President George Bush announced in a White House ceremony on Wednesday, an additional US commitment of $30 billion to fight AIDS over the next several years. The promise of desperately needed funds has been widely if cautiously seen as a positive step. AIDS activists, however, have been quick to point out that fully one-third of the current $15 billion program is strictly earmarked for ideologically driven sexual abstinence educational programs. Bush's announcement did not clarify if the same percentage would be tagged on to the new grants.
The HIV/AIDS announcement was the second time in as many days that the Bush administration has made taken a major initiative regarding the African continent. At the start of the week, the president promulgated new sanctions against Sudan. Has Bush had a change of heart regarding people of African descent? Readers might recall that Kayne West, after the Katrina Hurricane, furious with the incompetence and seeming indifference of Bush officials, said, "Bush doesn't care about Black people."
What's going on? Clearly not much in New Orleans. It may be that the timing of the announcement has more to do with upcoming G8 summit in Germany next week. In fact, one news story suggested that the Wednesday press event was crafted to take attention away from the US attempts to water down language on global warming, one of the big topics at the summit. Bush's pro-business intransigence on the subject global warming, in the face of a near-unanimous worldwide consensus, makes one ask, "Does Bush care about people?
That this is not too much of a stretch was born out by an item reported in the DailyKos on the meat industry. Apparently the Bush administration is encouraging the beef industry not to check all cows for mad cow disease. The DailyKos, quoted an AP story that appeared in the International Herald Tribune:
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease. The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows. Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well. The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.
So, does the Bush administration care about people generally? And if not, then what gives on the new Africa policy? It may be too soon to tell what's behind the AIDS initiative for all lives it may save. One thing is however that lurks behind the kind words and promises may be a new scramble for Africa in general and in particular, competition with China who recently signed new trade agreements with several African countries reportedly worth over $100 billion. Bush plans his own Africa tour in June to several countries marked as recipients for the new decease fighting grants.
In his press statements Bush boast that currently the US has donated the largest monies in the worldwide anti-AIDS fight, prior to the new $30 billion figure. However, when considering the import of this number, one should keep in mind that according to National Priorities project over $275 million are spent each day in Iraq. That's about $1 billion every four days. Every 120 days, the US spends the same amount Bush has now committed to the AIDS pandemic.