Thursday, May 12, 2011

End foreign aid now

By Bob Confer

During the Bush Presidency US foreign aid grew from $15 billion to $26 billion per year. When he was elected, it was President Obama’s goal to double that by 2012. That’s par for the course. Despite the merit of the old adage “charity begins at home”, let alone the riskiness of the debt levels that our country has held over the years, foreign aid has always been sacrosanct in Washington. Presidencies and Congresses from both parties have found it impossible to part ways with the giveaways that have supposedly been used to gain political favor or better the human condition around the world.

But, it’s foolish to believe that we’ve received any benefit from our “investments”; if anything, we’ve gained more enemies by picking winners and losers and interfering in others’ national interests. These same expenditures have also done very little to help humanity; when we give money to a nation we give it to its government and, in most cases, there is very little or no trickle-down to their people.

It’s long past due that the federal government either minimizes foreign aid or pursues the more Constitutionally and morally prudent means of abandoning it outright. Now is as good a time as any to make a change: The past twelve months should have been a wake-up call to the proponents of foreign aid (and there are many), proving to them that it is not money well spent.

Take the case of Egypt for example. It has received an average of $1.3 billion in US aid in recent years and over the past 30 years they’ve taken in a total of $60 billion, ranking second. Those last 3 decades saw that money controlled by Hosni Mubarak and his regime, the same brutal oppressors who were famously overturned by their citizens in January. Not surprisingly, the monster Mubarak was someone identified as an ally by our Secretary of State even while the protests were underway.

Then there’s the matter of Tunisia. That nation had a revolution of its own that began in December. By mid-January its President - Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – was ousted, ending 23 years in power. During his State of the Union address in January, President Obama hailed the Tunisian people and indicated they were setting a fine example for the rest of the world. One cannot help but look at such commentary with cynicism: Current and past administrations identified the Tunisian leadership as allies, so much so we awarded them a total of $349 million during Ben Ali’s reign.

Things are even worse in Yemen (another country in a state of revolution), where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled with an iron fist since 1978. Despite our State Department noting his unlimited abuses of the people - ranging from killings to detention and torture – the US government has consistently played a benevolent hand to Yemeni leadership, including $104.4 million in 2009 alone.

Last –and certainly not least – there’s Pakistan. The Obama Administration readily and openly admits that the Pakistanis had to know that the terror leader Osama bin Laden was holed up in their borders. There’s no way that his fortress could have slipped under the radar of Pakistani intelligence and military. It’s painfully obvious that they supported the 9/11 mastermind. What did that treasonous friendship cost us? $1.5 billion per year, a gift that tripled in size back in 2009.

These countries represent a few of the many questionable foreign aid investments that the US continues to maintain. Yet, they are the most high profile of these tenuous times in geopolitics. They’re real head scratchers that should get the Senate and the House to demand we change our way of doing things. If they don’t, you really have to wonder whose side they’re on.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 16 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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