April 21, 2004

Some positive news for a change

If you're not aware of the Spirit of America effort by now, you should definitely check it out. SoA is becoming a major voice of American civilians who want to help with the effort on the ground in Iraq.

I participated a couple of months ago in SoA's program to provide toys for Marines to hand out to Iraqi children as they took over responsibility for the Sunni triangle from the 82nd Airborne division. I thought this was an important effort to win the favor and loyalty of the local population, to give the Marines a real opportunity to dispel much of the lies shown daily about the viciousness of our troops on al-Jazeera and the like. I thought also that, with first impressions being lasting impressions, the transfer of responsibility was the ideal time to do it. So I sent a gift to SoA late last year and I've received regular updates from them on what they've done with the money, and how the program is progressing.

I find the amount of information I have received (and continue to receive) about my donation and the response of the Marines on the ground who are using the goods purchased with my donation to be refreshing, to say the least. I'd like to give a great big hat tip to Jim Hake, who organized and runs Spirit of America. And the Wall Street Journal has done the same, twice now, with a Daniel Henner WonderLand piece last Friday, and an editorial piece today acknowledging that since that Friday article, SoA has received donations of more than $700,000 to fund their initial $100,000 request to buy equipment to fund Iraqi TV stations.

This business of funding Iraqi TV stations is fantastically important, partly for the same idea that distributing toys to kids was--an opportunity to interact positively with local Iraqis in a part of the country not yet persuaded that we are there in friendship. But, doubly, the funding of TV stations gives those same Iraqis who our Marines are helping not only an opportunity to see that our troops are there to help, but a voice to share that finding with other Iraqis who haven't yet discov ered that there is no better friend than a US Marine. And it's important to note that the programs funded by SoA donors are to satisfy specific requests for donated goods initiated by Marine commanders in Iraq, not just Mr Hake's idea of what they might want.

I was glad to see that SoA has some good policies in place for this sort of thing:

We are a 501c3 nonprofit and your donation is tax deductible. 100% of all donations for this request, net of credit card processing fees (approx. 3%), will be used for the purchase and shipping of goods requested by the 1st Marine Division. Spirit of America does not deduct any fees for overhead or administration. None. Those expenses are funded separately. Any funds donated in excess of those needed to buy the requested goods will be used to support expansion of this request or to directly support other requests made by Americans serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So the extra $600,000 in receipts beyond the initial request will be used to accelerate procurement of equipment and generally expand the program. And there are other important projects SoA is participating in right now too: an effort to provide tools as a gift to Iraqis after teaching them a trade, and an Army Special Forces effort to provide basic needs like shoes and clothing and tools for remote Afghan villagers.

Spirit of America is filling a unique need in assisting soldiers and Marines on the ground with reconstruction projects, which are tremendously helpful to the local population and which may ultimately result in fewer of our men being shot at. It's an important effort, and from what I've seen it's a great organization. Check them out and consider lending a hand.

JK Saggese.

Posted by JKS at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2004

Not quite dark yet

Yosa Buson

Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
above the withered fields.

Posted by JKS at 03:13 PM | Comments (4)