IRAQI RELIEF SCANDAL

Jonathan Foreman sees a marked contrast between the soldiers and the international relief workers in Baghdad:

THEY come from all over the world. Their supposed mission is to help the people of Iraq. Their concerned frowns and even their clothes all proclaim the message: “We’re the good, caring people . . . and you’re not.”

But if actions speak louder than words, then many of the international charitable organizations called NGOs (non-governmental organizations) here are less interested in doing good works than in moral posturing and haranguing the army that won a war most of them opposed.

Ask any soldier who patrols this city, and you’ll hear the same thing: The NGOs have been here for weeks, but they’re not out in the streets. They cite “security concerns” – though journalists and soldiers alike move around the city, using common sense and taking precautions.

While acknowledging some problems with the military bureaucracy and some legitimate conerns on the part of the NGOs, his overall impression of the latter is not flattering:

The NGO folk come in various types. There are the churchy-hippie guys, like the bearded, earringed representative from Christian Peacemaker Teams. There are the sullen Frenchmen in linen shirts. There are the pretty, privileged-looking girls in clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in the streets of SoHo.

WHAT they all seem to have in common is opposition to “George Bush’s war” – and a desire, conscious or not, to justify that stance retroactively by finding fault with the American regime here.

They are entitled to their opinion. But the Iraqi people need help, regardless of whether that help comes from people in camouflage uniforms riding in dusty Humvees, or from elegant men in ponytails driving gleaming SUVs.

It is fascinating to see how much more morally serious the people in the Humvees seem to be – and how much readier the people in the SUVs are to despise the Army than to effectively better the lot of the Iraqis.

While I’m sure Foreman overstates his case, it does not surprise me that there is an attitudinal gulf between soldiers drawn primarily from lower middle class conservative backgrounds and the children of privilege who dominate the NGOs.

(Hat Tip: Kathy Kinsley)

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.