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Published: Friday, 6/25/2010

Price tag on oil-spill aid

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the United States is there. The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on immediate disaster relief and long-term reconstruction to help nations such as Haiti, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Pakistan, and others after natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Most of the time, the aid is free.

Now, the United States is facing a disaster of monumental proportions of its own: an oil spill that threatens birds, fish, shellfish, hundreds of miles of sensitive coastline, and thousands of jobs and businesses.

But instead of aid, the rest of the world is offering to sell America equipment and supplies to contain or clean up the spill.

Even nations that receive millions in U.S. aid are willing to help only if they get paid.

For example, Israel, which receives about $3 billion in military and other aid from the United States each year, says it will provide containment booms, but at a price.

Great Britain - home of BP, owner of the oil-spewing rig - also has offered containment booms, as well as chemical dispersants, but only if the U.S. government is going to pay.

In all, some 22 nations, including Russia, China, France, and Vietnam, have offered help.

Only one - Mexico - offered anything that didn't come with a price tag.

According to the Associated Press, we are victims of our own prosperity. Other nations, especially poor ones, simply assume that the United States can afford to pay for help.

That's true, of course. But it still would have been gratifying if more nations had offered their experts and equipment without a price tag attached to it.

Making the offer would have been a good way of saying thanks for U.S. assistance they have received - even if the American government insisted on picking up the tab anyway.

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