One of the first big news stories I blogged about was last December's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and the ensuing relief efforts.
The outpouring of aid from many nations was impressive, but in the days immediately after the tsunami hit, it was the U.S. military that played the most important role in getting relief and assistance to people who urgently needed it.
As the Associated Press reported on January 3:
A massive American military relief operation picked up steam on Monday with U.S. helicopters dropping off cartons of food aid in Sumatra and U.S. warships with 2,200 Marines arriving in the Malacca Straits to begin ferrying supplies to the tsunami-battered island.At the time, some people thought America's actions might improve our standing in the Muslim world. John P. Howe, III, the CEO of aid group Project HOPE, wrote:
...On Monday, the USS Bonhomme Richard and two other warships carrying a Marine expeditionary unit, dozens of helicopters and tons of supplies steamed into the Indian Ocean to join in relief operations off the hard-hit northwest coast of Sumatra.
...The ships are part of one of the largest U.S. military missions in Asia since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its battle group are operating off northern Sumatra, the hardest hit area, and U.S. airlift operations are being flown out of Utapao, a base in Thailand used to stage bombing missions in the Vietnam era.
Today, a U.S. Navy ship sits off the coast of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country with 240 million people. The ship Mercy doesn't bristle with armaments it is alive with compassion. It serves as a floating hospital, with nearly 100 American civilian doctors and nurses onboard recruited by Project HOPE. All of them are volunteering their time to help care for the victims of the tsunami.But if Muslim goodwill toward the U.S. ever materialized as a result of the tsunami relief efforts, it is certainly gone now. A single false report of a desecrated Koran was all it took. Americans delivered thousands of tons of aid, and saved thousands of lives, but in the end, it counted for nothing. Or at least not enough to forestall violent riots and cries for a holy war against the United States.
...Through a mission like this, we are saving lives, repairing families, and restoring the capacity of local medical providers to care for their fellow citizens. Equally important, we are showing the wary people of this region that Americans are thoughtful and caring.
When the next disaster strikes a Muslim nation, Americans will undoubtedly once again provide assistance, as we always do. But we should do so with the knowledge that our good deeds must be their own reward, for we shall receive no other.