Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bush Gets Geldof's Love For African Charity

From the Washington Times :
Bob Geldof has parachuted into the White House travel pool here in Rwanda, and will join us on the flight from Air Force One to Ghana tonight.

He's going to interview President Bush for Time magazine and several European outlets, such as Liberacion, about aid to Africa for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and business development.

Mr. Geldof is an Irish rock and roll singer and longtime social activist who has helped, along with U2 rocker Bono, raise awareness about need in Africa. His most well known achievement is organizing the Live Aid concert in 1985, which raised money for debt relief for poor African countries.

But Mr. Geldof has remained closely engaged with African affairs since then, and he spoke off the cuff to reporters today who were waiting for a press conference with Mr. Bush and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Mr. Geldof praised Mr. Bush for his work in delivering billions to fight disease and poverty in Africa, and blasted the U.S. press for ignoring the achievement.

Mr. Bush, said Mr. Geldof, "has done more than any other president so far."

"This is the triumph of American policy really," he said. "It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion."

"What's in it for [Mr. Bush]? Absolutely nothing," Mr. Geldof said.

Mr. Geldof said that the president has failed "to articulate this to Americans" but said he is also "pissed off" at the press for their failure to report on this good news story.

"You guys didn't pay attention," Geldof said to a group of reporters from all the major newspapers.

Bush administration officials, incidentally, have also been quite displeased with some of the press coverage on this trip that they have viewed as overly negative and ignoring their achievements.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bush Loved By Africa's Poor - US President "Helped Us Live"

Not everyone in the world hates George W. Bush :

They may not be George Bush's natural constituency but Rwanda's prostitutes have good things to say about him. So do poor South Africans abandoned by their quixotic government, and doctors across Africa who otherwise regard the American president as a walking crime against humanity.

As Bush arrives in Africa today at the start of a five-country tour he will be welcomed chiefly for an initiative which has gone largely unnoticed outside the continent but which has saved the lives of more than a million people with HIV.

The $15bn (£7.6bn) President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) is in its fifth year and has been hailed as a "revolution" that is transforming healthcare in Africa and has been praised as the most significant aid programme since the end of colonialism.

Bill Clinton's legacy in Africa was the debacle of Somalia and the abandonment of Rwanda's Tutsis to the 1994 genocide. But with Pepfar, Bush's primary contribution will be greatly extending millions of lives even though the programme has been criticised for emphasising abstinence in Aids education and using religious organisations to deliver care.

"This is the best thing that ever happened to the poor people I work with," said Edward Phillips, a Catholic priest overseeing the distribution of life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in Nairobi, Kenya. "It's one of the few times I've seen US government money really reach down to the poorest of the poor. It's kept a hell of a lot of people alive."

Dr Francois Venter, head of the HIV Clinicians Society in South Africa, where Pepfar is providing 200,000 people with ARVs, is one of a number of Aids doctors almost disbelieving in praise of Bush. "I look at all the blood this man has on his hands in Iraq and I can't quite believe myself but I would say it's a bold experiment from the last people in the world I would expect to do it, and it is saving a lot of lives. To intervene on such a scale and make such a difference is huge," he said.

Bush confronted the pandemic under pressure from his then secretary of state, Colin Powell, who warned that Aids threatened to wipe out a large part of the working-age population of some African countries. He saw that as a national security issue. So did the CIA. Bush was also lobbied by American Christian evangelicals with strong and expanding ties to Africa, and conservative Republican senators usually instinctively hostile to foreign aid.

In Rwanda - on Bush's tour and one of Pepfar's 15 priority countries - Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the head of the national Aids council, says the US programme is the major contributor to a tenfold increase over the past four years in the numbers of Rwandans on ARVs to nearly 50,000 people. Today about 70% of Rwandans who need the drugs receive them. "The impact is huge. The average life expectancy of Rwandans has improved by four years because of Pepfar," she said. "The impact is also really big in the health sector because of the equipment and training. It is putting children through school."

In a busy Kigali bar, Linda, a 24-year-old HIV-positive prostitute, explained that she had been afraid to be tested because she didn't want to know that she might soon die. "Then they said they could make us well, they have these drugs. So I got tested and I have the drugs," she said.

So whom does she thank? "The Americans. George Bush has helped us live."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

History Will Now Record George W. Bush As 'The President Who Tortured'

After years of denial, obfuscation and the frequent use of supreme powers of spin, President George W. Bush will now go down in history as the president who signed off on torture, then lied about it.

This Washington Post lead editorial explains why :

The admission this week by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden that three terrorism suspects were subjected to waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 puts to rest any doubt about whether President Bush authorized torture.

For centuries, civilized countries have considered waterboarding, or simulated drowning, to be torture. The United States rightly condemned as war criminals Japanese soldiers who employed the technique against U.S. personnel during World War II. It prosecuted U.S. military officers who waterboarded prisoners at the turn of the 20th century. The practice, which causes its victims to feel that they are about to die, is unquestionably cruel. Every administration prior to this one has judged it to be prohibited by U.S. law and treaty obligations. It is incontestably a blot on the reputation of this country and a breach of the very values we claim to want to export to the rest of the world.

