If you’re like me — and thank goodness you’re not — you look at pictures from Iraq and say, I helped make that happen. I mean by helping pay for it, or more accurately, by chipping in on the interest for the big credit-card bill we’re running up to turn the Saddam-ruled wasteland into a wasteland ruled by someone else.
Thanks to my brother John, I see that we all have another government-sponsored opportunity to contribute cash to the effort of building the new Iraq. It’s a new Web effort from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) called Iraqpartnership.org. USAID has partnered with a celebrated and well supported online philanthropy outfit called GlobalGiving to allow Americans to give money directly to Iraqi redevelopment needs: water pumps for farmers, desks and blackboards for classrooms and the like.
You know — this should be a good thing. If nothing else, checking out the USAID site on Iraq actually does give an alternative view of what our awesome national resources might be used for. Of course, it also makes you wonder about our schizophrenic feelings about Saddam-land. It’s not so long ago that we loved the Iraqi people so much that the only way we could find to express our emotions was through a decade-plus embargo that managed to enrich their unappointed tyrant and his cronies while inflicting a sort of collective punishment on the population. But that’s all water over the dam, which I think has been blown up, anyway.
Iraqpartnership.org launched at a rather unfortunate moment — just after Hurricane Katrina, when governments at all levels were proving they were incapable of taking care of people in Louisiana and Mississippi, let alone along the Tigris and Euphrates. Americans were called on to step up and give whatever they could to storm relief. Maybe that accounts for the news that in its first two or three weeks, the Iraqpartnership campaign raised all of $600. That’s the claim published Sunday by the British paper The Guardian, which noted that the amount raised was roughly equivalent to what it would take to buy a couple of iPods.
So, put together this $600 in citizen money to help Iraq and combine it with the 400 people who showed up the for the pro-war protest in Washington the other day. What do you have? I’m not sure, but I think it would be pretty hard to spin it as an American public willing to “bear any burden, meet any sacrifice” to sort out the hornet’s nest we’ve stirred up, Times have changed. We will be back before it’s over over there.
Even the USAID flack quoted by The Guardian doesn’t sound like she’s got her heart in the thing: “USAID’s Heather Layman denied it was disappointed with the meagre sum raised after a fortnight. ‘Every little helps,’ she said.”