Accuracy in Media

One of President Bush’s strengths has been the perception that he is a man of his word. But that perception has been endangered by some of his recent actions. A free trader, Bush slapped tariffs on imported steel. An opponent of campaign finance reform legislation, he signed the bill. He made another significant reversal having to do with his war on terrorism when he spoke at the United Nations development conference in Monterrey, Mexico. He suggested increased foreign aid would somehow eliminate the conditions that breed terrorism. “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror,” he said. He announced that the U.S. would spend an additional $10 billion over three years to fight “world poverty.”

This actually undermines the prospect of victory in the war on terrorism because it is based on a faulty analysis of the enemy we face. Foreign aid didn’t defeat communism and it won’t defeat terrorism. The media noted that Bush’s proposal was new and unexpected. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill had said that, “Over the last 50 years the world has spent an awful large amount of money in the name of development without a great deal of success.” But it was also new in the critical sense that it contradicted what his administration had been saying about the link between poverty and terrorism. At a Heritage Foundation event on February 11, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte said, “We sometimes read that terrorism is bred in poverty, that poverty is its root cause and conveyor belt, and that the best palliative would be substantial transfers of money from the developed to the developing world. I think we should be wary of this argument.”

Negroponte pointed out that “the man who led al Qaeda was fabulously wealthy, and the global terrorist network has moved freely through the modern world’s commercial pipelines-its airlines, its hotels, its telecommunications systems- unrestrained by expense. Terrorism as we have known it over the last forty years hasn’t been a poor man’s game. Time and again we have seen terror manifest itself in well-financed organizations with middle and even upper class leadership that have cleverly hijacked the impoverished, perhaps, but only to achieve self-centered and cynical ends. People do not suddenly lose their moral compass because they are poor and terrorism does not represent or benefit the poor.”

Nevertheless, “Turning Point Seen in War on Poverty” was the headline over a typical story in the Washington Post about the U.N. conference. Another Post story by Paul Blustein ran under the headline, “In Pakistan’s Squalor, Cradles of Terrorism.” It highlighted the contention of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and World Bank President James Wolfensohn that poverty was the root cause of war and terrorism. President Bush apparently bought into it, perhaps thinking it would make him look compassionate at the U.N. event.

Bush Follows Clinton and Gore

In advancing this argument, Bush was following in the footsteps of former Vice President Al Gore, former media mogul Ted Turner, and former President Bill Clinton in putting some of the blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America’s success in the world. In his weekly column, Reed Irvine noted that Clinton, speaking at Georgetown University last November, suggested that those of “European lineages” were not blameless. He said that stories about brutal crimes committed by the Christian soldiers who took Jerusalem in the first Crusade are still being told in the Middle East, adding that “we are still paying for it” as well as for our mistreatment of blacks and Indians in our own country.

“We have to win the fight we’re in,” Clinton said, “but we also have to create more partners and reduce the terrorist pool. So what do we have to do? First, we have to reduce poverty and create more economic opportunity. Last year we relieved the debt of the poorest countries. We ought to do more of it, because we only relieved the debt if they would put money to education, health care, or economic development, to make sure the money wouldn’t be wasted, and the stories are stunning, what’s being done with this money in these countries. We should do more of that.”

The implication is that if we just provide them with more billions of dollars, they will lay down their suicide bombs and be our friends. “The reason that the World Trade Center got hit,” claimed broadcaster Ted Turner, “is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.” Turner said the U.S. should be “more generous” with international aid. Former Vice President Gore, who has his eye on another run for the White House, claimed the real “Axis of Evil” in the world is “poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder; corruption and political oppression.”

The New York Times ran an op-ed column by Richard Sokolsky and Joseph McMillan, identified as “research fellows at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies,” who advocated a big increase in foreign aid to “address the economic, political and social conditions that will otherwise continue breeding new terrorists.” This is the advice that Bush followed.

