Monday, April 14, 2008

Use the Right Information: Another Rebuttal to John Hauptman and Me

Use the right information
To the Editor, Ames Tribune
BY: James Eaves-Johnson

It requires extreme bias to read a piece that provides the primary source (USAID, the agency that administers U.S. foreign assistance - both loans and grants) and Web site (http://qesdb.usaid.gov/gbk/index.html) for the facts on U.S. aid to Israel, and completely ignore it.

Instead, a recent letter to the editor cites some generic "State Department" source providing "recent" data ("U.S. aid to Israel pays for crimes" 03/30/2008).

In checking the facts with USAID, we learn they are, at a minimum, stale numbers. USAID maintains "Program Reports" which give the last four years of data in cross-country reports - the numbers cited cannot be found there. However, if you dig into the "Country Reports," USAID provides individual country data spanning many years.

If you look back to 1998, you can find that Israel received the $1.2 billion economic aid and $1.8 billion military aid, which was cited as the "recent" figure. However, the loans that are added to these numbers are already included. Moreover, the total U.S. foreign aid number is for 2002 and not 1998. In short, the letter provides a hodgepodge of poorly assembled data spanning multiple years that include double-counted figures. These facts could have been checked easily.

If we look at the most recent USAID data available, we discover a far more complex reality that does not affirm his Israel-bashing predispositions. In 2006, Israel received "Total Economic & Military Assistance" (the highest level roll-up of foreign assistance) of $2.6 billion or 6.64 percent of the total $39.0 billion U.S. aid budget. As I noted previously in The Tribune, much of this aid arises out of parallel obligations to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Aid to those nations totaled $2.5 billion in 2006, or 6.37 percent of the U.S. aid total.

Moreover, Iraq received $9.8 billion and Afghanistan received $3.7 billion in foreign aid in 2006 (25.26 percent and 9.58 percent of total aid, respectively). None of those numbers include the many billions spent and lives lost directly securing those countries with U.S. military forces. Those costs dwarf aid to Israel and its neighbors.

What is most shocking about all of this is that only Israel draws the letter's ire. Israel indisputably meets far higher standards of human rights and liberal values in comparison to these other countries. And yet, the letter apparently has no problem with the far greater abuses of individual rights subsidized by the U.S. in those countries.

Jordan and Egypt have used far harsher techniques against their Palestinian Arab opponents than Israel ever has. And yet, the letter is eerily silent in defending the victims of those crimes and is critical only when a Jew, or a state with a Jewish majority, can be accused of the crime. There is a word for people who make these kinds of biased accusations.

If anything, U.S. aid to Israel, as well as other countries in the region and the world, should be greater. A more secure Israel can bring peace. A more prosperous Arab world can bring peace. American money can help promote security, liberalism and prosperity world wide. A safe and prosperous world is a world that is good for America.

Israel is a major trade partner of the U.S. and has created many of the technological advancements, goods and services that make American's daily lives better. Israel buys American goods and services at very high rates, providing America with an important export market.

In promoting liberalism and security globally, we can advance our interests while redeeming the world. Rather than picking on a tiny nation with a Jewish majority, perhaps we should be more broadly focused on supporting freedom and liberalism throughout the Middle East and everywhere else.

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