Thursday, December 30, 2004

Donating to the Red Cross for tsunami relief

Instapundit discussed donating to the Red Cross (via Amazon) to get aid to the tsunami victims. He noted that some people are angry with the International Committee of the Red Cross for its public criticism of the Bush administration and its willingness to leak supposedly confidential reports to the press. Instapundit notes that Amazon donations are going to a legally separate organization, the American Red Cross - I understand, however, from reading the American Red Cross site, that the money is going toward the worldwide Red Cross effort, including the ICRC and the federated national Red Cross societies around the world.

Which is how it should be. There are many extremely fast and efficient NGOs engaged in relief work following the tsunami to which one can donate, but no one should hold back from donating directly the Red Cross, whether the American Red Cross relief effort or directly to the ICRC on account of the ICRC's disputes with the Bush administration. The ICRC is at the top of the fastest and most efficient distributors of emergency relief aid on the planet - and in truly large scale relief work and situations of large scale war, it sets the planetary standard. No one can touch it for large scale relief response on an immediate basis. As a human rights worker in the field, I have watched it in action many times - in the Republic of Georgia and Abkhazia, in Central America, in the former Yugoslavia, many places. I am grateful to all those ICRC delegates in the field and all they did for the people there, while still taking time out to talk to me. The Bush administration knows the importance of the ICRC's ability to respond, and for exemplary humanitarian reasons has not allowed its policy disputes with the ICRC interfere with the US government's very substantial financial contributions to the ICRC. The Wall Street Journal editorial page was wrong recently to suggest, here, that the Bush administration should threaten the ICRC, even over altogether wrong behavior by the ICRC, with funding reductions.

I have many disagreements about ICRC policy, interpretations of the laws of war, its behavior with respect to the detainee issues - but none of them touch its work in the field in disaster, especially in armed conflict. There are many fine relief organizations out there, but it matters to have certain ones that have, relatively, huge capacity. The ICRC is that organization, and although I will argue forever with its policies and views on the laws of war, the Red Cross is getting my donation for tsunami victims and there is no reason in the world why it shouldn't get yours.

Update (Friday, December 31, 2004): If you want to get the charitable tax deduction while still contributing to the worldwide Red Cross effort, including the ICRC and the federated Red Cross societies, simply make your contribution through Amazon to the American Red Cross. And you should next estimate what your charitable tax deduction would be, and then contribute it. (I've also made some grammar corrections above.)

1 comment:

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