Food, foreign affairs best out of politics

Many years ago, I looked at a map in the window of a Trans World Airlines office in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka now), and realized this small town guy was halfway around the globe from home in Central Illinois. Colombo came to mind this week while writing an editorial on the upcoming third Pack-A-Thon of Feed the Hunger. Sri Lanka is one of the places low-cost meals will go to feed at-risk children after the Pack-A-Thon Oct. 11-13. The goal is 200,000 packets of food, which will be combined with packets from a similar event in another area and shipped to Bangladesh, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

I’m getting ahead of my story. In the late 1950s, I was in the Navy, on the USS Princeton (CVS-37), an anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier. From our assignment in the South China Sea, the Princeton was dispatched on a special mission to deliver flood relief supplies to northern Ceylon. We went to Singapore and anchored in the harbor for loading of boxes of whatever. I saw the pallets of boxes on the hanger deck and don’t remember exactly what they contained or if the contents were marked. I do remember vividly that all the boxes I saw were marked with an American flag, and I remember the sense of goodwill that I felt in having a tiny part in my country doing a good deed.

Helicopters from the Princeton flew the supplies to the flood-stricken areas of northern Ceylon and after the mission, the Princeton visited Colombo, which is how I came to be standing in front of that TWA window. I know the pilots and crew members did not inquire about the religious faith of the people receiving the boxes with the U.S. flag. Neither are the folks from more than 30 local churches, businesses and civic groups concerned about the religion of the parents of the children who will eat the meals bagged, weighed, sealed and boxed in the Pack-A-Thon. The good people participating in the Pack-A-Thon care enough about feeding children that they pay $65 – the cost of the meals for a child for an entire school year – 240 servings according to Feed the Hunger.

In the wake of anti-U.S. actions – including the deaths of our ambassador to Libya and three others – in Islamic countries, there have been calls to stop aid. What? We take food away from children because we are rightfully angry at what some extremists are doing? Such calls are short-sighted and it was appropriate for Sen. Lindsey Graham to take the Senate floor to urge continued aid to Libya and Egypt. The Associated Press (Zeina Karam) reports the protests are in protest of “an anti-Islam video that has unleashed deadly violence and anger at the United States across the Muslim world.” It is really important for Americans to recognize that the violence is by extremists.

Many leaders of Islam are calling for peaceful protests. The former Lebanese president was critical of the militant Hezbollah group’s call for continued protest against the video, titled “Innocence of Muslims” reportedly made privately in the United States. In Libya, immediately after the deadly attack on our consulate, people in the streets carried signs protesting the violence and proclaiming friendship for America.

Graham jumped in on Republican attacks on President Obama, saying he had allowed a serious breach of security that allowed the deaths at the consulate in Benghazi. The president said he was stepping up security, a natural and prudent thing to do, but not necessarily meaning there was a serious security breach. Security had been a bit more relaxed in some places, starting in the George W. Bush administration, as U.S. diplomats went into areas they had not been previously.

Attacking the incumbent president on specific dangerous foreign affairs situations is new for presidential election campaigns and such attacks on handling of specific overseas matters means presidential politics has slipped another notch lower. Specific foreign matters, like food, is better left out of politics.

D.G. Schumacher is a member of The Sun News Editorial Board. Contact him at dschumacher@thesunnews.com