Dec. 8, 2008: President George W. Bush kisses one of the children attending the Children’s Holiday Reception and Performance with first lady Laura Bush in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The reception is for children whose parents are serving in the military and cannot be with them for the Christmas holiday.
Chip Somodevilla-Getty Images
In wake of Hurricane Katrina (which “hated” white people more, or in Kanye’s language, “George Bush hates white people”), let’s revisit the ever-so-politically astute and eloquent Kanye West:
Given the opportunity to rethink that comment and do some research, did Kanye retract his on-air smear:
George W. Bush has been singled out as the American president who has done the most for Africa. So where’s the recognition, both in the media and the black community, of this worthy achievement?
Bill Clinton might have been America’s first black president, but it seems he didn’t do as much for Africa as Bush has. Bob Geldof, Irish rocker and Africa activist, says the Texas oilman, who is wrapping up his second trip to the continent, “has done more than any other president so far.”
That’s high praise from Geldof, a man who has spent much of the last 20 years fixated on Africa’s many problems. He sees Bush’s efforts to fight disease and poverty in Africa as “the triumph of American policy.” Though he says it was “unexpected of the man,” Geldof admits both the president and the nation “rose to the occasion.”
Geldof rightly chastises the American media for ignoring Bush’s contributions to Africa.
But it would be unrealistic to have expected otherwise. This is a national press corps that seems to notice homelessness and poverty only when a Republican is in the White House, and which itself votes heavily Democratic.
Meanwhile, African-Americans give little support to Bush — he got 11% of their vote in 2004 after taking 8% in 2000. Black leaders — such as NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who has called Bush a liar, compared his judicial nominees to the Taliban and equated the GOP to Nazis — continue their shrill verbal assaults on the man.
Yet under Bush, the U.S. has boosted development and humanitarian aid to Africa from $1.4 billion in his first year in office to $4 billion a year today. He’s also sought $30 billion to fight AIDS.
Trade — far more efficient than aid — between our country and Africa has more than doubled during his terms. This administration has also actively sought to stop the genocide in Darfur and has led in attempts to end wars in Sierra Leone, Sudan and Congo.
As the U.S. press swoons over Barack Obama and his bromidic promise of “change” to the exclusion of almost all else, the African media have noticed Bush’s work.
It wasn’t the New York Times or ABC, but AllAfrica.com that gratefully acknowledged that Bush’s policies “have saved millions of (African) lives and lifted many others from abject poverty.“
Jim Young / Reuters
Three-year-old Faith Mang’ehe, whose mother is HIV positive, attends a roundtable session with her mother on AIDS relief with U.S. President George W. Bush at Amana District Hospital in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
Tatu Msangi, a single Tanzanian mother, took the story of the success of PEPFAR to Congress during a State of the Union address last month.
She is a living testimony of just how, through PEPFAR, the Bush administration has saved a life deep in a remote African village.
Msangi testified how despite living with HIV, she received the necessary counseling and Nevirapine (medication) during her pregnancy, and subsequently delivered a bouncing HIV-free baby girl. Now, her daughter Faith Mang’ehe has a future, and Msangi hope, thanks to Bush’s Emergency Plan.
This is not the only success story of its kind. In Rwanda and in other benefiting countries, such achievements are there although many remain publicly unnoticed.
“Thank you so much for the initiative. It has done so much for our people. It has given us a future,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kiwete told Bush on Sunday at a Dar es Salaam hospital which was partly built by the American people.
Under Bush presidency, a number of African countries have continued to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) although not many Africans have benefited yet due to a number of factors.
Africans will remember that in 2004, President Bush signed into law the AGOA Acceleration Act, which extended the legislation to 2015. The initiative has helped triple African total exports to the US since 2001 – the year Bush came to power.~~~
Bush’s speeches have also increasingly been characterized by a positive shift in policy towards Africa. In a statement he delivered in Washington D.C shortly before embarking on his second African tour last week, he underlined that it was significant for developed countries to treat African nations not as “charity cases” but as “equal partners”.
Such school of thought is what is on the mind of a new breed of revolutionary African leaders including our own President Paul Kagame, who on several occasions, has blamed some western powers for approaching African matters in a bullish manner.
Therefore such African leaders would not agree more with Bush when he says: “We (United States) have also revolutionized the way we approach development. Too many nations continue to follow either the paternalistic notion that treats African countries as charity cases, or a model of exploitation that seeks only to buy up their resources. America rejects both approaches.
Instead, we are treating African leaders as equal partners, asking them to set clear goals, and expecting them to produce measurable results.”
Observers have said such statements from US politicians are interlaced with their fear for competition from other emerging world economies especially China, but whatever the reason, at least Bush’s statement is right.
Secondly, many African leaders will agree with the US President that what Africans need today is not aid but investment.
“America is serving as an investor, not a donor,” Bush said. This remark was last week re-echoed by an Ethiopian government official during a Reuters interview when he said: “What many African government officials want to see is less aid from Western powers like the US and more investment. This is the way forward for the continent…”
And of course, President-Elect Obama will be a beneficiary of Bush’s legacy:
It is also worth noting that Bush is passionately pushing for several pro-Africa initiatives that will live longer than his presidency – in other words, which will extend the often talked-about American generosity towards the disadvantaged world inhabitants, to the next US administration.
