On my facebook news feed today, one of my friends has posted a message on their wall, essentially saying the UK government has pledged £60 million in aid to Pakistan, when we have soldiers with poor equipment; and that shouldn’t be the case. Checking comments left at the bottom of news articles online, this seems to be a recurring theme.
I’ve been carrying around a postcard I bought in an Oxfam shop for about a year, which reads the following:
So armed with these two snippets of information, I thought I’d do a bit of research. It was easier to find out how much the UK military spends than I expected: it’s posted on the website. Basically the UK military budget is £36.9 billion in 2010/11. On top of that the Treasury Reserve has given £9.5 billion since 2001, to cover operational costs. The UK has the second highest military spending in the world, behind the USA.
The UK takes approximately 1.5 days to spend £60 million in the military.
It’s no secret that I’m a pacifist and that I believe the wars we’re currently fighting are not for the purposes we’re being told. But even if you’re pro-war, there’s no denying that the money being donated to Pakistan is small fry to the military.
It also doesn’t take much to consider the strategic angle. Pakistan was already a terrorist concern, especially with it’s proximity to Afghanistan and the war. Extremists have been using this as a way to recruit terrorists for years, and now a terror group is providing aid, competing against countries such as the UK and USA, no doubt with the aim of spreading their propaganda. It is only natural for the UK and USA to then increase their efforts: what message would it send otherwise? That we don’t give a damn, which will fuel the propaganda. And finally, just about all aid these days is conditional: it has to be spent on specified things, and sometimes using specified suppliers. The perfect opportunity for the UK government to ‘encourage’ Pakistan to use UK businesses in the reconstruction effort.
And last but not least, 17 million people have been affected by this disaster: losing everything they have. So far only about 1200 people are known to have died, but this figure will rise due to disease and those that just haven’t been found yet. We have an obligation to help if we claim to care about humanity at all.