American priorities

The total cost of our air campaign against ISIS exceeded a cool billion dollars as of October, but the U.N.’s Word Food Program can’t afford to keep feeding Syrian war refugees because it’s short $64 million:

A funding crisis has forced the World Food Program to suspend assistance to 1.7 million Syrian refugees, the U.N. agency announced Monday, warning that “many families will go hungry” without the aid.

The program, which provides electronic vouchers for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt to buy food at local stores, faces a $64 million shortfall, the agency said, attributing the problem to “unfulfilled” donor commitments.

At The Intercept, Murtaza Hussain wonders if our “humanitarian” Syrian intervention is ever going to get around to, you know, helping any Syrian humans, and at this point I’d say it’s fair to answer, “not really, no.” We’re in Syria to bomb ISIS; we’re not interested in feeding refugees. Heck, we’re not even interested in trying to remove Bashar al-Assad from power anymore, and while I’m not arguing that we should be trying to do that, it’s impossible to argue that ISIS has been a bigger humanitarian threat to Syrians than Assad has. If this were really a “humanitarian” intervention, we’d be targeting the wrong group.

Hussain has a pretty good breakdown of how that $64 million looks compared to what we’re paying per Tomahawk strike or for every sortie our planes fly, but you don’t really need the comparison because we’re only talking about $64 million. The federal government probably keeps that much money in the petty cash jar on Jack Lew’s desk. It’s not a question of the U.S. not having the money to help these refugees or having to reprioritize its budget to help them. No, we apparently just don’t care to help them.

Shorter U.S. government: "Wow, there must be a lot of starving refugees living in that camp. Sure hope somebody helps them out." (via)
Shorter U.S. government: “Wow, there must be a lot of starving refugees living in that camp. Sure hope somebody helps them out.” (via)

Aside from the sort of unbelievably callous decision-making processes that underlie a decision to rain bombs on a country while watching its civilian population go hungry, we should also consider what this kind of thing does to America’s image around the world. We have a tendency in DC to assume that people in other parts of the world aren’t sophisticated enough to separate America’s words from its actions, but that’s arrogance. People hear our rhetoric on protecting civilians, on helping refugees, but then they watch as we pursue policies that ignore the needs of those civilians and create more of those refugees. They watch us bombing ISIS while ignoring the WFP’s budget shortfall, and they understand what our priorities really are.

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