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Jewish World Review June 12, 2005 / 5 Sivan,
Sharing the wealth
Riddle me this: What do Madonna, Bono, President Bush and Prime
Minister Blair all have in common? They want to help poor Africans, that's
what. But how to do that is the rub.
Madonna has signed up for the latest Bob Geldof concert series
to heighten "awareness" of the dire African situation. She will join Paul
McCartney and other pop stars in a series of shows next month.
This is a nice if somewhat fuzzy idea. The last time Geldof swam
into these waters, in 1985, his "Live Aid" project raised as much as $245
million for Ethiopian famine victims. The project got great press and was a
huge financial success. Then reality intruded.
According to the watchdog group Charity Navigator, the Ethiopian
dictator Mengistu stole much of the donated money and used it to pay his
thuggish army to continue to oppress starving people in the countryside.
That part of "Live Aid" was mostly ignored by the press because it would
have been politically incorrect to point it out. The truth is that in the
chaos that is Africa, whoever has the most guns controls any aid that flows
into their area. Madonna can sing her heart out, but that's the fact.
Enter Bono, the U2 superstar who wants a coordinated effort by
the industrial world to deliver help to the poorest people on the planet.
Bono, a smart and good man, understands corruption and apathy. But while
Bono has the power to persuade, he does not have the ability to coordinate a
massive relief effort.
So who does?
The United Nations could do it but will not because that agency
is almost as chaotic and corrupt as Africa. While U.N. diplomats dine in
splendor in midtown Manhattan, thousands of destitute human beings waste
away all over the world. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is ineffective, and
until there is a crusader for justice at the helm of the United Nations,
little will be accomplished there.
So that leaves Bush and Blair. Both men recognize the tragedy of
a continent that cannot feed itself and can't even deliver basic medical
care to its people. But with an intense war on terror going on, both leaders
are a bit distracted, and resources, especially in the U.S., are stretched
very thin. However, if the president and prime minister would team up with
private agencies like Catholic Charities and Doctors Without Borders, which
are already on the ground in Africa, then at least a good beginning could be
Remember, post World War II Europe and Japan were rebuilt mostly
by American administrators. It was literally "our way or no highways." And
if African nations don't buy into that, then they should be on their own.
So it is good that the "Material Girl" wants to ship material
over to Africa. I am with Bono when he sings, "We have to carry each other."
The world's wealthy nations do have a responsibility to combat suffering
along with terrorism. But no longer can we allow chaotic nations to call the
shots on how aid programs are run. If we really want to help the poor we
have to get up close and personal.
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