President Bush dances during an entertainment ceremony to inaugurate the new U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, Feb. 19, 2008.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Brookings senior fellow Homi Kharas thinks the U.S. contribution under Bush’s leadership to improving Africa is inflated praise:
* U.S. economic aid to sub-Saharan Africa increased from $2.1 billion to $5.4 billion between 2000 and 2005. But EU countries gave $21.9 billion to Africa in 2006, and the United Kindgom alone gave $5.2 billion — with an economy one-sixth of the size of the U.S. economy.
* $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to Africa was in the form of food aid, which Kharas describes as “a form of assistance which is so questionable in terms of its impact on development that several large U.S. charities, including CARE, have stopped dealing with it.”
* The United States’ economic assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 (and this isn’t even touching upon the enormous military expenditures on this region) was more than $6 billion, which is more than what was given to all 45 sub-Saharan African countries combined.~~~
So while we should celebrate the U.S. contributions to Africa, we should also keep in mind the fact that it is Europe, not the United States, that is leading the international fight against African poverty.”
But I think Kharas misses the overall contributions of President Bush, including initiatives designed to help African nations grow their economies, rather than merely flushing money down the “feel-good” charity-drain.
Last November, President Bush was distinguished with the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award:
“We are pleased this year to have the President of the United States, George W. Bush, as the recipient of the Bishop John T. Walker Service Award,” Julius E. Coles, President of Africare remarked. “I cannot think of a more deserving person for this award given the tremendous increase in development and humanitarian resources that President Bush has provided to the continent of Africa to improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.”
Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has transformed the way development assistance is carried out [emphasis, mine] on the African continent by creating partnerships with African governments, businesses and civil society organizations to promote economic growth. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has committed over 60 billion dollars to fight global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In addition, his administration has facilitated $34 billion to diminish debt, over $14 billion to invest in economies, nearly $4.5 billion to fight poverty and $10 million for clean water on the African continent.
3-and-a-half years ago, I wrote:
Recently, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair met to draw up a policy (prayers out to the Londoners, this morning), forgiving African debt and pledging $674 million in emergency humanitarian aid. The US already donates a quarter of all foreign assistance to Africa. There have been several Marshall Plans over the past 40 years, amounting to what? The end to poverty? No. Just money squandered to corrupt regimes. And how can we forget all the private donations of charity over the years, and past events like “We are the World”? 1985 Live Aid raised close to $150 million for famine relief; yet the majority of that went to a corrupt Ethiopian government and the propping up of yet another brutal dictator, Mengistu. Good intentions with bad results. Do we ever learn?
I have mixed feelings about the amount of financial aid we give to other nations- especially when it seems to be money squandered rather than money invested toward securing our best interests. And I question the gravity of the AIDS epidemic when there are other ills worth tackling using American tax dollars.
Marshall Plan for reconstructing Europe worked 60 years ago. But today’s Africa is not 1947 Europe. Europe was about rebuilding; Africa is about building. A European-style Marshall Plan doesn’t apply to Africa. Waste and corruption abounds when it comes to the financial assistance squandered by the U.S. and other nations over the decades on failed African states and corrupt regimes. It’s a perfect model for how simply throwing more money at the problem is not an effective solution.
It is with this understanding, that President Bush sought a more innovative approach to bringing aid to the continent of Africa, at least in one respect:
The Food for Peace Program was started in 1954, and for over 50 years, America has helped to feed over 3 billion people in 150 countries. More than 60% of international emergency food aid comes from the United States. What President Bush has come to realize, is that simply "throwing free food" at the problem, doesn’t help to lessen the problem. Our requirement for the program has always been that if we are to send food abroad, it had to have been grown in the U.S. This ends up hurting local farmers in Africa, who are trying to get a start at growing food. So what President Bush has proposed, in an attempt to get to root causes of hunger, is that 1/4th of all the food aid given by the U.S. has to be bought by the U.S. from local farmers. From the NYTimes:
It was here in Kansas City, at the 2005 food aid conference, that the Bush administration pushed for a fundamental change in food aid that would have diminished profits to domestic agribusiness and shipping companies. It proposed allowing a quarter of the Food for Peace budget to be used to buy food in poor countries near hunger crises, rather than buying only American-grown food that had to be shipped across oceans.
And Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns spoke at the conference on Wednesday to again make the administration’s case for the same idea, contending that such a policy would speed delivery, improve efficiency and save many lives.
This is compassionate conservatism. Finding practical solutions that go beyond creating "feel-good" policies that achieve nothing, and sometimes only succeeds in making matters worse. I believe that both liberals and conservatives care about the environment, want to be charitable to those less fortunate, etc. We just have different ideas on how best to make the world a better place. It is worth noting, as Medved does, that
Former President Bill Clinton recently said at a fund-raiser for Bread for the World, a Christian group that lobbies on hunger issues, that it was to Mr. Bush’s "everlasting credit" that he had proposed buying food aid in poor countries. Such a policy had never crossed his mind when he was president, Mr. Clinton said, but he thought it was a great way to help farmers in Africa and buy food more efficiently.
