Aid organizations criticize humanitarian part of Afghanistan missions
"This is cheap and disgusting," an unnamed aid official tells the Financial Times. "By all means use military propaganda when a war is going on, but don't get it mixed up with humanitarianism." Several other organizations are also complaining about the more than 74,000 food packages dropped from C-17 transports during the first two nights of attacks on Afghanistan. (Here's the menu.)

"What sense is there in shooting with one hand and distributing medicines with the other?" asks a spokesman for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). "How will the Afghan population know in the future if an offer of humanitarian aid does not hide a military operation?" Oxfam calls the drops "confused and almost completely unprepared," while a Christian Aid spokesman says the food drops "are serving as a propaganda ploy rather than a way to get aid to Afghans who really need help."

Similar arguments appear in today's Washington Post. The food packages "can fall on people, they can cause hungry people to trample over one another when they land, and they can fall into the wrong hands," says Peter Bell, president of CARE USA.

But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is defending the airdrops. "It is quite true that 37,000 rations in a day do not feed millions of human beings," he said at a press conference yesterday. "On the other hand, if you were one of the starving people who got one of the rations, you'd be appreciative." Rumsfeld also reminded reporters that President Bush has announced a $320 million humanitarian program for food and medicine.

"Nothing but preaching Christianity"
Speaking of Afghanistan aid, the brother of one of the Shelter Now workers being held hostage in Kabul says the Australian prime minister just made things worse. "We can't have a situation where the safety and the treatment of people who are doing nothing but preaching Christianity are put under threat in the way that the Taliban have done in relation to these people," Prime Minister John Howard said in a radio interview yesterday defending Australian workers Diana Thomas and Peter Bunch. But saying the aid workers were doing "nothing but preaching Christianity" actually helps the Taliban, says Diana Thomas's brother, Thomas. "We still say that she wasn't preaching Christianity," he said. "She is very conversant in their customs and their laws, and she would never do anything like that." Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is defending Howard's comments: "There's no question that they are Christian aid workers." Indeed, if they were just preaching Christianity, would that make the Taliban's holding them hostage okay?

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