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Monday 3rd January 2005

Permalink 03.01.05 @ 7:03:00 PM Categories: Politics

Tsunami Response

The horrifying pictures of the South East Asian Tsunamis on Boxing Day "shook the world". Or at least it shook ordinary people watching those images. As the reports of the chaos rained in, it became clear that not only had thousands and thousands of asians and tourists alike been killed and injured, that many more people were in danger of dying horribly if water and medical supplies couldn't be got through to them in a matter of days.

By the 27th December 2004, it was clear that there were many pockets of people all over Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Andamans, and Sumatra and elsewhere that were cut off because roads were impassable, bridges were down and even the topography of the area were in parts now permanently under the sea. With no assistance they would simply die from dehydration or their untreated wounds within days. The aid agencies went into action, but there were many areas that they simply were unable to search or contact. Around this time, I remember seeing a Japanese medical volunteer team of 40 odd boarding a plane at this time. So what was Blair's government response?

Sweet FA. With Blair sunning himself on holiday in Egypt, the rest of the government went into bureaucracy mode- the political equivalent of a headless chicken. Efforts were the usual phone number thing for worried relatives in this country. A paltry £1m aid was put forward as the first response, quickly upped to £15m. At the time it was clear that at least 20 or 30 British were dead, but it took 3 days before Blair could be bothered to make some anodyne statement about it from his sun-lounger, in stark contrast to his manipulation of concerns about the hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq.

The superb generosity of the British people made the government look completely out of touch with the scale of the problem. Huge public contributions outstripped the governments pathetic response, embarrassing it into increasing the aid promise to £50m. (Whether this is "new" money is another quiestion again). But it takes time for money to get through as water and water containers through the aid agencies. The urgency of the situation for those cut off in remote areas was clearly something a large military nation could do something about. We, the Great British nation, have supply ships, we have medical ships, we have transport planes, we have helicopters, we have the Royal Engineers who can put up temporary bridges in a wink, we have parachutes and parachutists, we have Royal Marines who can land ashore in the toughest terrain anywhere in the world.
The military have the men, the equipment, the logistical skills - all they need was the go-ahead from their paymasters.

Since the day after Boxing Day, I've been watching the TV, breath bated, for an announcement how these superb military and naval assets were to be deployed to save the lives of God-knows how many Asian, European, and Australian survivors who were at that moment probably dying of dehydration or septicaemia somewhere, desperate for help from the air or sea.

Then, Friday the 30th it was announced that a Government-level meeting had been held to look into the 'possibility' of how UK military might be used if and when the UN called upon them to assist! Duh! If it was Blair's son Euan trapped without water on some demolished remote island they wouldn't wait for UN bureaucracy to give them permission to act.

Now, today the 3rd of January, we hear from Jack Straw, Foreigh Secretary, educated here in Brentwood (School) to be a Leader of Men, an announcement that probably 200 Britons are dead, and the government was doing all it can (Blair or not).

When Straw was asked by a reporter "Shouldn't the British military be involved?", his response was:

"The British military are already involved, it was an RAF airplane [sic] which was flying part of UN headquarters in to Banda Aceh overnight, and part of the discussion at the meeting chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister this morning was about deployment of British military assets.

Right then, so "Military" involvement involves acting as a taxi service to some UN officials eh?,,18690-1424796_1,00.html

Great, at this rate, our helicopters will be dropping bottled water to a load of stranded corpses.

The truth is the government hasn't got a clue - it has acted way too late to deal with the emergency phase of this appalling disaster. Their appalling lack of judgement shows just how far our politicians are out of touch with the real world and the views of the common people. God help us if Britain was ever invaded with these idiots in charge. By the time they'd decided to consider settting up a meeting in which to discuss the possibility of mobilising the army.... we'd have been overrun and slaughtered

( at least 1500 US Marines are there now, with medical helicopters and our Australian cousins have got some water purification plants up and running, in their usual "can-do" no-nonsense way. Thank God for the Aussies )