U.S. President George W. Bush at an arrival ceremony at Spriggs Payne Airport with Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia Feb. 21.
In a speech last February at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art:
in one of the major priorities of my Presidency, the United States has fundamentally altered our policy toward Africa.
America’s approach to Africa stems from both our ideals and our interests. We believe that every human life is precious. We believe that our brothers and sisters in Africa have dignity and value, because they bear the mark of our Creator. We believe our spirit is renewed when we help African children and families live and thrive.
Africa is also increasingly vital to our strategic interests. We have seen that conditions on the other side of the world can have a direct impact on our own security. We know that if Africa were to continue on the old path of decline, it would be more likely to produce failed states, foster ideologies of radicalism, and spread violence across borders. We also know that if Africa grows in freedom, and prosperity, and justice, its people will choose a better course. People who live in societies based on freedom and justice are more likely to reject the false promise of the extremist ideology. Citizens who see a future of opportunity are more likely to build hopeful economies that benefit all the people. Nations that replace disease and despair with healing and hope will help Africa do more than just survive — it will help Africa succeed.
For all these reasons, America has dramatically increased our commitment to development in Africa. We have also revolutionized the way we approach development. Too many nations continue to follow either the paternalistic notion that treats African countries as charity cases, or a model of exploitation that seeks only to buy up their resources. America rejects both approaches. Instead, we are treating African leaders as equal partners, asking them to set clear goals, and expecting them to produce measurable results. For their part, more African leaders are willing to be held to high standards. And together, we’re pioneering a new era in development.
The new era is rooted in a powerful truth: Africa’s most valuable resource is not its oil, it’s not its diamonds, it is the talent and creativity of its people. So we are partnering with African leaders to empower their people to lift up their nations and write a new chapter in their history.
First, we are working to empower Africans to overcome poverty by helping them grow their economies. After a long period of stagnation, many of Africa’s economies are springing to life. As a whole, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow nearly 7 percent this year. The economies of Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Tanzania are among the fastest-growing in the world. And across Africa, poverty is beginning to decline. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a poor place, but poverty is beginning to decline.
This resurgence shows the strength of the entrepreneurial spirit in Africa. America is working to help unleash that spirit across the continent. Along with our fellow G8 nations, we have relieved some $34 billion in debt from African nations in the past 18 months. (Applause.) That is roughly the same level of debt that was cancelled in the previous 11 years combined. We have also made historic increases in foreign aid. In my first term, we more than doubled development assistance to Africa — part of the largest expansion of American development assistance since the Marshall Plan. (Applause.) At the beginning of my second term, I promised to double our assistance again by 2010. And the budget I sent Congress last week will ensure that we meet this commitment.
And just as important, we’re changing the way we deliver assistance. We created what’s called the Millennium Challenge Account, which offers financial support to the world’s most promising developing nations — nations that fight corruption, nations that govern justly, nations that open up their economies, and nations that invest in the health and education of their people.
America is serving as an investor, not a donor. We believe that countries can adopt the habits necessary to provide help for their people. That’s what we believe. And we’re willing to invest in leaders that are doing just that. So far, more than two-thirds of the MCA’s $5.5 billion is being invested in Africa. And on my trip next week, I will sign the largest project in the program’s history — nearly $700 million compact with Tanzania. (Applause.)
Other nations are seeing the benefits of these agreements. They are moving ahead with the tough economic, political, and social reforms necessary to compete for a compact of their own. In fact, there is now more competition for funds than there are funds available, which ought to say two things: One, that this is evidence that the American taxpayers are getting good value for their dollars. In other words, if nations are willing to fight corruption, work on rule of law, support their people and not theirselves, then it makes sense to invest with them. And secondly, it is evidence that Congress needs to fully fund this important initiative.
The best way to generate economic growth in Africa is to expand trade and investment. When businesses in Africa can sell their products and services around the globe, they create a culture of self-reliance and opportunity. One of the most powerful incentives for trade is the African Growth and Opportunity Act. And I appreciate the fact that Congress has extended this good law. Since 2001, exports from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States have tripled. It’s also important for our citizens to know that U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa have more than doubled.~~~
Last year, we launched the Africa Financial Sector Initiative. As part of this effort, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation mobilized $750 million in investment capital for African businesses. Today, I’m announce that OPIC will support five new investment funds that will mobilize an additional $875 million, for a total of more than $1.6 billion in new capital.
And next week, I’m going to sign a bilateral investment treaty with Rwanda. This will be America’s first such treaty in sub-Saharan Africa in nearly a decade. It reflects our shared commitment to systems of fair and open investment. It will bring more capital to Rwanda’s dynamic and growing economy. Look, the idea of somehow being able to help people through just giving them money isn’t working. That’s why I appreciate the efforts of Rob Mosbacher and OPIC, recognizing that when you invest in capital — invest capital, you create jobs. Paternalism has got to be a thing of the past. Joint venturing with good, capable people is what the future is all about. (Applause.)
