. Not just for Exxon and MacDonalds, but for everyone. We went into Iraq with this in mind. If we were interested only in invading a country to claim its oil – we could have taken Mexico and Canada in two weeks.

  • jennetic

    Mercy Corps accepts monies to be used for medicine, water, etc. in Iraq:
    As far as I know they are reliable, but I haven’t used any deep digging.
    Re: Quatar and Kuwait, they don’t have to like us. The key is, they are not a threat to us. Neither countries are seething hotpots of Jhiadistic fanatics, nor are they likely to become so in the near future. The population in both countries is experiencing greater wealth, and even if Anti-American, are not likely to want to actively destroy Uncle Sam. And certainly the governments are more pro-American (much more so than the civilian population).

  • C Bennett

    From the blog:
    “The last thing we should be doing — the very last thing — is trying to convert a single Iraqi to any other religion.
    What we should be trying to do is help Iraqis build a strong and vibrant future — and that means immediate humanitarian aid for food and medicine …”
    Back in the 1970’s there were many arguments about how to deliver development aid (via USAID at the time, though this is independent of the agency or organization) to North African countries. The purists lectured everyone about the undesirability of mixing fiscal aid with “American values.” “We aren’t trying to turn them into Americans, just help their economies develop.”
    This is ‘conversion as the last thing’ argument: don’t change their religion or their value system or their way of governing themselves, just build a “strong and vibrant future …” How? With THINGS, not ideas, not values: medical aid — send antibiotics; economic aid — send dollars; agricultural aid — send tractors; educational aid — send teachers, but don’t teach values or value systems or religion. Teach what? How to build a strong and vibrant future using antibiotics and tractors.
    The notion that strong vibrant futures are built out of materials, not notions, is failing its own test. Fundamental, it says, to helping the future of Iraq is the notion that notions are ‘the last thing’ they need. Instead, just ship stuff. Value systems and the ability to produce, distribute and use antibiotics or tractors are wholly separable.
    USAID doesn’t deliver tractors to Norther Africa anymore. The tractors worked until the lubricants ran out. Then they were parked because it was Allah’s will that they not run — that’s why they stopped. They had a value system that didn’t include adding oil to the engines of tractors.
    I support sending aid to Iraq but I think the proposition that ‘converting’ their thinking in the area of values is the last thing they need done for a strong a vibrant future is false. They will have tractors and no private property to plow.

  • I think your reasons are all valid, plus the fact that the US military, through Garner’s office, will be spending a large amount on both infrastructure and humanitarian aid.
    One that you did not mention is that Iraq is an ostensibly modern, middle-class country (or was at one point). It is harder to motivate charitable giving for a potentially well-off country when countries like Afghanistan have needs that are simply off the charts by comparison.
    Afghanistan. Does anyone remember Afghanistan?

  • Pyecraft

    Petrified when simply peering into this rapidly-shrinking window of freedom on offer, they consistantly display an unyielding preference for being horse-whipped by ANY authority, be it Saddamite brutality or an austere, regressive religious autocracy.
    Perhaps they are trapped by some form of national self-loathing. Quite obviously, they hate each other and themselves, and evidence from this last free opportunity of self-expression, explains why they have good reason to.
    Maybe when they stare stubbornly at that window, what they actually see is a mirror.

  • The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been soliciting donations (and volunteers) since before the war started to assist the Iraqis. 100% of the money donated via the following website goes to direct relief:
    A summary of the IMB’s Iraqi appeals, reports and work is here:
    Think what you like about Southern Baptists, I can assure you that they will feed the hungry and heal the sick *before* seeking to save the “lost”…and with respect to the latter, they graciously take “no” for an answer, and continue to minister to the physical needs.

  • This point is mostly related to Gail’s comment (the first) and Eric’s (3:00 PM, the last, unless someone beats me to the punch):
    One year ago, how many Americans knew there was a Baptist hospital in Yemen serving thousands of impoverished and grateful people? If terrorists hadn’t murdered three of its American employees a few months ago, the vast majority of us would still be entirely unaware of the place. (I hope it hasn’t shut down or curtailed its operations.)
    There is a great deal of that kind of ‘under-the-radar’ help going to countries around the world. One way to get glimpses of this kind of thing is small-town newspaper articles about local people involved in such campaigns. Over the years I’ve read of (e.g.) plastic surgeons spending their vacations in Central America fixing cleft palates, and an organization that refurbishes old medical equipment (X-Ray machines and such) and ships it to hospitals in various Third World countries. It might be very difficult to find out just how much of this sort of thing is being done for Iraq. I absolutely agree that a friendly public challenge to charities to do more would help.

  • Pyecraft

    If charity does indeed begin at home, then in the lootfest of New Iraq, they’re off to a flyer and with respect, I suggest they don’t need any more of our help.

  • Jimmy

    Check out the US AID website, they list several groups, both secular and religous, helping in Iraq and other places: http://www.info.usaid.gov.
    By the way, I did hear that a buch of those pesky, leftist, anti-America celbrites are putting together a charity album featuring the likes of Paul McCartney and Bono to assist with medical aid for Iraqi children. There they go again!

  • Me

    Maybe the paucity of charitable donations is due to the belief that there is not yet in place a mechanism for delivering such aid (through private donations). Also, at this time, it appears that there ARE established (or soon to be established) mechanisms via other entities: The US “restructuring team,” the UN’s role in providing humanitarian aid, the Red Cross/Red Crescent.
    But your post is a good reminder, and I have no doubt that those private/religious organizations that usually step up to the plate, will do so in this instance, also.