Thomas Sadoski
11 min readApr 3, 2024

“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all..”

-George Washington, Farewell Address. Philadelphia, PA, September 19, 1796.

“Um, we shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid. It — it should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.”

-Rep. Tim Walberg, R- MI5 & Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Town Hall meeting. Dundee, MI, March 25, 2024.

“George Washington”, Artwork by Woody Guthrie, © Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.

Within a few days of not eating, the human body begins to feed on itself. Very quickly you lose the capacity to regulate temperature. I saw this a lot in northern Yemen through my work with War Child Canada/USA, children bundled in winter clothes and blankets, near hypothermic in sweltering heat. Kidney function begins to fail early on, especially if there is little access to clean water, which in conflict regions and states of near famine there usually isn’t. The immune system collapses horribly and quickly; diarrhea, deep internal pain, constant headache and additional miseries set in. Essential needs take priority, so in the next phase the system stops providing nutrients to vital organs. Brain fog begins, internal and external sex organs shrink, mood and movement are thrashed. If no sustained nutrition is found the body then begins to consume protein from anywhere it can get it, all muscles — including the heart — become fuel for the furnace and all hell breaks loose. Emaciated bodies, wracked with cough have a very particular rattle. Hallucinations, convulsions, the inability to create tears, even the inability to emote add to a terminal dissonance that ends in a final lethargy, a soul evacuation and vacancy in the eyes that is, I can say from first hand experience in southern Yemen, terrifying and heartbreaking beyond any possible explanation. At this point death is a blessing. The agony of living is unfathomable.

This process takes between 21 and 40 days, depending on many factors, not least of which are state of health and age. I have held the hands of children who would not survive the night. I have sat with their equally emaciated parents in a hallowed and horrible vigil as the shredded remnants of woven polypropylene UN rice sacks held off some of the hot, blowing dust and detritus around us.

My time spent in Beirut with the charity INARA and the eminent Palestinian-British surgeon Doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah provided me a brief glimpse of the shock-horror of treating war wounded children: incomprehensibly twisted victims of large caliber munitions, tiny bodies peppered and lacerated throughout with shrapnel and debris, the seeping aftermath of field amputations sometimes done without the benefit of anesthetic and the catastrophic consequences of explosives — both in terms of primary trauma (shockwave and blast wounds) and quaternary trauma (burns and chemical exposure). Few of these injuries are reparable in even a handful of subsequent surgeries and the physical and emotional suffering these children endure is completely shattering. The stigma alone keeps most out of school, in aching isolation, and the economic impact on families — already in existential danger — of trying to find care for these wounded children is an unbearable weight. In the refugee camps throughout Lebanon I was told by agonized parents of the excruciating guilt and shame that seethes through families who must do a constant inhumane calculus on which affliction to triage: the necessities of life for themselves and their unwounded family members or the demands of their wounded child.

And these are the children fortunate enough to still have family. Often in war families are lost in near entirety, either through death or displacement. In Gaza and Israel, as in Yemen, Ukraine, Myanmar, Bosnia, Kosovo, the DRC, Sudan, Vietnam and El Salvador among others, whole family lines are wiped out in one single moment of savagery.

All of this and more is what the callous, stupid and wicked mean when they shruggingly say things like “this is what happens” or “well, people die in war”. View these words as an indication of advanced moral leprosy.

In our world, the world in which Pastor/Representative Tim Walberg is happy to call for the comprehensive evaporation of God’s creations while simultaneously turning a significant portion of the Holy Land into an irradiated wasteland, there are currently over 333 million human beings suffering from acute food insecurity and, without help, are on the brink of starvation. Those numbers represent a 25% increase from 2022 and are almost triple the number from 2019. It is currently estimated that every 10 seconds a child dies from malnutrition and that 800 million children are hungry.

In our world, over 468 million children live in a conflict zone and about 200 million of them live in “the world’s most lethal war zones”. Every day thousands of children die or are severely injured in war, while hundreds are abducted or forced into child soldiery and scores more are victims of war-related sexual violence. 2022 witnessed the highest number of grave violations against children in conflict zones in recorded history with that number sure to see a monumental increase once the toll from 2023’s violence in Israel/Gaza, DRC and Sudan is included. If the first few months are any indication, 2024 will be noticeably worse.

This overwhelming level of preventable suffering amongst innocent men, women and especially children should be one of the driving issues across mass media and government.