Flawed Theory

Irvine, who as a government economist scrutinized the results of foreign aid for 26 years, commented, “The idea inherent in all these remarks is that terrorism is caused by poverty and oppression. This is a new twist on the Marxist theory of economic determinism. Karl Marx had claimed that the poverty of the masses oppressed by greedy capitalists would lead to communism’s triumph. Our leaders bought that idea, and during the Cold War foreign aid to promote economic growth in poor countries was touted as the best way of countering the communist threat.. The communists made inroads in a few of those countries, but they did so by recruiting politicians, educators, students and other intellectuals while terrorizing their foes. Poverty and oppression increased wherever they took power. Their failure in other countries can be attributed, among other things, to the realization that communism increases poverty and oppression. It is ideas, both noble and hateful, that rule the minds of men. Osama bin Laden knows that. His agents are educated and carefully indoctrinated. They are not impoverished peasants.”

Irvine added, “The measures advocated by Clinton, Gore, Turner, Sokolsky and McMillan are no defense against the ideas that motivate suicide bombers. After studying the results of the foreign aid that has been given to the poorest countries for 50 years, World Bank economist William Easterly says in his new book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, ‘None has delivered as promised.’”

The Washington Post published a story about Easterly’s important book in its Style section. There are two other excellent books on this subject-The Lords of Poverty by Graham Hancock and The Road to Hell by Michael Maren. Both authors worked in the international aid business and have documented its ineffectiveness and corruption.

Most Aid Wasted

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a report in 1995 which revealed that the actual cost of foreign aid provided by the U.S. to the rest of the world since the end of World War II is nearly $2 trillion. It also noted a lack of evidence that it actually benefits poor nations and that some of the aid props up regimes which are undemocratic and violate the rights of their own citizens. An official Clinton administration Task Force on Foreign Aid Reform stated that, “despite decades of foreign assistance, most of Africa and parts of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East are economically worse off today than they were 20 years ago.”

Marcel Adams, an international business consultant who has worked in many foreign countries, can testify about how foreign aid is diverted into bank accounts of corrupt leaders. He says the main problem is that the aid is sent to countries with very few financial controls over the money. He believes that almost $1 billion of aid has been stolen in Haiti alone.

Winning the Lottery

Bush’s new approach to foreign aid is to switch from low-interest loans to grants. “We should give more of our aid in the form of grants, rather than loans that can never be repaid,” he said. Grant aid was abandoned decades ago because it was believed that loans would result in wiser use of the money. Much was made of various “conditions” that Bush would attach to this money. But he did not outline what they would be, saying that Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill would develop them later. They should consult Hernando de Soto, the founder of Peru’s Institute for Liberty and Democracy and the author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. De Soto says the Third World hasn’t been able to use its natural wealth because in too many countries people are denied private property rights. That stifles investment and growth. He suggests that free markets and less government would help far more than foreign aid.

So why does foreign aid continue? The major media like to talk about Enron and its political clout, but there is a foreign aid lobby in Washington called InterAction, a coalition of over 150 different American-based non-governmental organizations, which receives $1 million a year in federal funds, and whose member organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, CARE and Save the Children, separately receive tens of millions of dollars in additional federal assistance. InterAction lobbies the president and Congress, portraying them as greedy if they don’t vote for more foreign aid. InterAction also has a lot of credibility with the major media, which prefer to ignore the fact that it pushes legislation to benefit itself. At a meeting in Washington before the Monterrey conference, Tim Wirth of Ted Turner’s U.N. Foundation was frank in saying that foreign aid recipients want a “bigger pie” so they don’t have to compete for the same funds.

Aid Props Up A Dictator

InterAction has been a central force in lobbying for aid to Communist North Korea on the ground that we should help feed starving people. On March 19, as world leaders were assembling in Monterrey, the New York Times ran an op-ed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pleading for more foreign aid and a page-two story by James Brooke about Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, the German physician who worked for 18 months inside North Korea and who is dedicating his life to helping the people there survive the brutal Stalinist regime. Curiously, the story carried no information about whether the massive amounts of foreign aid being provided to North Korea, supposedly to feed starving people, are doing any good.