But in the long run, the best way to lift lives in Africa is to tear down barriers to investment and trade around the world. And we have an opportunity to do that through the Doha Round of trade talks. Look, Doha is important to enhance trade, but if you’re truly interested in eliminating poverty, we ought to be reducing tariffs and barriers all across the globe. The United States stands ready to cut farm subsidies, and agricultural tariffs, and other trade barriers that disadvantage developing countries. On the other hand, we expect the rest of the world — especially the most advanced developing countries –to do the same. And if we both make good-faith efforts, we can reach a successful Doha agreement this year.
Secondly, we’re working to empower Africans to alleviate hunger, expand education, and fight disease. America is proud to be the world’s largest provider of food assistance, including emergency food stocks that have saved lives in places like Ethiopia, or Sudan, and other African nations. It’s a noble effort on our people’s part. I don’t know if — most Americans don’t understand that we’re the world’s largest provider of food to feed the hungry, but we are. (Applause.)
Yet our ultimate objective is to do more than respond to the hungry — it is to help African countries feed their own people. So I have proposed that America purchase crops directly from farmers in Africa, instead of just shipping food assistance from the developed world. (Applause.) This initiative would build up local agriculture markets. It would help break the cycle of famine. And it deserves the full support of the United States Congress.
We’re also focusing on education. I’m looking forward to seeing the President of Tanzania, he’s a good guy. Here’s what he said; he said “It’s an indisputable fact that education is key to development.” Across Africa, students are eager to learn, and often they lack quality teachers and just basic supplies. Things we take for granted in America are just lacking in parts of Africa. So in 2002, I launched the Africa Education Initiative, the goal of which is to distribute more than 15 million textbooks, train nearly a million teachers, and provide scholarships for 550,000 girls by 2010. And we’re headed to achieving that goal. In other words, these just weren’t empty words, these were concrete, solid goals, being funded as a result of the generosity of the Congress and the American people.
Last year, I also announced a new International Education Initiative, which will help make basic education available to 4 million people in Ghana, Liberia, and other nations. Laura and I are looking forward to talking to the leaders of Ghana and Liberia about this important, transformative initiative. With both these steps, we are matching the enthusiasm of African educators with the generosity of our taxpayers — and we believe strongly that this will open up the door to opportunity for millions. The good news is, so do the leaders of the countries we’re going to visit.
The greatest threat to Africa is disease. The greatest threat for a successful Africa is the scourge of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Two out of every three people afflicted with HIV/AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease is the leading cause of death in the region. Just a few years ago, there were fears that HIV/AIDS could wipe out much of the continent’s population, with death rates that would rival the Black Plague of the Middle Ages.
We responded. We responded with the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It’s the largest international health initiative in history to fight a single disease. (Applause.) In 2002, we pledged $15 billion over five years to support HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care. We set some clear principles on how that money would be spent. We put local partners in the lead, because they know their people and their needs. We opened the funding to faith-based groups — healers willing to deliver medicine to remote villages by bicycle or on foot. We stressed the importance of changing behavior, so that fewer people are infected in the first place.
And the results are striking. When I visited sub-Saharan Africa five years ago, or when we visited five years ago, 50,000 people were receiving medicine to treat HIV/AIDS. And when we return this week, there will be more than 1.3 million. (Applause.) One person who knows the benefits of the Emergency Plan is Tatu Msangi. She’s a single mother from Tanzania. When she became pregnant, Tatu went to a clinic run by a Christian group. Souls showing up to love a neighbor just like they’d like to be loved themselves. You know, it didn’t take a federal law to say, go to Africa to provide love for Tatu, it took a higher calling. These goals responded.
She learned she was HIV-positive, and enrolled in a program designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission. She went on to deliver a healthy, HIV-free girl, named Faith. I will see Tatu next week in Tanzania, but it’s not going to be the first time I met her. See, a few weeks ago, she and Faith endured a rather windy State of the Union address. She sat with Laura in the box, here in the capital of the nation that helped save their lives.
In all, the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has benefited tens of millions in Africa. Some call this a remarkable success. I call it a good start. Last May, I proposed to double our nation’s initial pledge, to $30 billion over the next five years. (Applause.) The people on the continent of Africa have to know they’re not alone. The G8 has shown leadership by agreeing to match our $30 billion pledge. The private sector has made generous contributions as well. Think of what Warner Brothers has done, for example. And now the time has come for Congress to act. Members of both parties should reauthorize the Emergency Plan, maintain the principles that have made it a success, and double our commitment to this noble cause.
Malaria is another devastating killer. In some African countries, malaria takes as many lives as HIV/AIDS. And the vast majority of those taken by malaria are children under the age of five. Every one of these deaths is unnecessary, because the disease is entirely preventable and treatable. So in 2005, America launched a five-year, $1.2 billion initiative to provide the insecticide-treated beds, indoor spraying, cutting-edge drugs that are necessary to defeat this disease. It’s not a complicated strategy. It doesn’t take a lot of medical research. We know how to solve the problem. That’s why I put the Admiral there. He knows how to solve problems. He can get us from point A to point B in a straight line. Well, nearly straight line. (Laughter.) And so we set a historic goal — if you have a treatable problem on hand, then you’re able to set measurable goals. And the goal is to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations by half. That’s the goal.
