Human aid, not military aid

Chris Kok

Days after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Jan Egeland, a U.N. official, called western nations stingy in their relief donations. The Bush administration took serious offense to this comment, with Bush saying that Egeland was “very misguided and ill-informed.” A mantra soon developed: “The United States is the most generous country in the world.”

First, some differences need to be accounted for. Americans are relatively generous, but the individual donations of American citizens cannot be counted as the same as donations from the American government. So lets look at the government’s foreign aid. The U.S. government spends more money on aid than any other country, but when looked at as percentage of Gross Domestic Product, the United States donates the least of any industrial nation. This is not generosity.

Not only is the United States stingy on foreign aid, but the aid is used in detrimental ways.

Since the election of Hamas, the United States stopped aid payments to the Palestinian Authority because of Hamas’s failure to renounce violence and accept the existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, Israel is one of the largest recipients of aid, receiving $2.62 billion in fiscal year 2004. Roughly five-sixths of Israel’s aid is for its military.

The Israeli government is guilty of major human-rights violations in its occupation of Palestine. So while Hamas can’t receive aid until it renounces violence, Israel is allowed to trample on Palestinian rights with funds from the U.S. government.

Another major recipient of U.S. foreign aid is Egypt. Most of the aid is military aid. Egypt is another major violator of human rights. Recently, Egypt had an election, and to say it was fair would be a lie of Orwellian proportions. Opposition parties are regularly attacked and silenced; yet Egypt receives U.S. aid. In 1998, Martha Huggins released the book Political Policing: The United States and Latin America. In this book Huggins shows how an increase of U.S. aid results in an increase in state-sanctioned violence and oppression.

In Africa and around the world, health clinics that offer abortion-related services are cut off from funding. In many places, this means that the only health center around will have to close due to the “global gag rule.” People in these areas with AIDS are screwed because of this policy.

U.S. foreign aid is not aimed at helping people; rather, its aim is increasing the power of the U.S. government and imposing the ruling party’s ideology. What is needed is foreign aid aimed at actually helping people, no strings attached. Military aid should be stopped. Giving people guns will only lead to more deaths; let’s give them food.

Also, let’s focus aid on the most impoverished people in the world, the places where we can make the most difference.

In the case of Israel and Palestine, Israel is a rich country, and Palestine is a small, impoverished and oppressed region. Let’s give aid to Palestine rather than Israel. Why should Hamas reject violence when Israel won’t reject violence? Why should the Palestinians go hungry because of that?

Ultimately, aid should be about helping people because they need it, and not because it contributes to American influence in the world.

Chris Kok is a senior international relations major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].