Yet Vollertsen has been outspoken in saying that such aid is propping up the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il. In a recent interview, Vollertsen told us that his sources in North Korea confirm that there has been “no improvement” in the delivery of food aid and other assistance, and that it continues to be diverted to support the regime. “All the North Korean defectors told me the same-that it is so easy to deceive the U.N.‘s World Food Program,” he said. The World Food Program (WFP) channels the aid to North Korea, most of it supplied or paid for by the U.S.

Faking For Foreigners

While in North Korea, Vollertsen had received a “friendship medal” from the government for having given skin grafts to a badly burned worker. This enabled him to travel around the country relatively freely. When he realized that the humanitarian aid was being diverted and started speaking out, he was expelled in December 2000. When WFP personnel are in the countryside, he explained, the communists present some well-fed children and boxes of food to prove that the aid program is working. “But when the WFP cars are gone, all those North Korean defectors told me that the food is collected and then sent to the government storehouses.” From there, he added, the food is sent to the army or sold. “The North Koreans are so sophisticated in this manipulation and propaganda. When they want you to think the food is going to the people, they will present you 100 children who are well conditioned. When they want to get some more food, they will present you 100 skinny and starving children.” Vollertsen urged the new WFP head, American James T. Morris, to demand freedom of travel for aid workers, diplomats and journalists, just what “the North Koreans are afraid of,” he said.

Currently, Dr. Vollertsen said, foreigners are mostly restricted to the capital, Pyongyang, where they are given guided tours by the government. “It’s like a huge fake,” he said, adding that North Korean defectors laugh at the ability of foreigners to be taken in. He said the high-ranking U.N. officials in Pyongyang go along with the facade because they are pulling down big salaries, enjoying the high life in the capital, and attending lavish state dinners in honor of the North Korean dictator.

The WFP claims it monitors the distribution of food. Yet Dr. Vollertsen said he was also the doctor for the nurses, aid workers and others working for the U.N. who were supposed to be doing the monitoring. He says they were “depressed, fed-up, sometimes suffering from nervous breakdowns because they realized they can’t do real monitoring. They were not allowed to see where the food aid was going.” He added, “Some of them-and I can prove that-actually wanted to commit suicide because of this situation-because they had to make the reports that everything was okay.”

Before American troops liberated Afghanistan, we were told that humanitarian aid was being delivered to the people there as well. A monitoring visit that Kofi Annan made to the New Shamshatoo Afghan refugee camp just outside of Peshawar, Pakistan, illustrates how the process is carried out. In preparation for his brief visit, officials were instructed to build him a western-style latrine that flushed. For two days, the camp staff built a latrine with two western-style flush toilets enclosed in a building. In addition, Annan or his staff required camp personnel to build helicopter pads on an adjacent field so he could be helicoptered, not driven, in. In the end, he used the helicopter pad, but not the western-style latrine. The building housing the two western-style toilets was torn down, but one of the toilets remains as a monument to his visit.


Foul-ups by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have been making big news. The awarding of visas to two of the 9/11 hijackers, six months after their deaths in the suicide attacks, generated headlines. On March 23, however, the New York Times disclosed a major blunder by the FBI that helps explain why the perpetrators of the anthrax attacks have escaped justice, and why the major media keep focusing on alleged right-wingers or current or former U.S. government personnel as the culprits. The New York Times highlighted the story in a small box on page one but it was carried inside on page nine. Correspondents William J. Broad and David Johnston disclosed that a Florida doctor told the FBI last October that he had treated one of the 9/11 hijackers for an anthrax-like infection.

The paper noted that a report prepared by experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies concluded that the diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax, which causes skin lesions, was “the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available” in the case of the 9/11 hijacker. The report added, “Such a conclusion of course raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks.”

Incredibly, the Times said the FBI was still dismissing the possibility that the 9/11 hijackers or their associates were behind the anthrax attacks that killed 5 people. “This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago,” FBI spokesman John E. Collingwood said. “Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been. While we always welcome new information, nothing new has in fact developed.”