Like the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the malaria initiative empowers leaders on the ground to design strategies that work best for their nations. For example, President Yayi of Benin has called the fight against malaria “a fight against misery.” With the help of the malaria initiative, he’s leading a campaign to deliver insecticide-treated bed nets to children under five in Benin. I’m looking forward to hearing how that’s going when we meet him on Benin on our first stop. I can’t wait to find out how well this initiative is doing.
Like the Emergency Plan, the malaria initiative has been matched by G8 nations, which have pledged to cut malaria deaths by half in an additional 15 countries. This initiative has also been greeted with generous support from the private sector, faith-based groups, and Americans who want to do something to save somebody’s life. You can buy a $10 bed net and ship it to Africa to save a life. It doesn’t take much money, but it takes a big heart. One of the interesting gifts Laura and I got a couple of years ago for Christmas was bed nets in our name. It made us feel great.
Like the Emergency Plan, the malaria initiative is producing undeniable results. In just over two years, the initiative has reached more than 25 million people. (Applause.) According to new data, malaria rates are dropping dramatically in many parts of Africa. If we stay on this path, an extraordinary achievement is within reach — Africa can turn a disease that has taken its children for centuries into a thing of the past. And wouldn’t that be fantastic? And so Laura and I are going to spend time with these leaders, saying, what a noble opportunity; what a great goal; what a great way to serve humankind.
Finally, we’re working to empower Africans to end conflicts, strengthen democracy, and promote peace. When I took office, Africa was home to six major conflicts — in Angola, Burundi, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and southern Sudan. We concluded that the best way to broker peace was to support the efforts of African leaders on the ground, instead of dictating solutions from Washington, D.C. And today, every one of them has made progress toward peace and stability.
For example, the United States worked closely with Nigeria to help end the Liberian civil war. When the international community called for Charles Taylor to step down in 2003, the President of Nigeria provided a plane to take him in exile. When U.S. Marines deployed to Liberia, Nigerian peacekeepers deployed at the same time. And today, Liberia’s long war is over. And next week in Monrovia, Laura and I will meet with Africa’s first democratically-elected woman President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (Applause.)
Even without major conflict or civil war, security challenges remain in Africa, and we’re working closely with local partners to address them. The Department of Defense has established a new African Command, which will work closely with African governments to crack down on human trafficking, piracy, and terrorism across the continent. We are employing diplomatic tools as well. In Eastern Congo, we worked with leaders on the ground to broker the recent agreements to demobilize all remaining armed groups. And we stand ready to help all sides to implement them. In Kenya, we are backing the efforts of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to end the crisis.
And when we’re on the continent I’ve asked Condi Rice — that would be Secretary Rice — to travel to Kenya to support the work of the former Secretary General, and to deliver a message directly to Kenya’s leaders and people: There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse, and there must be a full return to democracy. (Applause.)
In Darfur, the United States will continue to call the killing what it is – genocide. We will continue to deliver humanitarian aid. We will continue to enforce sanctions, tough sanctions, against the Sudanese government officials, rebel leaders, and others responsible for violence. We expect other nations to join us in this effort to save lives from the genocide that is taking place. We will use all our diplomatic resources to urge full deployment of an effective United Nations force. The decision was made to count on the United Nations to provide the force necessary to protect people, and so we’re going to support their efforts. I must confess, I’m a little frustrated by how slow things are moving. And yet we will support their efforts to find forces necessary to make a robust contribution to save lives.
On this trip, I’m going to visit with brave peacekeepers from Rwanda, a nation that knows the pain of genocide and was the first country to send troops into Darfur. Other nations need to follow Rwanda’s example. Other nations need to take this issue seriously, just like the United States does, and provide more manpower for this urgent mission. And when they do, I pledge America will provide the training and equipment necessary to deploy the peacekeepers to Darfur. (Applause.)
America also stands with all in Africa who live in the quiet pain of tyranny. We will confront tyranny. In Zimbabwe, a discredited dictator presides over food shortages, staggering inflation, and harsh repression. The decent and talented people of that country deserve much better. America will continue to support freedom in Zimbabwe. And I urge neighbors in the region, including South Africa, to do the same. We look forward to the hour when this nightmare is over, and the people of Zimbabwe regain their freedom.
These are great challenges, but there is even greater cause for hope. In the past four years alone, there have been more than 50 democratic elections in Africa. Thriving free societies have emerged in nations with Islamic majorities, Christian majorities, majorities of other beliefs — which is a powerful rebuke to the ideology of the extremists. In many nations, women have exercised the right to vote and run for office. Rwanda now has the highest percentage of female legislators in the world. (Applause.) Overall, more than two-thirds of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa are free. And for the rest, the direction of history is clear, so long as the United States does not lose its nerve, and retreat into isolationism and protectionism. The day will come when a region once dismissed as the “dark continent” enjoys the light of liberty.
