Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

White House briefing outlining the measures America will take to protect and aid the people of Iraq should hostilities begin.

At the start of any conflict, the U.S. military may be needed to "facilitate early secure access" to areas so that civilian relief agencies can fulfill their humanitarian mandates, Abrams said.

"There will probably be circumstances where there is no U.N. agency or NGO or civilian capability of any kind at a very early moment if conflict happens, he said, and there, "the military may be actually required to provide limited relief because there's no alternative."

Abrams said even before any war, the humanitarian situation in Iraq is precarious due to the international sanctions imposed more than a decade ago after the Gulf War, with 60 percent of Iraqis completely dependent on food rations. An estimated 750,000 refugees already have fled Iraq and 800,000 have been displaced from their homes but are still in the country, he said.

Speaking along with Abrams were officials from the Defense Department, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Andrew Natsios, administrator of USAID, said "we're planning for about 2 million internally displaced people and refugees," and "contingency planning is what this is all about."

The U.S. government, he said, is training a 60-person civilian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that would enter liberated areas of Iraq in coordination with military forces to assess humanitarian needs and coordinate U.S. government relief actions with international organizations and NGOs.

"(T)here has been massive pre-positioning of supplies already in the region, in four different countries, in large warehouses that we've rented," Natsios said, and there have been "extensive conversations, extensive coordination" with relief organizations.

Natsios said $26.6 million has already been spent on prepositioning of supplies and "another $52 million is in the procurement system right now being spent."

"(W)hat we tend to do in the disaster business is plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "Very few disasters -- and I've been involved in dozens of them over the last 14 years -- have ever come out to be the worst case scenario."

< email | 2/25/2003 05:08:00 PM | link

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