Congress must act now to put an end to the continued twisting of the law and fundamental American values. Lawmakers can do so by passing legislation requiring all U.S. interrogators to abide by the techniques authorized in the Army Field Manual, which military officials have said allows them the flexibility they need to gather intelligence. The administration has balked at this restriction, and President Bush may well veto it. If he does, it will be but another stain on his legacy.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

World Can't Wait For Bush Administration To End

There has been a flurry of stories all over the world's media announcing that we are now in the last year of the Bush White House, as if most people needed to be alerted to that fact. According to this story, much of the world already knows they're in the Last Days Of President Bush, and they can't wait for him to be gone, explaining why there is such unheralded interest in the US presidential primaries.

Well, all that and the fact that coverage of US presidential primaries is a hell of an easy way to fill a few minutes of the evening news with video wire reports :

Germans are gaga over Barack Obama. He's got Japan pretty jazzed, too, along with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Russia's leaders, not so much: They prefer a Republican — as long as it's not Kremlin critic John McCain.

And Mexico's president? He doesn't have much use for any of them.

America's extraordinary presidential campaign has captivated politicians and ordinary people around the globe.

After eight years of President Bush, the latest mantra in U.S. politics — "transformational change" — is resonating across the rest of a planet desperate for a fresh start.

"They feel there's a real chance to work with the U.S.," said Julianne Smith, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "America's image in the world is really on the line."

Non-Americans, she said, are looking for someone who can "restore faith in the United States."

In the post-Bush era, the bottom line is blunt and simple, Dunleavy said.

"People all around the world are pretty worried," he said. "They want a president who will restore a kind of U.S. legitimacy in the world."

The Tragedy Of President Bush II

Excerpts from a New York Times review of what sounds like one of the more interesting books on the endless shipwreck that is the George W. Bush administration :

To the Slate editor in chief, Jacob Weisberg, the presidency of George W. Bush is a plane crash, and he says there is a black box that can help explain just what brought this White House down in flames: a black box “filled with a series of relationships — familial, personal, religious and historical,” most notably the father-son relationship, which “lies at the very core of the second Bush presidency and its spectacular, avoidable flame-out.”

...the younger Mr. Bush, according to Mr. Weisberg, “played out his family drama in a way that had devastating consequences for his family, his country and the world.”

George W. Bush, Mr. Weisberg writes in “The Bush Tragedy,” “has been driven since childhood by a need to differentiate himself from his father, to challenge, surpass and overcome him”; and “to challenge a thoughtful, moderate and pragmatic father, he trained himself to be hasty, extreme and unbending,” traits that would ill serve him in his presidency and help lead him into the morass of the Iraq war.

Although the insistent emphasis on the father-son relationship can lead to some gross oversimplifications (the president’s “unconscious motive” in going to war against Iraq, Mr. Weisberg writes, “was finishing his father’s business”), “The Bush Tragedy” does provide a provocative and plausible account of the evolution of his political beliefs while doing a far more persuasive job of marshaling evidence to make a Freudian case for the younger Mr. Bush’s missteps than other recent efforts, like, say, Craig Unger’s 2007 book, “The Fall of the House of Bush.”

In the course of this volume Mr. Weisberg argues that George W. Bush’s Oedipal relationship with his father and sibling rivalry with his brother Jeb (who, for many years, was regarded as the family’s rising political star) fueled his transformation from hard-drinking black sheep in the family to dynastic heir. George W. Bush, he writes, had a contradictory attitude toward his father: a “drive to correct Poppy’s mistakes” and a “demand for his admiration.”

By the time he was running for president, Mr. Weisberg argues, the younger Bush had developed a populist political persona distinctly different from his father’s: where his father had “considered religious enthusiasm a form of bad manners,” George W. “was open about his faith and courted the evangelical right”; where his father was mocked for being too prudent and cautious, George W. was intent on being bold and blunt; where his father had methodically immersed himself in policy details, George W. was going to be “an instantaneous ‘decider’ who didn’t revisit his choices or change his mind.”

As Mr. Weisberg tells it, both Mr. Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney recognized the president’s Oedipal fixation and used it to help maneuver the president into going along with their own agendas. Mr. Rove, who “recognized the younger Bush as fiercely loyal to his father, yet desperate to escape his shadow,” Mr. Weisberg says, presented a political plan as “a map of differentiation” that would prevent a humiliation like his father’s 1992 loss to Bill Clinton.

After securing the White House, Mr. Weisberg goes on, Mr. Rove, who harbored grandiose ambitions of creating an enduring Republican majority, “used his influence to steer Bush away from being the president he originally wanted to be — the kind of center-right consensus-builder he was as governor of Texas — and into a too-close alliance” with the party’s right wing, thereby helping “turn him into the most unpopular and polarizing president since Nixon.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Weisberg contends, Mr. Cheney “appreciated, in a way more subtle than Rove did, the way in which Bush needed to make himself his father’s antithesis.” The vice president also knew how to frame policy choices for the president “around contrasts to his father’s views” and how to appeal to the president’s own vision of himself by describing initiatives as “bold, game-changing and the right thing to do.”