The United States must remain fully committed to the new era of development that we have begun with our partners in Africa. It’s in our national interest we do so. I’m going to work closely with the G8 nations to ensure they keep their promises as well. Congress must continue to show its commitment by fully funding the development programs I described today. You see, saving lives is a calling that crosses partisan lines. It remains equally worthy in both good economic times and times of economic uncertainty.
Across Africa, people have begun to speak of the “Lazarus effect,” where communities once given up for dead are coming back to life. This work of healing and redemption is both a matter of conscience and a wise exercise of American influence. The work is not done. In the face of the needs that remain, it’s important for the African people to believe the American people are not going to turn away. That’s part of the purpose of our trip. The changes taking place in Africa don’t always make the headlines. So don’t be frustrated, Mark. That means the work is quiet, but it is not thankless.
Last November, I met a woman from Zambia named Bridget Chisenga. Bridget’s husband died of AIDS, and she expected to meet the same fate. Then she went to a clinic operated by Catholic Relief Services, funded by the American people. Today, Bridget is healthy. She has a job at the clinic, where she helps provide AIDS medicine to others. I want our fellow citizens to hear what she said: “This face is alive and vibrant because of your initiative. I would like to thank you.”
Americans have heard similar words of gratitude and hope in the past. They were said about the people who liberated the concentration camps, and saved the blockaded city of Berlin, and stood firm until the prisoners in the gulags were set free. This spirit of purpose and compassion has always defined America. And that is why the people of Africa can be certain they will always have a friend and partner in the United States of America.
God bless. (Applause.)
Mr Bush’s talks in Benin included the fight against malaria and Aids. Washington has provided millions of dollars of aid to the west African country.
5 days later, while in Rwanda, WaPo reports:
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; A09
KIGALI, Rwanda, Feb. 19 — He looked shaken, as anyone would visiting a genocide memorial with a picture of a 12-year-old girl and a plaque with her vital information.
Favourite sport: Swimming.
Favourite food: Eggs and chips.
Cause of death: Hacked by machete.
For President Bush, a visit to the Kigali Memorial Center evokes not just stomach-churning visions of what happened here 14 years ago but haunting questions about what is happening even now on another part of the African continent. A president who once scribbled “not on my watch” in the margins of a report on Rwanda finds himself still unable to stop what he has termed genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
“This is a moving place that can’t help but shake your emotions to your very foundation,” Bush said after touring the museum to the 1994 genocide, built on grounds that include mass graves with more than 250,000 bodies. “It reminds me that we must not let these kind of actions take place.”
But unlike Bill Clinton, who came here in 1998 to admit he should have done more to stop the Rwanda genocide, Bush said he feels no guilt and harbors no regret over Darfur — except regret that others have not done what he has pressed them to do. He opted not to send U.S. troops unilaterally into Sudan and instead has tried to help assemble an international peacekeeping force that has yet to fully deploy.
“I still believe it was the right decision,” he said, “but having done that, if you’re a problem-solver, you put yourself at the mercy of decisions of others — in this case, the United Nations. And I’m well known to have spoken out [about] the slowness of the United Nations. It seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering.”
He came back to the question of personal regret. “I’m comfortable with the decision I made,” he said. “I’m not comfortable with how quickly the response has been.”
Darfur has always been a crucible of American power under Bush, testing the obligations and limitations of the world’s last superpower striving to dictate events in faraway lands. For Bush, it has been a singular frustration, one he rails about in private with aides even as he has settled for a multilateral effort that sputters inconclusively.
Bush was quick to call the killing in Darfur genocide, a term others still resist, and he organized a massive humanitarian response, imposed sanctions against Sudanese officials and promoted a plan for a 26,000-strong U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force. He announced Tuesday that the United States would spend another $100 million to train African peacekeepers for Darfur, including $12 million for 2,400 more Rwandan troops.
“President Bush did more than any other world leader to try to stop the deaths in Darfur,” said Andrew S. Natsios, who was the president’s envoy to Sudan until December. “He called it what it was when it was happening and then with other countries organized the African Union force.” The humanitarian aid effort, he added, “saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Yet activists say it has not been enough. “There is a lot about Darfur that all of us, the president included, should regret now,” said Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition. “Hopefully, the president shares our regret that there isn’t a lasting peace and security in Darfur and that the Darfuri people continue to face violence and suffering.”
So far, just 9,000 peacekeepers are on the ground and major military powers have yet to come up with needed helicopters. China has blocked sanctions at the U.N. Security Council. And Sudan continues to defy the international community as militias renew violence and burn down villages. “How can anyone have a clear conscience about what’s happening in Darfur?” Fowler asked.
Many asked similar questions in April 1994 when this lush, green country known as the land of a thousand hills descended into a frenzy of death. The assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, touched off a wave of violence against minority Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus. An estimated 800,000 people were killed over 100 days. With bodies still being found today, some put the toll as high as 1 million.
The president and first lady remained grimly silent as they made their way through the museum Tuesday, guided by its manager, Freddy Mutanguha, whose parents and four sisters were killed.
“The U.N. knew about what was going on in our country,” he told the president.
