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Accountable Aid

"Accountability" was the buzzword of choice when the Bush administration unveiled its compact for sustainable development in mid-March, pledging $5 billion over the next three years to help poor nations who demonstrated a "strong commitment" to rooting out corruption, upholding human rights, and adhering to the rule of law. That zeal for accountability does not ...

"Accountability" was the buzzword of choice when the Bush administration unveiled its compact for sustainable development in mid-March, pledging $5 billion over the next three years to help poor nations who demonstrated a "strong commitment" to rooting out corruption, upholding human rights, and adhering to the rule of law.

That zeal for accountability does not seem to apply, however, when it comes to the more than $7.7 billion that the White House has budgeted for various types of foreign military assistance in fiscal 2003. According to "U.S. Foreign Military Training: Global Reach, Global Power, and Oversight Issues" — recently published by the left-leaning think tank Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) — the Bush administration is aiding militaries that have a documented record of corruption, trampling human rights, and undermining the rule of law.

These programs have expanded since the early 1990s, but the attacks of September 11, 2001, provided a key rationale for a big boost. Today, the United States trains nearly 100,000 foreign soldiers annually in at least 150 U.S.-based institutions and 180 countries. Nineteen recipients of such assistance — including Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colombia — have been cited by the Bush administration as "friends and allies in the fight against terrorism." Yet the security forces in 14 of those nations were also cited by the State Department’s 2002 "Human Rights Report" for abuses that include extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. In fact, 51 of the 180 countries receiving military aid have been described by the State Department as having "poor" human rights records.

Some might argue that focusing on human rights abuses is an unaffordable luxury in the worldwide fight against al Qaeda. But FPIF warns that supporting lawless, oppressive governments merely fosters the anger and misery that helps give rise to terrorists in the first place — suggesting that, in a few years, the United States might be held accountable in ways it had not intended.

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