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Sky isn't falling

August 26, 2008

Re "Targeted by the Taliban," Opinion, Aug. 21

Michael Kleinman's take on relief workers' neutrality seems oddly cynical for somebody interested in humanitarianism. Contrary to his assertion, no reasonable person disputes that agents of Western aid are political actors in politically volatile places. Aid agencies may assume that they're neutral, but they do so at their peril; the communities with whom they work and "rebel and insurgent groups" never do.

Neutrality notwithstanding, more aid workers have been killed since the end of the Cold War because there are more untrained, ill-prepared aid workers. Aid worker deaths get more attention because of the electronic media, which relief organizations exploit.

Sadly, Kleinman engages in the relief business' stock and trade: crying the sky is falling with little analysis of what ends up on the ground. Why? Perhaps because it generates sympathy, and sympathy generates donations.

There's nothing neutral about using the lamentable deaths of aid workers to panhandle.

Martin Zogg

Altadena

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