Yet Pastor/ Representative Walberg and 285 of his House colleagues, in concert with 74 Senators and 1 President came together in a flurry of breathless, self-congratulatory press releases — dutifully performed in mawkish panto by the press — to announce a bipartisan government funding package that cut developmental foreign aid funding by 6% (note: this is half of the 12% originally demanded by House Republicans, which also included one particularly psychopathic amendment offered by Rep. Eli Crane, R-AZ, that would have cut USAID’s funding by a full 50%. Matt Gaetz, surprisingly, given his love of the underaged, said he would have abolished USAID entirely). And whereas the bill does make minuscule improvements to some few humanitarian programs, it does so at the extreme expense of long term development, food and health programs — specifically programs that address food security, water, sanitation, education and democracy.

It is particularly nauseating to note that this same bipartisan bill increases “defense” spending by $27 billion for a total of $825 billion. For context the entire 2023 spend for USAID (half of the 2024 budget of which was on the chopping block, I remind you) was a mere $38.1 billion. So when the Pastor/Representative Walberg says that we “…shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid…” he exposes not only his hypocrisy and depravity but a stupefying ignorance. Foreign aid makes up less than 1% of the US budget, which stands in stark contrast to the percent that will be spent on foreign wars in 2024. Given that gladiatorial US foreign policy, military involvement and/or US arms factor significantly in many conflicts around the world these choices in funding further entrench the country in a demonstrably failed system of hegemony when drastic change is necessary.

To be clear, the United States is not alone in this bloodguilt. Global gaps in funding for humanitarian aid, even as need surges, caused the UN to withdraw massive amounts of programming and lower its 2024 appeal to $46 billion, cutting the scope of proposed beneficiaries to 180 million people. These brutal reductions were made after “the U.N. received just over one-third of the $57 billion it sought to help 245 million people” in 2023. The World Food Program had a 60% funding shortfall in 2023 and had to institute devastating cuts to services worldwide. Given that an estimated 300 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection this year, the gulf between need and aid is unarguably catastrophic. And every space in the humanitarian financing system is seeing similar levels of decreased support and increased demand.

The fact that Bernard Arnault could, by himself, cover the entire 2024 UN appeal twice over and still have over $120 billion (or the entire worth of Sergey Brin) at his personal disposal is enough to make one take up a scourge of small cords.

By now we’re all certainly aware that George Washington begged us not to do exactly what we’ve set about doing militarily for the last 100 years. Fewer know that we’ve also forsaken another wise instruction of his:

“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distresses of every one, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse; remembering always the estimation of the widow’s mite, but, that it is not every one who asketh that deserveth charity; all, however, are worthy of the inquiry, or the deserving may suffer.”

Washington’s admonition that one ‘give in proportion to your purse’ finds the United States in a shameful state. At best the US uses slightly more than 0.2% of its gross national income on “official development assistance” (or government aid that targets economic development and the welfare of developing countries), which is far below the average of 0.4% and hardly within view of the UN target of 0.7%. In fact, that paltry effort places the US at 25th out of 31 donor countries. To be even average in this sector would see the US committing well over $120 billion dollars to development assistance, still about 1/7th of our 2024 military spending.

His further suggestion that not all that ask are deserving is also vitally important, as significant oversight and accountability in tandem with thoughtful direction of funding is the very least we can give taxpayers, and beneficiaries. To note, lack of oversight, corruption and waste have only increased since the days of Ernest Fitzgerald’s $6,000 toilet seats to the tune of billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. It serves no one to see surely criminal graft unchecked, and continuing to prop up inefficient and outdated aid systems only prolongs human suffering. There are some mechanisms in place for oversight but they, too, are often subject to archaic and bureaucratic thinking and a draw to legacy over reform. Nonetheless it is a starting point and a necessary one at that.

Recent polling shows that the reported shift in American attitudes towards isolationism have been largely overstated. Internationalism is still very much the order of the day, and as such the focus ought to be in investing our resources both wisely and with the aim to achieve maximum good. Being a bumbling shoot-first, aid-later geopolitical bully has done us no favors and we have well over 60 years worth of evidence making that case. The scope of brutality visited upon the most undeserving, children, should be all that is necessary to swell into action the better angels of our nature that we’ve heard so much about. And yet here we are.

George Washington’s appeal that ‘all are worthy of the inquiry, or the deserving may suffer’ encapsulates the necessary path beautifully.

