Wednesday, November 19, 2008

President Bush Has Been Good For Africa

"I've never seen Africa policy better served than under President Bush," said Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs. "There's not a single thing that we said we were going to do in 2000 that we haven't done. … We've done far more than I ever expected, and I've been working Africa issues for more than 30 years. The administration's record far exceeded my own expectations."

Of course, every president — even one as maligned as Bush is — tries to put the best face on the things he has done. And there is usually no shortage of political appointees who stand ready to sing his praise.

Noteworthy honor
But the honor Bush received last week from Africare, the oldest and largest black-run African aid organization, didn't come from a right-wing group bent on burnishing his record. And Frazer — who soon will leave the government for a position at Carnegie Mellon University — is no self-serving flatterer.

Despite the president's failure to live up to his "compassionate conservatism" at home, he did better than most people are willing to admit in his dealings with Africa, a continent long victimized by the geopolitical tug of war between America and its adversaries.

"The Bush administration has broadened and deepened U.S. policy towards Africa," said Melvin Foote, president and CEO of Constituency for Africa, a coalition of groups that work to improve conditions on the continent.

"I don't know if it got involved for all the right reasons, but once it got involved it realized this was a good thing to do," Foote said of the Bush administration's efforts to stabilize Africa's fledgling democracies and combat its daunting health problems.

AIDS a top priority
Most impressive of these efforts has been Bush's work to stop the spread of AIDS and treat its victims in sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 22 million people infected with HIV at the end of last year.

This year, Bush signed a bill that authorized up to $48 billion to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — most of it to be spent in sub-Saharan Africa — from 2009 through 2013. Since 2003, the Bush administration has provided funding to increase the number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral drugs from 50,000 to about 1.4 million, Frazer said.

"It's probably true that the Bush administration has directed more resources to the African AIDS problem than did the Clinton administration," said Nicole Lee in a grudging offer of support. But Bush's African AIDS program has been "a double-edge sword," said Lee, executive director of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington-based advocacy organization for Caribbean and African policy. It has been undermined, she said, by the "Gag Rule," a Bush administration policy that forbids foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S financial support if they offer abortion or abortion counseling.

Read it all here.

Notice the fine line Bush has tried to walk on the moral issues. Will Obama rescind the so-called Gag Rule? How much you wanna bet?

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