Sunday, December 31, 2006

Dashikis for George

We’ve been a reliable critic of President Bush and his administration in a wide range of areas, and count on it, we will be again. But the Dec. 31 edition of The Washington Post gives light to a side of the Bush doctrine that's had scant public attention – something that demands credit be given when and where it’s due.

The Post reports that Bush “has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world's most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 -- to nearly $9 billion.”

Wait a minute, you say. This is our President Bush? The one who ushered us into disastrous war in Iraq under dubious circumstances? The one who just outpointed Satan, Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong Il in an AP/AOL poll on the top villain of 2006?

True enough. The Post story is a surprise, and coming at the end of a year we’d all just as soon forget, not an unwelcome one.

“The moves have surprised -- and pleased -- longtime supporters of assistance for Africa, who note that because Bush has received little support from African American voters, he has little obvious political incentive for his interest,” the Post reports.

"I think the Bush administration deserves pretty high marks in terms of increasing aid to Africa," said Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Citing the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Post reports that Bush “has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001,. And four African nations -- Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda -- rank among the world's top 10 recipients in aid from the United States.”

Besides just writing fat checks to Africa, Bush has also done the necessary face time, meeting with nearly three dozen African heads of state during his six years in office, the Post says.

The Post story notes one curious disconnect, given all this hands-across-the-water feeling for Africa; some activists, the Post says, “criticize Bush for not doing more to end the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan …” That is odd, if you think about it. With Darfur’s potential for greater calamity than that which we’ve already seen, doing something there would seem to make an even more potent statement about America’s humanitarian intentions.

But the Post notes that others give him due props “for playing a role in ending deadly conflicts in Liberia, the Congo and other parts of Sudan. Meanwhile, Bush has overseen a steady rise in U.S. trade with Africa, which has doubled since 2001.”

"The evangelical community raised the awareness of HIV and AIDS to the president," said Rep. Donald M. Payne (N.J.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa. "When the Bush administration came in, HIV and AIDS were not an overwhelming priority. Now we have seen a total metamorphosis," Payne told the Post.

You remember the old saying: If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. U.S. presidents are exempt from that, of course, whether they like it or not. But it’s nice to be able to say something nice about someone who can really use it.

Get that man a daishiki.
Image credit: Office of the President (public domain)

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