The recent tsunamis in the Asian Ocean area have shown a sort of American othering of the people affected. 1) "Many could have been saved": With this statement comes the obvious: had they had televisions, cellular phones, weather-measuring technology--had they been prepared--more would have lived. Is such a hypothetical justified. I read an AP article that said that none had to die. That sounds unlikely. What about the people taking naps?
2) "Thailand is a popular tourist spot": And I am sure that it is. I can only imagine the outpouring of love and cash had many Americans--preferably red-blooded, non-journalist 'Mericans--been affected by the tsunami.
3) President Bush offers condolensces and money: Yes, but those affected aren't ultimately "like us." This was a perfunctory gesture.
We don't know the difference between Iraq and Iran. There is at the base of the American conception of the foreign Other a lack of imagination--we cannot imagine the subjectivity of impoverished, tsunami-bashed Asians; we automatically think that removing Saddam Hussein was a good idea and that the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators (w/ flowers--in a cakewalk). After all, we'd hate it if we had to deal with a dictator like that, doesn't what we feel apply to everybody?
Perhaps the problem is that the Bush media campaign essentially humanized, Americanized the Other (Iraqis) while that designation had no relation to the facts on the ground (i.e. religious tensions, imperialist history). What the tsunami shows is that those that have no relation to us (economically--the Iraqis have oil and so does their region, as well as nearness to Israel) have no imaginative relation in us. Weirdly, the Middle Eastern Other is imaginable, the devastated Indian Ocean-area people unimaginable.
And: God bless the USA.