Contrast this slow penny-pinching response with the rush to give ‘humanitarian assistance’ to the population of Kosovo last spring. Although the repression of the Kosovans had been going on for some time under the eyes of the great powers, it was not until NATO decided to intervene in the situation that billions were spent that billions were spent - on reducing Serbia’s infrastructure to rubble. The war in Kosovo created a humanitarian disaster, forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee the NATO bombing and resulting offensive and ethnic cleansing by the Serbian army. When it comes to spending money on war the bourgeoisie has no problems at all.
This was true with regards to Mozambique during its civil war which ended in 1992. The major imperialist powers backed one side or other, FRELIMO or RENAMO, in a vicious conflict that left many thousands dead. In an dark reminder of this war, the floods have churned up old minefields and scattered them across the land, creating further dangers for the flood victims when they come to rebuild their shattered lives.
During the last decade the number of wars in Africa has continued to grow. The war in the Congo is a stark example. Zimbabwe has sent 11,000 troops to prop up the Kabila regime even though its own economy faces collapse. "Inflation at over 60% hurts everybody...70% of the population are deemed to be living in dire poverty. The country is in the grip of a two-month fuel shortage [while] large quantities of Zimbabwe’s scarce fuel are going to the war in Congo..." (The Economist, 19/2/00). The country is on the verge of bankruptcy, i on the verge of bankruptcy, importing only what it can pay for in cash..
The floods that have hit Mozambique have affected its neighbour Zimbabwe as well. The Zimbabwe Air force allocated 3 helicopters to rescue flood victims while "Most of the 24 serviceable air force helicopters are on military service in the Congo" (Times, 1/3/00). The physical damage caused by the floods will inevitably further shatter the economy as well.
And let us not forget how the Blair government quietly decided to honour its agreement to supply Zimbabwe with the attack helicopters it requires to carry on with its intervention in Congo. This is no isolated breech of New Labour’s ‘ethical’ principles, because Labour’s ethics are precisely those of imperialism. Even ‘humanitarian’ and ‘development’ aid serves imperialist purposes, as shown by Clare Short, international development secretary, who invited Uganda, Rwanda, Colombia and Indonesia, among others, to a conference to review military spending: "Ms Short insists that her department will not necessarily be reducing the size of poorer nations’ armies. In the past she admits, ‘military expenditure was seen as bad ... something to be cut ruthlessly, without regard for the very real securgard for the very real security threats that countries might face.’" (The Guardian, 17.2.00).
What this boils down to is that as far as capitalism is concerned, the proper use of helicopters is not to save flood victims, but to defend your country’s ‘security’, ie, its ability to compete in the imperialist free for all.