Tsunami : le rôle de la criminelle négligence US

Deux animateurs du Centre d'Action Internationale, depuis des années à la pointe de l'action anti-guerre aux USA (voir nos LIENS : http://www.iacenter.org), apportent des éléments précis et concrets sur la responsabilité indirecte des Etats-Unis par rapport aux conséquences du tsunami. Bientôt, nous enverrons une brève en français sur ce sujet.

Casualties of a policy of war, negligence, and corporate

greed

A Statement from the International Action Center

While earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters, the

decision to spend billions of dollars on wars of conquest

while ignoring simple measures that can save human lives

is not.

At least 55,000 people were killed by the tsunami that

devastated coastlines from Indonesia to Somalia. Almost a

third of the dead are children. Thousands are still

missing and millions are homeless in 11 countries.

Hundreds of thousands have lost everything, and millions

face a bleak future because of polluted drinking water, a

lack of sanitation and no health services, according to UN

undersecretary Jan Egeland, who is in charge of emergency

relief coordination.

Egeland said, "We cannot fathom the cost of these poor

societies and the nameless fishermen and fishing villages

and so on that have just been wiped out. Hundreds of

thousands of livelihoods have gone."

No money for early warning system

Much of this death and destruction could have been

prevented with a simple and inexpensive system of buoys.

Officials in Thailand and Indonesia have said that an

immediate public warning could have saved lives, but that

they could not know of the danger because there is no

international system in place to track tsunamis in the

Indian Ocean.

Such a system is not difficult or expensive to install.

In fact, the detector buoys that monitor tsunamis have

been available for decades and the U.S. has had a

monitoring system in place for more than half a century.

More than 50 seismometers are scattered across the

Northwest to detect and measure earthquakes that might

spawn tsunamis. In the middle of the Pacific are six buoys

equipped with sensors called "tsunameters" that measure

small changes in water pressure and programmed to

automatically alert the country's two tsunami-warning

centers in Hawaii and Alaska.

Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the NOAA Pacific Marine

Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, says just a few buoys

could do the job. Scientists wanted to place two more

tsunami meters in the Indian Ocean, including one near

Indonesia, but the plan had not been funded, said Bernard.

The tsunameters each cost only $250,000.

A mere half million dollars could have provided an early

warning system that could have saved thousands of lives.

This should be compared to the $1,500,000,000 the U.S.

spends every day to fund the Pentagon war machine. This

means that for what the U.S. is spending for less than one

second of bombing and destruction it could construct a

system that could have prevented thousands of needless

deaths. Lack of funding for an inexpensive, low-tech early

warning system is simply criminal negligence.

Indian Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil

Sibal said, “If the country had such an alert system in

place, we could have warned the coastal areas of the

imminent danger and avoided the loss of life.” But there

is no room in the Bush budget for such life-saving

measures; the U.S. government's priorities are corporate

profit and endless war.

At a meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic

Commission in June, experts concluded that the "Indian

Ocean has a significant threat from both local and distant

tsunamis" and should have a warning network. But no action

was agreed upon. Geologist Brian Atwater of the U.S.

Geological Survey said, "Sumatra has an ample history of

great earthquakes, which makes the lack of a tsunami

warning system in the Indian Ocean all the more tragic.

Everyone knew Sumatra was a loaded gun."

U.S. government failed to warn region

Although the local governments had no real warning, the

U.S. government did, and it failed to pass along the

information. Within minutes of the massive 9.0 magnitude

earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, U.S. scientists

working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration (NOAA) suspected that a deadly wave was

spreading through the Indian Ocean. They did not call

anyone in the governments in the area. Jeff LaDouce, an

official in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration, said that they e-mailed Indonesian

officials, but said that he wasn’t aware what happened

after they sent the e-mails.

In this day of instant communications, controlled in a

large part by the U.S., it is possible to communicate

within minutes to every part of the globe. It is beyond

belief that the officials at the NOAA could not find any

method to directly and immediately contact civilian

authorities in the area. Their decision not to do so may

have cost thousands of lives.

Even a few minutes warning would have given the

inhabitants a chance to seek higher ground. The NOAA had

several hours notice before the first waves hit shore. Tim

Walsh, geologic-hazards program manager for the Washington

State Department of Natural Resources, said, "Fifty feet

of elevation would be enough to escape the worst of the

waves. In most places, 25 feet would be sufficient. If

you go uphill or inland, the effect of the tsunami will be

diminished." But the inhabitants of the area weren't

given the warning – as a result, television and radio

alerts were not issued in Thailand until nearly an hour

after the waves had hit and thousands were already dead.

The failure to make any real effort to warn the people of

the region, knowing that tens of thousands of lives were

at stake, is part of a pattern of imperial contempt and

racism that has become the cornerstone of U.S. policies

worldwide.

The NOAA immediately warned the U.S. Naval Station at

Diego Garcia, which suffered very little damage from the

tsunami. It is telling that the NOAA was able to get the

warning to the US Navy base in the area, but wouldn't pick

up the phone and call the civil authorities in the region

to warn them. They made sure that a US military base was

notified and did almost nothing to issue a warning to the

civilian inhabitants who were in the direct path of the

wave–a warning that might have saved thousands of lives.

This is criminal negligence.

Disease may kill tens of thousands more

The 55,000 deaths directly resulting from the tsunami are

just the beginning of the tragedy. Disease could claim as

many victims as have been killed in the weekend's

earthquake-sparked tsunami, according to the World Health

Organization (WHO). Medical experts warn that malaria,

cholera and dengue fever are expected to pose serious

health threats to survivors in the area, where waves

spoiled drinking-water supplies, polluted streets and

homes with raw sewage, swept away medical clinics, ruined

food stocks and left acres of stagnant ponds where

malaria-carrying mosquitoes can breed.

"The biggest threat to survivors is from the spread of

infection through contamination of drinking water and

putrefying bodies left by the receding waters," said Jamie

McGoldrick, a senior U.N. health official.

"Within a few days, we fear, there is going to be

outbreaks of disease," Indonesian Vice President Jusuf

Kalla said. "Cholera is going to be a problem. This is

going to be the most important thing in a few days."

The response of the U.S. government to this emergency is

to offer a paltry $15 million "aid package." To put this

in perspective, this is one tenth of one percent of what

Washington has spent thus far on the war against the

people of Iraq.

Money for human needs, not for war

The U.S. and British governments owe billions of dollars

in reparations to the countries of this region and to all

other formerly colonized countries. The poverty and lack

of infrastructure that contribute to and exacerbate the

scope of this disaster are the direct result of colonial

rule and neo-colonial policies. Although economic and

political policies cannot control the weather, they can

determine how a nation is impacted by natural disasters.

We must hold the U.S. government accountable for their

role in tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of deaths.

We must demand that it stop spending $1.5 billion each

day for war and occupation and instead provide health care

for the victims of this tragedy, build an early warning

system, and rebuild the homes and infrastructure destroyed

by the tsunami.

Sara Flounders

Dustin Langley

for the International Action Center