I noted with interest and continued despair that the BBC chose to speak of "unremitting bad news" on its main TV news at one o’clock. It then announced that two Indian destroyers had been able to dock in Sri Lanka, and HMS Chatham had reached the area, with two Lynx helicopters.
In a token gesture, it then interviewed a US Marine Captain from an American "advance party", giving him thirty seconds to explain what the Marines would do, without mentioning what was coming behind the advance party – like USS Bonhomme Richard, with its 29 (including heavy-lift) helicopters, landing craft, water-making equipment, medical facilities, etc., etc.
Once again, it was the UN which got the lions’ share of attention, this time a puff for UNICEF and its activities in tracking down orphans, or something.
Useful, therefore, was a piece by Mark Steyn in today's Telegraph headed "American stinginess is saving lives" in which he takes on "the need to fit everything to the Great Universal Theory of the age", that whatever happens, "the real issue is the rottenness of America".
He takes to task (rightly) Jan "Humperdink" Egeland, the Norwegian bureaucrat, whom Steyn describes as "the big humanitarian honcho at the UN" and takes a swipe at Clare Short, Polly Toynbee, the Norwegians and Irish and even a Telegraph reader.
Writes Steyn "…the actual relief effort going on right now is being done by the Yanks: it's the USAF and a couple of diverted naval groups shuttling in food and medicine, with solid help from the Aussies, Singapore and a couple of others. The Irish can't fly in relief supplies, because they don't have any C-130s. All they can do is wait for the UN to swing by and pick up their cheque."
Crucially, he also picks up Kofi Annan, who has decided that the Aussie-American "coalition of the willing" is, in fact, a UN operation. "The core group will support the UN effort," Annan has said. "That group will be in support of the efforts that the UN is leading." Thus,
…American personnel in American planes and American ships will deliver American food and American medicine and implement an American relief plan, but it's still a "UN-led effort". That seems to be enough for Kofi. His "moral authority" is intact, and Guardian columnists and Telegraph readers can still bash the Yanks for their stinginess. Everybody's happy.This is not the best piece Steyn has written – in fact it is slightly plodding – but it is a welcome attempt to redress the balance.
For really up-to-date stuff, though, don’t forget to look at the Diplomad Blog. Today's postings are corkers – and you won't get them on the BBC.