Imagine a situation in which foreign development and humanitarian aid fell under the defense budget. One in which the United States actively and aggressively invested in studying and cultivating peace and harmony, in which we ‘observed good faith and justice towards all nations’. One in which $170 billion weren’t being appropriated in 2024 alone for an updated nuclear triad of bombers, submarines and ICBMs so that the entirety of life on this planet can be destroyed a nanosecond more efficiently — should a global nuclear holocaust be called for.

Having spent time in active war zones and amongst the suffering, I long for a country of leaders that live in terror of the potential for mass destruction, not sociopathic religious zealots who off-handedly suggest we engage in it. Having witnessed up close the unspeakable heartbreak of watching children die before they even lived freely, I seek to bring about a United States not guided by a principle of miserly and petulant punishment but rather the enlightened principle of allowing your heart to ‘feel the distresses and afflictions of all people’ and from a place of decency and wisdom seeking to bring an end to suffering, as much as such a thing possible.


  • Sudan has collapsed into hell. An redux of the genocide in Darfur is in process and, as in Myanmar, the brutality of crimes against women and children are a hallmark of the conflict. On March 19, Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy for OCHA, stood before the UN Security Council and reported that Sudan is “truly the stuff of nightmares”. She reported instances of mass graves, gang rapes, shockingly indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas and “many more horrors”. 25 million people, 14 million of them children, are already in need of humanitarian assistance, 7.4 million (15% of the population) are displaced and all of this within the first 9 months of the conflict. Basic public health services have collapsed, with an estimated 80% of clinics and hospitals in the ever-widening conflict area non-functional. A cholera outbreak has already been reported and a severe uptick in cases of measles, malaria and dengue fever were being tracked before the public health infrastructure largely collapsed. God knows what it is like now. In the coming weeks an estimated 220,000 children will die from starvation.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo over 26 million people, including 14+ million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance as the country faces a disastrous breakdown of a fragile ceasefire. 7.1 million people have already been displaced amongst a severe uptick in atrocities — including record levels of severe sexual and gender based violence, including forced female genital mutilation and child sexual slavery — being committed by M23 and the ADF. And to make matters all the more bleak, the El Niño weather system extending into April of this year is likely to bring massive rains and flooding, fomenting waterborne diseases, further displacement and hampering access for the paltry humanitarian aid that is being provided (only 38% of DRC’s funding needs were met in 2023).
  • In Somalia, almost 4.5 million people are living in crisis levels of food insecurity due to a spate of failed rainy seasons. As mentioned, El Niño’s sustained and dramatic rains are likely to overwhelm parched earth causing flooding, the collapse of the agriculture sector and spiking waterborne disease transmissions. The resurgent conflict between the government and the al-Shabaab jihadist terrorist network will make life even harder for innocent women, in particular.
  • In Myanmar a brutal genocide, that of the Rohingya people, continues to rage for the 7th year. Marked by extreme gender based violence, torture and unimaginable acts of infanticide the violence has displaced more than 1 million Rohingya into refugee camps, 52% of them children. Armed conflict against the genocidal junta within Myanmar has devastated the country putting over 18 million Burmese in need of humanitarian aid, with that number likely to grow significantly as the conflict shows no signs of easing.
  • In the Central America area that includes El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala almost 8 million people are declining from moderate to severe food insecurity, with an additional estimated 2 million in Bolivia effected by drought. The entire Latin America & Caribbean. Island region has an estimated 30 million people in need of humanitarian aid and a serious migration and displacement crisis. Given that the region is the second most disaster prone on the planet and with climate change accelerating the number and severity of storms and severe weather patterns, these numbers are certain to increase.
  • In Yemen, over 2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition and a truly horrific famine is on the immediate horizon in the northern Houthi controlled territory. Unimaginable numbers of children could be dying of starvation in the very near future. An estimated 17.6 million people (50% of the population) are likely to experience severe food insecurity this year. A collapsed economy, continued governmental precariousness and an unsteady peace will almost surely erode the situation.
  • The numbers and depth of catastrophe in Gaza are already widely reported and readily available. Much of it has been recorded or live streamed. At the time of this writing 7 humanitarian workers with World Central Kitchen had just been reported murdered bringing the total of humanitarian workers killed in the West Bank and Gaza to 203 since the October 7 terrorist attack.
  • This is a mere fragment of the pain and the need in our world.
Thomas Sadoski

INARA—board of directors; Fortify Rights— advisory council; Refugees International— board member emeritus. Actor. Human Rights Activist.