Albany, New York
Friday, August 9, 2019
Mr. Trump is wrong on aid
hen the history is written
of how President Donald
Trump handled his signature issue — immigration — it may
well read, "Never has a president
accomplished so little at such a high
Mr. Trump's approach to the southern border seems designed to do one thing above all: make himself appear tough by making other people miserable. But while some of his strategies — like separating families, detaining children, denying asylum, and confining people in filthy, overcrowded quarters — are simply and deplorably cruel, others threaten to harm U.S. interests in the long run.
Notably, the president has cut back on hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Central America's Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — at one point stopping it entirely earlier this year.
The short-sightedness of this is breathtaking. Those three countries account for the majority of immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries and showing up at the southern U.S. border. The self-defeating nature of this action is self-apparent: The administration
THE ISSUE:The president looks to cut foreign aid to Central America and aroung the world.
THE STAKES:This aid is an investment that more than pays for itself in savings on military action and economic turmoil.
says it's holding back aid to force those countries to stop the flow of people here, yet the aid is intended to improve conditions in those countries so that fewer people want to leave.
This inanity is unfortunately consistent with Mr. Trump's populist hostility toward foreign aid, which makes up a mere 1 percent of the federal budget, about $50 billion. But it's an outsized issue for Mr. Trump with his "America first" slogan, and, thanks to misinformation, for much of the public. Polls have found many Americans believe the figure to be more like 25 percent.
And Mr. Trump isn't retreating only in this hemisphere, but globally. The administration last month told the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to freeze most uncommitted foreign aid. If the funds aren't committed to specific projects by the end of the fiscal
year Sept. 30, they
could end up being diverted to uses other
than Congress intended, which include
peacekeeping, narcotics control, development and health.
It's foolish, and against U.S. interests, in several ways. Beyond the humanitarian benefits, building stability in other nations means less likelihood of the U.S. getting entangled in military actions, or having to deal with all the international economic problems that can result in turmoil in one place or another. The good will this builds extends the nation's soft power at relatively minimal cost. Especially in our own hemisphere, it means keeping problems from ending up at our front door. Imagine if those millions of immigrants and asylum seekers Mr. Trump is so obsessed with didn't feel life was so dire that they had to leave their homes. We should be investing more in this, not less.
The one ray of hope is that budget bills aren't just wishes, they're the law. Eventually, Mr. Trump must seek Congress' approval for many of these spending changes. Congress may not be able to stop all of Mr. Trump's xenophobic, unwise moves, but it can at least minimize the damage he is doing to the country, and the world.
But for the editorial board members of a major daily newspaper to fall for it is another story. For the editorial board to approve these words, “…the aid is intended to improve conditions in those countries”, to include, “…peacekeeping, narcotics control, development and health” is willful ignorance in the face of what history has shown us.
Our government is unconcerned about Americans’ inflated estimate of the amount of aid spent overseas. It signals that people are paying attention to the propaganda. If the government actually wished the estimate to be more realistic, it could make clear that what is called “aid” is really the intrusion of the U.S. into the political, economic and military affairs of a target country for the purpose of making it into a dependency. That would nod the estimate down. Way down.
It’s as if there’s a mass psychosis in the country. Our government brags about its power over other countries at the same time as it claims to want to bring them up. Nobody is forced to believe this, especially savvy newspaper officers and staff. How to understand it? An answer is that it shouldn’t surprise if influential media people land consistently on the same side as Washington, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the positions they presently occupy.
The editorial reaches this strange conclusion in regard to the USAID project: “Beyond the humanitarian benefits, building stability in other nations means less likelihood of the U.S. getting entangled in military actions…”
So the Times Union is now against U.S. military action, but where was it in 2002/03 in the run up to the Iraq invasion? Millions of people protested here before the invasion, as did tens of millions around the world. Possibly the first time people protested before a war began. All one needed was an ounce of skepticism, a nose for liars, an inkling of U.S. history, and, for extra measure, an internet connection (widely available at the time).
The TU can rightly claim that it did no worse than The New York Times, but that is the most it can claim. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the lack of an investigative apparatus and the penchant for objectivity weigh in the balance for the paper. There was, after all, much to go against. The entire weight of the U.S. government. How brave can you be and still hold your job?
Luckily, there is a new case at hand to test the TU’s anti-militaristic bonafides. Whatever the TU thought about the Iraq invasion before the invasion, even the most conservative evaluation of the G.W. Bush administration, in hindsight, will admit to some level of duplicity in its arguments for war. That’s the most conservative, and even the TU is not that conservative.
Nee Bradley Manning leaked classified documents to Wikileaks (Julian Assange) that revealed U.S. war crimes. Worse, it revealed U.S. war crimes in an illegal war that we initiated. Worse, the rationale for the war was a complete fabrication (more of a liberal view).
Presently, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange occupy prison cells on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Millions of people around the world are on their side. We now have the advantage of viewing the invasion looking back. If the TU is interested in humanitarian, rather than military endeavors (and holding our own country to the highest standards), this is an excellent opportunity for it to call for the release of Manning and Assange as political prisoners. How say. Will you do it?
James Rothenberg, a subscriber