The White House press corps headquartered for the day at the Hotel Des Mille Collines, made famous by the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which depicted a hotel manager who sheltered 1,200 from the violence. But the former manager, Paul Rusesabagina, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bush in 2005, was disappointed by the president’s visit. In a letter to Bush, Rusesabagina complained that the current government in Rwanda, led by President Paul Kagame, a general in the Tutsi rebel force that toppled the Hutu government in 1994, has its own ties to mass killings.
A Spanish judge this month issued arrest warrants for 40 current or former members of the Rwandan military on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, although he did not indict Kagame because he has immunity as a head of state. “Mr. President,” Rusesabagina wrote, “the whole world will be watching and wondering in disbelief why you have decided to go and shake the hands of suspected terrorists when fighting terrorism was one of the cornerstones of your outstanding presidency.”
Rwanda’s government has dismissed the judge’s actions as unwarranted. Bush had nothing but praise for Kagame, calling him a “personal friend” as they signed an investment treaty.
He hailed Kagame for contributing the largest share of peacekeepers now in Darfur, where as many as 450,000 people have died, mostly from disease, starvation and dehydration caused or exacerbated by the attacks of Arab militias tied to Sudan’s government.
Like everything else, it’s complicated. Certainly, if America is not directly threatened, we should not follow the Clinton model (Bosnia-Kosovo); we simply don’t have the resources and probably lack the American public will and trust in endangering American soldiers’ lives.
But clearly the President has done more than any other world leader.
Sure I wish President Bush spoke out about Darfur more often. Slide it in there, in every interview, press conference and in more speeches. In some cases, he does, yet those moments get very little airplay. If the MSM is so concerned, they could do more themselves by broadcasting in bold headlines, PRESIDENT SPEAKS OUT ON DARFUR:
Speaking on soil once stained with the blood of Rwanda’s genocide, U.S. President George W. Bush called Tuesday on all nations to step up efforts to end “once and for all” the ethnic slaughter still continuing in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
The president said the U.S. is using sanctions, pressure and money to help resolve the Darfur crisis. But Bush, frustrated at the lack of willingness of some other countries to do the same, sought to give his campaign for their increased involvement added weight by making pointed remarks on it from the Rwandan capital.
“The Rwanda people know the horrors of genocide,” Bush said. “My message to other nations is: ‘Join with the president and help us get this problem solved once and for all.’ And we will help.”
Rwanda was the first to deploy peacekeepers to the violent Darfur region in a joint African Union-UN mission. The United States has trained nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops and spent more than $17 million to equip and airlift them into the region. The U.S. has committed $100 million to train and provide equipment for peacekeepers from several African nations deploying to Darfur.~~~
“There is evil in the world and evil must be confronted.”
How was President Bush received in February during his trip to Africa?
Jon Ward, Washington Times:
Eric Draper, Mr. Bush’s chief photographer, rode with the president in his limousine as he made his way into Monrovia, Liberia, on the last leg of a five-country African trip last February.
“That was just an amazing experience, to watch this reaction, the emotion on the streets, people crying and on their knees … screaming thank you,” Mr. Draper said in a recent interview with The Washington Times. “It was just incredible.”
I know his African trip was mentioned about by the press; but not the details. The coverage seemed more like pg A18 news, mentioned in passing. An incurious media makes for an ill-informed public. Many people only vaguely know that there is great suffering in Darfur and other parts of Africa. The MSM press could drum up more support for direct action; more political pressure by the public on the White House, giving President Bush the political capital and green light for perhaps even sending troops. But, no. Public opinion has all but muzzled the liberator of 60 million people. Bush critics say it’s not the job of the U.S. to be the world’s policeman and we have no legal right to invade sovereign nations (*cough*UNSCR 687*cough*); and then they demand President Bush “do something”. He’s been going to the UN like they want; and perhaps that’s part of the problem. Not part of the solution: Example via Michael Totten:
There is no love for the United Nations in Kosovo.
Kosovo is the fourth country I’ve visited where the UN has or has had a key role, and in only one of them – Lebanon – is the UN not despised by just about everyone. In Lebanon the UN has so little power to make a difference one way or the other that any anger at the institution would largely be pointless. In Bosnia, though, UN “peacekeepers” stood by impotently while genocide and ethnic-cleansing campaigns were carried out right in front of them. The UN’s Oil for Food program was thoroughly corrupted by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq at the expense of just about everybody who lives there. Kosovo, meanwhile, declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, but the elected government is still subordinate to the almost universally despised UN bureaucrats who are the real power. Many Kosovars insist the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is actually a dictatorship.
Minor Thoughts (the link I provided for the above Totten excerpt) includes this gem:
“The government of Iraq has more sovereignty than you do,” I said.
That shocked them. Iraq is in vastly worse shape overall than Kosovo. And yet Iraq regained much more of its sovereignty in a shorter amount of time, even while fending off a ferocious insurgency and civil war.
Right now, the Kosovars would love to have been occupied by the United States. If they had, they’d have more control over their own country, they’d have a functioning economy, and the Americans would have sent trained and competent administrators. Not only that, the American administrators would have been eager to pass their expertise and knowledge along to the Kosovars.
Why does the American left hate American interventions but love United Nations interventions?
