While tooling around today, listening to The Diane Rehm Show, I heard an interesting point made by Norman Ornstein. He said that one question which people in tsunami-ravaged Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country, and those in all other Islamic nations should consider is this: What help is Osama bin Laden and his band of terrorist thugs providing to the Muslims of Indonesia?
Perhaps the official US government response to the tsunami disasters was slow. But a response has come. While its commitment of $350-million was not immediate and is second to that of Japan's government, which has ponied up $500-million, the official US response is not insignificant.
And the private contributions of Americans, Britons and other Europeans, Canadians, and others have been extraordinary!
Osama and crew haven't emerged from their hiding places to express compassion and concern for the pain of their fellow Muslims. They haven't sent any of their stores of cash either.
Yet bin Laden's statement of a few months ago, the one in which he sat at a desk, a plain backdrop behind him, clutching his speech as though he were the President in the Oval Office, indicates that he views himself as a world statesman, as a landless equivalent of a chief of state or head of government. His non-response to this tragedy in the world's largest Islamic nation puts the lie to that pretense.
As if to underscore Ornstein's point, a Palestinian-American telephoned Rehm's show to say that the US is the most generous country he has experienced.
He also wondered where the financial support for relief efforts that he expected to come from the oil-and-cash-rich Gulf States might be.
He further expressed the hope that President Bush and the US government would become actively engaged in the Middle East peace process and not remain bystanders.
Are Americans selfish and stingy? We can be, of course. I'm alarmed by the seeming decrease in charitable giving over the past few years.
Could the US government have responded more quickly to the tsunami tragedies? Probably, although I think that the President has been subjected to far more criticism than was warranted. The scope of the tragedies was not immediately present, nor was it known what infrastructures were needed.
But a response is coming from both the US government and from ordinary Americans as we well as from compassionate people around the globe.
That response says simply, "We don't care what your religion or your skin color or your nationality may be. We share this planet together. We share our griefs and our joys. Just as certainly as that French headline proclaimed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that, 'We Are All Americans,' today we are all Indonesians, all Indians, all Filipinos, all brothers and sisters, and we are going to help the victims rebuild their shattered lives!"
I doubt that Osama would make such an all-inclusive statement. After all, he hasn't even bothered to say anything or throw a few crumbs at the Muslim brothers and sisters whose interests he claims to represent.