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Thursday, May 26, 2016

US Foreign Aid Is Jet Fuel for Corruption

Our Government Funds Shockingly Corrupt Regimes

The Obama administration wants Americans to believe that it is fiercely anti-corruption.

“I’ve been shocked by the degree to which I find corruption pandemic in the world today,” declared Secretary of State John Kerry at this month’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London.

Kerry sounded like the French detective in Casablanca who was “shocked” to discover gambling. Six years ago at the United Nations, President Obama proclaimed that the US government is “leading a global effort to combat corruption.” Maybe he forgot to send Kerry the memo.

Or maybe Kerry lost the memo. By the time he got to Egypt last week, judging by his public comments, he seems to have forgotten about corruption despite standing in one of its capitals.

Much of the teeth-gnashing at the London summit involved tax evasion. Politicians pledged to share more data on tax records and corporate ownership to help boost government revenue around the globe. Summit attendees castigated hidden offshore tax havens — ironically, the same type of accounts used by both British Prime Minister David Cameron and Kerry. A joint communique solemnly pledged to drive “out those lawyers, real estate agents and accountants who facilitate or are complicit in corruption.”

But the summit largely ignored how corruption is fueled by Western governments, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Foreign aid has long been notorious for breeding kleptocracies — governments of thieves. Economic studies have revealed that corrupt governments receive more foreign aid.

Fourteen years ago, President George W. Bush promised to reform foreign aid: “We won’t be putting money into a society which is not transparent and corrupt.” (He probably meant “corruption-free.”) But US aid programs — which cost taxpayers more than $40 billion a year — continue to bankroll many of the world’s most crooked regimes (according to ratings by Transparency International) — including Uzbekistan, Haiti and Kenya.

The Obama administration has valiantly resisted congressional efforts to stop payouts to political bandits abroad. In 2011, when a House committee sought to curb the abuse, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that restricting handouts to nations that fail anti-corruption tests “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients,” according to the Washington Post.

Since Obama took office, the US government has provided more than $60 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan — even though that nation’s president, Ashraf Ghani, admitted last week that his nation is “one of the most corrupt countries on earth.”

Seven years ago, Obama reportedly gave Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, a six-month deadline to eradicate corruption. Obama’s imperative only accelerated the looting by Afghan government officials and their cronies.

Kerry promised that the US would help fund a Global Consortium of Civil Society and Investigative Journalists against Corruption. But on the home front, the Obama administration has scourged individuals who disclosed federal abuses. Obama’s Justice Department has launched more than twice as many federal prosecutions for Espionage Act violations as all previous administrations combined.

When Obama took office, the US was ranked as having the 20th most free press in the world, according to the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index — in the same league as Germany and Japan. By 2016, it had fallen to 41st — worse than South Africa and barely ahead of Botswana.

Kerry joined foreign chieftains in calling for more transparency to fight corruption, but he forgot to notify his own State Department. Just days before Kerry’s speech, it confirmed that it had “lost” all the emails of a technician who set up the private email server that Clinton used to potentially illicitly keep her correspondence secret (and to ignore federal law on classified information). Nor have we learned the shady details behind our former secretary of State shoveling out scores of billions of dollars and special treatment to foreign governments at the same time the Clinton Foundation collected millions of dollars from some of the beneficiaries.

  • James Bovard is the author of ten books, including Public Policy Hooligan, Attention Deficit Democracy, and Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty. Find him on Twitter @JimBovard.