Just this past Monday, President Bush signed a waiver to airlift equipment and supplies to Darfur:
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who made the airlift announcement shortly before the Oval Office meeting, said that Bush waived congressional notification requirements because “failing to do so would pose a substantial risk to human health and welfare.” Hadley cited the immediate need to improve the security situation in west Darfur to allow for aid deliveries.
Hadley also lashed out at critics, singling out New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who have argued that President Bush did not do enough under his watch to end the violence in Darfur. “President Bush has been committed to resolving the crisis there since the United States first labeled it genocide in 2004,” Hadley said.
Kristof wrote in a blog entry following the announcement that the airlift “sure smells of a desperate effort to burnish the administration’s legacy on Darfur, but better late than never.”
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was established in July 2007, but the peacekeeping force has struggled to secure the region due to a lack of troops and equipment. Bush has reportedly grown impatient with the lack of progress UNAMID has made since being deployed.
Bush said “it’s going to be very important for the United States to pay attention to the implementation” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which he called ‘vital’. The White House meeting was arranged to mark the fourth anniversary on January of the signing, which some observers consider one of the Bush administration’s major foreign policy accomplishments.
It is deplorable that there are probably a significant number of Americans- especially black Americans- who feel as Kanye does regarding President Bush’s attitudes toward blacks; and who have fallen for the propagandistic myth that the Republican Party itself is inherently racist.
For whatever polls are worth, an NBC/WSJ poll in 2005 (as blockquoted earlier, Bush received 11% of the black vote in 2004 after taking 8% in 2000) measured a 2% approval rating for President Bush amongst African-Americans (I hate that hyphenation, as how many black Americans actually come directly from the continent of Africa?):
The poll also revealed overwhelming opposition to Bush among African-Americans. Only two percent said they approved of his performance as president, the lowest level ever recorded in that category, NBC television reported.
This is interesting, since some polls measure Bush’s approval rating is in the 80 percentiles:
Also, few people are aware of the help Bush has provided to Africa. He has an astonishing approval rating of 80% on that continent. The NY Sun reported on this back in February:
President Bush’s sense of mission to improve the lives of the people of the Middle East has attracted so much attention that the Wall Street Journal called him “Bush of Arabia” the other day over an article by Fouad Ajami. Less widely appreciated are Mr. Bush’s achievements in Africa, which are worth marking as the president embarks today on a visit that is scheduled to include trips to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia. Mr. Bush has committed $15 billion to fight AIDS and HIV in Africa, and the result is that the number of Africans benefiting from anti-retroviral drugs has soared to 1.3 million today from 50,000 a few years ago. A similar effort is under way to fight malaria, with similarly promising results.
Mr. Bush hasn’t gotten much credit for this among the American public, but, as a BBC interviewer noted yesterday, his approval rating in Africa is in the 80% range, which is astonishingly high. [….]
Asked about all this yesterday, Mr. Bush characteristically looked beyond the poll numbers to the broader principles. “I believe to whom much is given, much is required. It happens to be a religious notion. But, it should be a universal notion as well,” the president said. “I believe America’s soul is enriched, our spirit is enhanced when we help people who suffer.”
Also read: Countries that will miss George Bush
Dancers wear traditional tops bearing the image of President Bush Sunday as they perform for the president during a dinner held at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo by Charles Dharapak
Images of President Bush make up the fabric of dresses for Tanzanian women as they await Bush’s arrival at Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar Es Salaam February 16, 2008.
Women dressed in clothing picturing President Bush await his arrival at the state house in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Feb. 17, 2008.Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
President Bush greets entertainers during a ceremony at the executive mansion in Monrovia, Liberia, Feb. 21, 2008. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
President Bush treated like a rock star:
In the week his approval ratings slumped to the lowest level in history for a serving US president – with just 19 per cent of the electorate approving of his actions – George Bush has found an entire continent willing to laud his achievements.
His six-day tour of Africa has seen George W Bush Day proclaimed in Benin, brought tens of thousands of jubilant Tanzanians onto the streets of Dar-es-Salaam and led to a road in Ghana being rechristened the George Bush Motorway.
Bush ended the trip in Liberia, where he met Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country’s president and the first woman to lead an African nation. The US has invested more than $1bn in aid in the country so Bush was greeted like a pop star – perhaps to the chagrin of ex-rocker Bob Geldof who accompanied the president on his African tour – and presented with a ceremonial robe by a Liberian woman (above).
So, the President who has surrounded himself with the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history (soon to be succeeded by an Obama Administration), which includes the appointment of the first black Secretary of State and first black (female) National Security Advisor (and subsequently, the next Secretary of State), apparently “hates black people”? Well, he sure has a funny way of expressing it.
Maybe Kanye West could take the time to visit war-torn Darfur and tell the parents there who named their children after Bush, our 43rd president hates them:
And so, as his administration comes to an end, how’s this for a great irony: In Africa, newborn sons are named after George W. Bush. Yet his legacy to this country is the election of a black man — whose father was a true son of Africa.
White House photo by Eric Draper
President George W. Bush embraces members of the African Children’s Choir at the White House in July.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.