Saturday, July 12, 2003

someone get Aaron Brown on the phone 

Bono complements Bush while Aaron is away. I couldn't decide which portions to quote, it's just such an amazing interview, so here's the whole transcript:
KAGAN: Has this president surprised you with his interest in Africa?

BONO, MUSICIAN: I think we should really -- this is -- I think this is an extraordinary moment in time for America, for Africa. This is potentially saying we are going to put a man on the moon.

This is a Republican president going to the poorest place on Earth and saying, we want to be part of your story. This is what America's all about. I think it's potentially history. But, of course, if the rocket doesn't have any fuel, if the money doesn't follow the rhetoric, then it's the worst thing of all. It's tourism in people's tragedies. And I don't believe that. I believe President Bush is what he says he is on this one.

I really believe his convictions. I believe the team around him are genuine about this. My friends, people out banging the dustpan lids on the streets, they don't have the same confidence that I do. And when they see what's going on in Congress this week, where they're cutting the president's budget on Africa and on these drugs, they say that I'm being duped. I think they're wrong. I believe the president will keep his word. I think he's a man of his word.

KAGAN: Well, let's talk about some of the skepticism that's out there. First of all, you mentioned Congress. The president is pushing for $15 billion over the next five years. But there's a couple of problems. One, not everybody in Congress supports that. So there's a good chance it won't go through. And then there are those critics who say that money might come forward, but it's just coming from different pots to be put into this place.

BONO: Yes, this has to be new money. We can't be robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially if Peter's broke. There's perfectly good programs that are lacking funding in America.

We have to find this money -- or, rather, the president has to find this money from other places. But it's not big money. For the big impact it will have on these lives, we're talking about $3 billion this year. The defense budget has gone up by $100 billion this year, just to put it in proportion. But the impact is enormous on the way -- not just the moral imperative here, but just the way America is seen by Africa and the developing world.

This story has brought a lot of goodwill to America. I'm just reading it in cynical papers, where people are saying, wow, they can't believe their eyes. And I can. And this is the kind of America I'm a fan of. And I'm sure that there's -- I'm sure there's more visits like this on the way. This can't be the end of the story. It's just the beginning.

KAGAN: Let me flip around. Instead of how America's seen in Africa, let's talk about how Africa is seen in America. And when President Bush made his stop in South Africa, he's dangling the money in front of Mr. Mbeki, the president. But he's saying, we need to make sure this money is well spent.

And the understanding there is that, here in America, there are many people who believe, you can throw as much money as you want at Africa, but the continent is so corrupt, the money is not going to be well spent and not go to good use.

BONO: The corruption argument is, of course, real. But it's often just an excuse for inaction.

And we just got to -- in the light of the size of the tragedy that that AIDS pandemic brings -- I think it's 7,000 people a day. How about that, 7,000 people a day dying of a preventable, treatable disease? We need to stop prevaricating. All these initiatives, the president's Millennium Challenge Account, which is $10 billion over three years, that is predicated on there being -- on government's tackling corruption and there being good governance and clear and transparent process in place.

This is smart of the president. And this is the kind of thing that we have to have in Africa. Of course we've got deal with corruption. But it isn't corruption, finally, that's killing 7,000 people a day. It's a disease called HIV/AIDS.

KAGAN: And let me just ask you this for my last question. When you talk about those huge numbers that are just so mind-boggling, how do you remain so optimistic? How do you keep your passion going? And do you ever have a time when you are ready to throw in the towel?

BONO: Yes. I got very depressed just over the last week about this. I was so excited, elated, at the pictures of the president arriving in Africa and the people who are with him that I respect, like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. And I was very excited. He told me he was going to take this on and he followed through on it.

And then just the sense of disappointment when I hear what's going on in Congress. And it really -- I despair of it, because there's this sense of expectation now in Africa. We've raised the expectations of these people, the most vulnerable people on Earth. And we mustn't raise it, only to dash it. I know people in Congress are -- there's some people who are -- who are minding the purse strings of America. And so they should.

The money has to be well spent. But this is the best thing America could be doing right now. This is rebranding the USA, for the cold, clinical commercial people. Look at it like that. Look at these AIDS drugs as advertisements for the USA. Paint them red, white and blue, whatever. Just think about them. Just get them to the people. Wherever they go, I'll tell you, evil-minded ideas about the United States will be run out of town. This is the best money -- the best value for money, the best bang for your buck you're going to get.

KAGAN: Your passion keeps a spotlight on the issue.

Bono, thanks for joining us.

BONO: Thanks, Daryn.

The emphasis in the last paragraph is all mine, because I think it's a point that must have attention drawn to it. Bono is totally correct on this point, a USA health-intervention into Africa could only serve lift the prestige of the United States amongst the people of the world (unless you're some kind of marxist who'll happily believe that the USA is keeping these people alive only so they can work for and purchase Nike). We *need* to find the dollars to help these people.
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