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Home > World

Santa Claus is coming to town

It's Christmas in Botswana. Father Christmas has just jetted in on Air Force One, his big red sack full of foreign aid packages. First out of the bag? $15 billion to combat AIDS.

11 July 2003

Botswana is a country crippled by HIV/AIDS - an unimaginable 38% of the adult population is infected. A fact that brings a tear to the steely eyes of President Bush: "We cry for the orphan. We care for the mom who is alone." Bush wants the world to know that America is "not only a powerful nation, we're also a
compassionate nation."

Let's examine this compassion.

The $15 billion promised by Bush is not for Botswana, but to combat AIDS in 14 nations (12 of them in Africa). And it's to be spread over five years - $3 billion a year. And it isn't $15 billion dollars anyway, because the president's 2004 budget requested only $2 billion per year for five years, which gives a total of $10 billion.

On Thursday, back in Washington, a budget of just over $2 billion was approved. A senior Republican, Jim Kolbe, a subcommittee chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said: "I have to tell you quite candidly that the president compounds the problem by continuing to talk about $3 billion while he's in Africa."

$2 billion might sound like an awful lot of money (it is an awful lot of money) but to put it in perspective, the monthly cost of maintaining US forces in Iraq is $3.9 billion (nearly twice what was expected).

$3.9 billion every fucking month.

And these troops are to remain for the foreseeable future. (Possibly as long as four years, Tommy Franks reckoned yesterday).

Back in December, the Presidentís chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsay, estimated the cost of the Iraq conflict at between $100 billion and $200 billion. This caused dismay on Capitol Hill, and Lindsay was fired. In April, the Pentagon received an emergency spending package of $62 billion. The war (based on Pentagon spending requests) is currently estimated to have cost $95 billion. A number which is creeping up month by month. It seems Lindsay wasn't far wrong...

And on Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted on a new defence spending bill. Guess how much for. A single year. The cost of arming America for 12 months. That's right: $368.7 billion. The bill was approved 399 votes to 19.

"We cry for the orphan. We care for the mom who is alone." What a joke. Compassionate as well as powerful? Yeah, yeah, tell it to the hand.

$368.7 billion on the military.

$2 billion to fight AIDS in 14 nations.

Oh Mr President, we never knew you cared that much

UPDATE (22/09/03):

AIDS has left 15 million orphans, and unless we stem the tide, that number will swell to 25 million by the end of this decade. The vast majority of these children are likely to live without emotional support, without the barest of physical necessities, and without any prospects for the future.

Unless we act effectively, these precious children are likely to perish in the same cycle of disease, destitution, despair and death that took the lives of their parents. The appalling statistics do not begin to describe the magnitude of the destruction wrought by AIDS. AIDS is more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict or any weapon of mass destruction. It kills indiscriminately, and without mercy.

From a speech by General Powell at U.N. General Assembly:


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