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January 3, 2005
US Helicopters Bring Hope, But Children Increasingly At Risk

US helicopters flew missions into Aceh yesterday, airlifting the badly wounded they found and distributing crucial water and food supplies to the survivors they found in the tsunami-devastated region:

U.S. helicopters shuttled the injured and the homeless, many of them children, out of some of the worst-hit parts of tsunami-devastated Aceh province on Monday, as reports surfaced of trafficking in orphans from the disaster.

Pilots skimmed low over flattened villages and jungles on the west coast of Sumatra island looking for signs of life, touching down briefly to collect the badly injured and fling out packages of food and water.

"They were ecstatic as we flew in. They were blowing us kisses. I think they were really amazed to see us, although some of the children seemed a bit spooked," U.S. Seahawk pilot Lt. Cmdr. Joel Moss told Reuters after his second mission.

"Yesterday was the best day of flying ever in my career. My mission is normally combat and search and rescue. We are picking up people, giving out food. I could do this for a year. None of us wants to go home."

The children aren't just spooked, according to this same Reuters report. They're being victimized in the aftermath of the tsunami, although no specifics are given:

Indonesian officials said meanwhile that they had launched an investigation into unconfirmed reports of child trafficking in the wake of the disaster that wiped whole towns off the map.

"We cannot say that it has happened, because at the moment it is a chaotic situation. However, the ministry will investigate as we cannot tolerate such a thing," said Makmur Sunusi, a social ministry official.

Earlier reports talked about newly-childless parents adopting orphaned children ad hoc in order to ease the grief suffered by all. However, this sounds like a more exploitative situation, such as black-market adoption sales or something more abusive. Unfortunately, with the destruction wrought by the tidal waves, the local governments have collapsed and until they can be reconstituted or martial law effectively imposed, the Indonesians may not be able to stop it.

This demonstrates the wisdom of Bush's quick action to dispatch several thousand American servicepeople and the transport facilities of two carrier groups to the Indian Ocean. What's needed is fast action, not a lot of on-screen emoting. We cannot allow Sumatra and Indonesian society to descend into complete collapse, as what will replace the democratic structure likely won't be very pretty for the West.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 3, 2005 6:15 AM

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Tracked on January 3, 2005 8:45 AM

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