Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mercy Corps flips bird to the feds

Portland based relief organization Mercy Corps is refusing to participate in a US federal grant program to aid rebuilding in Iraq:

The main hitch is not that Iraq is too dangerous for Mercy Corps, which runs relief and development projects in 41 nations -- including some of the world's scariest places. Rather, Mercy Corps managers say they won't compromise their independence and neutrality by accepting a U.S. AID requirement for relief workers to collaborate with soldiers.

In other words, Mercy Corps doesn't want their workers wearing big assed targets on their back.

Collaboration with the US military puts aid workers in the untenable position of cooperating with those many Iraqis see as their enemy. US soldiers are THE target that Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaida terrorists seek. It makes no sense for Mercy Corps or any other aid organization to put themselves at that kind of risk.

Given the fact that Mercy Corps is considered one of the premier relief agencies in the world, this aspersion at the US grant is fundamental. Our tax dollars can't rightfully go to rebuilding Iraq with the sorts of strings the government is putting on these agencies.

In the grand scheme of things, this funding is very minor: $300 million. The US is spending $100K per minute in Iraq, to lend perspective. It seems implausible that the government would ignore the very valid and important concerns of groups like Mercy Corps--who are the experts at rebuilding and relief.

But this is the Bush Administration, after all. Implausible is just another word for nothing left to lose.