Assignment 4

After reading War Games, it appears that Linda Polman’s main thesis or purpose for writing the book is to uncover the truth about humanitarian aid organizations and expose to the world what really goes on with aid organizations and their true motives behind the work that they do. Many people who are naive to the subject of humanitarian aid probably think that it is a great service offered by people from around the world with big hearts wanting to help people in need. Polman points out in her book that quite often this is not the case. Humanitarian aid seems to be a selfish endeavor by the people involved with these organizations. It is almost as if they provide aid to make themselves seem like a hero and look better in the eyes of others. However, War Games makes it seem as though people are just seeking for attention from the media, and one way to do this is certainly by going to another country and helping people who have lost something valuable to them. It also appears that humanitarian aid organizations around the world compete with each other so as to make their country seem superior to everyone else. I could definitely see how there would be competition in regards to this subject amongst nations because everyone is so greedy these days and everyone wants to look like a god in relation to the rest of the world. I think that Polman worked hard to discover all the truths associated with humanitarian aid and crack the surface of the “act” that these organizations put on when talked about in the media. This way the rest of the world who is not involved with an organization will think what they are doing is some kind of heroic act.

The media is another topic I want to touch on because as a broadcast journalism major, I am encouraged to be watching the news on a regular basis and I have learned about unbiased journalism which seems to be something mentioned by Polman. In War Games, it is stated that “coverage of disasters on television and in the newspapers is crucial to humanitarian operational management, and that donor governments would take no action if images of a crisis were not broadcast (Polman 39); however, later in the book it is mentioned that Dutch MSF exaggerated the misery of the eviction of refugees from camps in Goma when they reported about it (Polman 42). It is also stated that the media paid children to look sad and wave their amputated limbs on camera without their prosthetic arms, legs, etc. to make the situation look worse than it really was (Polman 63). I find this very interesting that the media plays up crisis situations and essentially lies to the public about what is actually going on. A lot of people already do not trust the media and think what they report is a lie, and this just gives them another reason to stick by that opinion. It leads me to believe that pictures like the one below are staged or Photoshopped in some way to appear more dramatic than they really are.


Polman talks about what “is” really happening in other countries in regards to crisis situations and the humanitarian aid that is given to these people who are suffering. To my surprise, and I’m sure many others who have read War Games, what we think is happening really isn’t. As mentioned in the first paragraph, humanitarian aid organizations act like they are helping others out of the goodness of their hearts and because they truly want to help others. This appeared to be true for some organizations but for most of them, unfortunately, it seemed to be false. War Games made it a point to mention that during a certain crisis clothes, food and medicine were sent to an area by a humanitarian aid organization. However, the clothes were not suitable and things like stiletto high heeled shoes were delivered, along with medicine that was past its’ expiration date, and in one case rotten cheese was sent. But when reports of this show up in the media, it is definitely not mentioned the specifics of aid packages that were sent. The media would only report something like “Clothes, Free Medicine and Food Sent as Aid Packages to Victims,” or something along those lines. So what “is” really going on? Certainly not what we think. In the picture below the box being delivered to people in another country is labeled “USAID from the American people,” but what is really in the box of so-called aid? The people look happy to be getting help from the U.S. but who’s to say that what is actually inside will help them at all?


As human beings on this earth, we “ought” to reach out to those in need and actually mean it and want to do it because it is the right thing. Not because someone will praise us for doing a good deed. According to a news report from July 19, 2012, about 62 million people around the world needed humanitarian aid help (UN News Centre). With over seven billion people in the world (U.S. Census Bureau), that leaves a large number of people who can help the other 62 million in their time of need. We “ought” to have a responsibility to make sure that each life on this earth is valued the same as the next person and that each person gets the care they need to live a healthy life. More people need to reach out because humanitarian aid organizations are apparently not doing the job we all thought they were.


“Number of People Needing Humanitarian Help Globally Rises to 62 Million – UN.” UN News Center. UN, 19 July 2012. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

“Population Clock.” Population Clock. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.

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  1. Posted June 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    You did a great job describing the disconnect between what actually occurs against what is reported. You picked the perfect quotes to describe the underlying mentality. I find it interesting that the media plays such a prominent role in this corrupt cycle.

  2. Posted June 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I like the personalization you added about the media with you being a broadcast journalist major. I hardly ever watch the news or trust much of what is reported because I always feel like there is a bias in all almost all news or reporting. The extortion posed by media was not as surprising to me as the way money flowed without any sort of accountability.

  3. Posted June 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Ally- I like the fact that you brought up how we are supposed to get true information. Unless we are actually going to the places ourselves, I think we have to trust journalists, although many people do not. Journalists tell us that what they are reporting is accurate but then you read books like War Games and it throws you in the complete opposite direction. And when it comes to being unbiased when reporting on biased stories, I feel like most journalists just pretend and put on an act because they are being paid, like you said, to report on these stories. When it comes to money a lot of people will do anything even if it involves being untruthful or unfaithful.

  4. Posted June 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I like your reflection on the media, especially because it brings up the ideas on how are we supposed to get true information? Also, if you are a journalist, how are you to remain unbiased when the stories you are paid to go to are biased themselves?