The US Congress has opened its new session with aid for the victims of Asia’s killer wave the top priority. In the Senate, majority leader Bill Frist called for a moment of silence as a mark of respect. There is broad bipartisan support for increasing the current donation to help survivors, equivalent to 264 million euros. With a pledge of 436 million euros, the EU is currently the biggest donor. Meanwhile Secretary of State Colin Powell has arrived in Indonesia, kicking off a three-day visit to assess US relief efforts in the country worst hit by the disaster. Tomorrow he will attend an international gathering in the capital Jakarta on the humanitarian operation in the region.
“We’re responding because of the human dimensions of this catastrophe,” Powell told reporters. “It turns out that the majority of those nations in fact are Muslim nations. We will be doing it regardless of religion, but I think it does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity.”
America’s image in Asia has been tarnished by the way it is waging its war on terror, the Iraq conflict and its stance on the Middle East peace process.