It appears the FBI doesn’t want to admit it may have made a serious mistake. Desperately searching for leads in the anthrax investigation, the bureau has asked the U.S. Postal Service to distribute a flyer about the case to more than 500,000 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where it believes the anthrax letters were mailed. The FBI has also doubled the reward to $2.5 million for information leading to the capture of whoever sent the letters. The Christian Science Monitor reported last November that although the FBI still has not ruled out the possibility that al Qaeda may be involved, certain experts were convinced it was probably domestic.

The paper claimed the targeting of Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, pointed to an attacker with “strong domestic political views in line with certain right-wing extremists.” This was also the claim made by National Public Radio in a report suggesting that a conservative Christian group, the Traditional Values Coalition, was suspected of being behind the attacks. NPR had no evidence for such a claim, and had to backtrack from the story. It sounded like a notion the FBI may have entertained. The TVC called it libel.

Blame the Right-Wingers

The effort to blame conservatives was typical of an attitude developed under the Clinton administration, when the bureau warned that right-wingers might be planning violence for Y2K and that pro-Second Amendment and anti-U.N. groups should be monitored. No such violence occurred. But a terrorist linked to al Qaeda was caught trying to cross the Canadian border into the U.S. to bomb the Los Angeles airport. The FBI had no role in catching him. That was due to an alert border guard who noted the terrorist was sweating in cold weather and found bomb-making materials in the trunk of his vehicle.

Although the anthrax letters appeared to have been written by a foreigner, many dismissed that, saying it was too obvious and a diversion. But in addition to the discovery of biological laboratories in Afghanistan, it has been reported that documents referring to anthrax vaccine-maker Bioport Inc. were found in the possession of the al Qaeda. Two Pakistani scientists were arrested in Kabul and had the documents in their possession, according to published reports. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Edward J. Epstein noted that Bioport’s owner has had dealings with Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, and has an interest in bio-warfare. A spokesman for Bioport said the documents found in Kabul were about “laboratory renovations” and were not a “how-to” manual on making the vaccine. But why would Pakistani scientists in Kabul be interested in the plant? The FBI’s so far fruitless search for a right-wing culprit means that there are no official answers to these questions.

On February 25, Jerry Seper of the Washington Times wrote a much-publicized story that the FBI’s prime suspect in the anthrax attacks was a former government scientist. He claimed his sources were “law enforcement authorities” and “leading biochemical experts.” But you had to read deep into the article to discover his main source for this charge-Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who was described by Seper as “a microbiologist at state University of New York who heads the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists?”

The Village Voice, a left-wing New York weekly, noted that the Seper story “more or less repeated her report”- that is, a report that Rosenberg herself wrote. Interestingly, the Federation of American Scientists now promotes Rosenberg’s report on its own Web site by saying, “This report by Dr. Barbara Rosenberg prompted media reports that the FBI has a prime suspect in the anthrax attacks.”

The Washington Times neglected to mention that this is a group with a left-wing orientation that believes in the sanctity of international arms control agreements. Its Web site has stories attacking the Bush administration’s withdrawal from the flawed ABM treaty. Near the end of Rosenberg’s own report, she tips her hand, saying, “The recent anthrax attack was a minor one but nonetheless we now see that it was made possible by a sophisticated government program? secret US programs may have been the source of that support? US government insistence on pursuing and maintaining the secrecy of elaborate biological threat assessment activities is undermining the prohibitions of the Biological Weapons Convention and encouraging biological weapons proliferation in other countries?”

This is her way of attacking the Bush Administration for resisting a protocol to an international agreement supposedly banning biological weapons. She believes that if it is proven that a former U.S. government scientist is behind the anthrax attacks, then that makes the case for having an international treaty mandating inspections of government facilities. The U.S. fears that rogue nations would circumvent the treaty and our secrets would be exposed to the world.

John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, says the protocol would endanger the viability of biological warfare defense programs because its inspection provisions could enable countries with offensive programs to learn about national defense programs and devise countermeasures. Bolton has identified Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria as countries with offensive programs. But Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and her friends in the media would rather talk about some alleged and anonymous former U.S. scientist.

Rosenberg recently went further, suggesting to the BBC that the anthrax attacks were a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail that went madly out of control. She cited no evidence for the sensational charge.

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