The Invisible Deluge in Pakistan (Cole in Tomdispatch)

My essay on the strange near-invisibility of the world-historical Great Deluge in Pakistan during the past month is out at (click here).


‘ Today, almost six million Pakistanis are still homeless, and many have not so much as received tents for shelter. In large swaths of the country, roads, bridges, crops, power plants — everything that matters to the economy — were inundated and damaged or simply swept away. Even if the money proves to be available for repairs (and that remains an open question), it will take years to rebuild what was lost and, for many among those millions, the future will mean nothing but immiseration, illness, and death.

In the United States, the contrast with the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the Haitian earthquake in January and the consequent outpouring of public donations was palpable. Not only has the United Nations’ plea for $460 million in aid to cover the first three months of flood response still not been met, but in the past week donations seem to have dried up. The U.S. government pledged $200 million (some diverted from an already planned aid program for Pakistan) and provided helicopter gunships to rescue cut-off refugees or ferry aid to them.

What of American civil society? No rock concerts were organized to help Pakistani children sleeping on highways or in open fields infested with vermin. No sports events offered receipts to aid victims at risk from cholera and other diseases. It was as if the great Pakistani deluge were happening in another dimension, beyond the ken of Americans. ‘

I also did an iPod voice interview, which can be downloaded on the web here or from iTunes at this site.

Read the whole thing.

For more background see the Pakistan chapter in my Engaging the Muslim World, a revised edition of which is out in paperback shortly.

And, please donate to help the flood victims via Oxfam.

Posted in Pakistan | 10 Responses | Print |

10 Responses

  1. Imagine if the suffering that has taken place from these floods got half as much MSM coverage as this hateful preecher man hiding behind “doves” is getting for fueling the fires of hatred.

    Just do not understand this sort of silence on the suffering in Pakistan

  2. If a tree falls in the woods and the capitalist, corporate media doesn”t cover it because it won’t attract viewers, advertising revenue and profit, it doesn’t make a sound.

  3. Perhaps the hypocrisy of USA groups organizing aid for a county which is currently being demonized and bombed by their own government would just be too much….or put more simply maybe Americans don’t want to waste their money on saving people their tax dollars are going to be spent on killing anyway.

  4. Thank you Prof. Cole for speaking out on this issue. Yours seems to be one of few voices raising awareness about this unfolding tragedy, of which we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far.

  5. IMF is just now ordering Pakistan to up sales tax and kill energy price subsidies in order to get some money. IMF behaves like a gangster against put down victim, so charity is by any means enough to save poor Pakistanis. USA has a decisive vote in IMF, but is not going to use it to help, but to made Pakistan more multinational business friendly, while Pakistanis are starved and ill.

  6. link to

    September 10, 2010

    U.S. Carries Out Four More Drone Strikes in Pakistan
    By Amy Goodman

    In Pakistan, the U.S. has carried out at least four drone strikes in the past two days in what has been one of the most intense barrage of drone attacks since President Obama took office. All of the strikes targeted sites in the North Waziristan region.

  7. Why is Pakistan different than Haiti?

    Is our charity only extended to those who might otherwise wash up on Florida shores and become a tax burden? Pragmatic of us, but hardly noble, and our aid to Haiti won’t begin to solve its systemic problems anyway.

    Do we subconsciously feel that Pakistanis deserve to suffer for defying us? Americans are at that dangerous point where they’ve heard just enough about a country to recognize that some of its people and institutions are defiant, but they haven’t learned nearly enough to understand the context of that defiance.

    Or is it maybe that we sense Pakistan really is too big to deal with? A nuclear-armed, semi-Islamist army on top, highly corrupt and parochial political parties in between, a vast sea of terribly poor people below, meaning we can’t easily coerce them, or cheaply bribe them, or use our media power to appoint a white knight to make democracy suddenly work the way we want it to.

    Here’s the test; if we were polled on having the option of the status quo of poking and prodding overwhelmed Pakistani leaders, and just getting out of the region and dumping Pakistan in the laps of Beijing and Moscow and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, how would we vote?

  8. Juan, I think the reasons for the International Community slow walking aid to Pakistan are fairly clear. A few months back, Transparency International released the results of their audits of Earthquake Aid to Pakistan, indicating that a minimum of 60% of donations had been misdirected or just ripped off. Didn’t get lots of press in the US, but Western European, particularly Scandinavian Press carried the audits heavily, and I think it is reflected in low donations. The annual international rock festival in Roskilde in Denmark raised a little over 100,000 dollars, but for other causes in other years it has raised ten times this.

    Followed a Canadian-Pakistani medical professional blog for several weeks at the beginning of the floods, and eventually they decided to send a personal representative with funds and supplies, after complex arrangements with medical professional friends in Pakistan who agreed to personally oversee the distribution and use of what was sent. There was just a total lack of personal trust in virtually all the normal charitable avenues available to Pakistani’s in the Canadian diaspora.

    I think somehow you have to address BOTH problems — the needs which are huge, and will remain so, and the desire of donor’s to not again be played the fool.

  9. Hell, the US hasn’t even been willing to stop pumping CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — which is the ultimate *cause* of the flooding in Pakistan.

    Why haven’t we done anything about that?

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