Everyday the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, reportedly likes to sacrifice a black goat "to ward off the evil eye." Sounds okay, I guess, but it kind of makes you wonder just how rapidly the $13 billion we gave to Pakistan since 2002 is really helping them move toward a modern, rational, and responsive government in the 21st Century.
Believe it or not there are a lot of little pieces of insanity like this which sort of gather around us, and either we don't seem to notice, or maybe we just aren't told about them.
Since 2001, we appropriated $30 billion to Afghanistan to help that country fight off the Taliban and establish and build a modern state. So far they've re-paid our blood and treasure by voting to establish Islamic Sharia law as the law of the land. Sharia specifies that women can only work in the medical field, that they should never wear jewelry, make-up, or, more to the point, "make noise with their shoes when they walk." And, as a rule of thumb, they are generally forbidden to go outside their homes.
Some 975 Americans young men -- and at least one American woman -- gave their lives in Afghanistan to bring about these glorious changes.
In 2005, Vice President Cheney met with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev. They were photographed together, smiled held hands, and Cheney was effusive in praising Kazakhstan for its cooperation and felicity. He was there to help grease an oil and gas deal. All quite sweet, except that Nazarbayev had just had his two leading political opponents, Altynbek Sarsenbayev and Zamanbek Nurkadilov, assassinated. Shot in the head actually. And he seems to have thrown in the assassination of independent investigative journalist Askhat Sharipzhan in the bargain.
Seems Cheney might have known about that before they met and still they embraced and smiled and talked about their families . . . and negotiated their oil and gas deal.
I'm not sure if they kissed, though.
Flash to Saudi Arabia: In 2005 we gave them $19 billion in aid. But it didn't inhibit our dearest friends in the oil-rich Middle East from ordering the flogging of a 75-year old woman who violated religious prohibitions about being in the presence of a man not her immediate blood relative. This widow apparently got a loaf of bread from a young man who, it turns out, was only her "late husband's, nephew." Oops, blood relationship not close enough! The young man was sent to jail by the religious police, and our 75-year-old widow given 40 lashes and four months in prison for mingling.
By the way, the nuttiness of our foreign policy is not confined to the Middle East or Central Asia. It plays a role in this hemisphere too. Take a look at Haiti:
Close to 150,000 people died in a massive earthquake, a number almost twice that of Nagasaki. Even before the quake their life expectancy was fifty years of age and per-capita income only $400 per year. It was, and is, the single poorest country in our hemisphere just 500 miles from Miami. The trauma and tragedy is unimaginable.
But this year, in 2010, the U.S. will give Israel $2.7 billion while earmarking only $100 million to Haiti.
Think about that.
Israel's per-capita income is $19,500 per year, and its life expectancy seventy-seven. And still in Haiti's year of unimaginable grief and horror, every dollar we give to Haiti, this year, will see more than twenty times more go to Israel. . . this year!
These are not topics Wolf Blitzer, Katie Couric, or Brian Williams talk about much. "Tiger Woods' infidelities or "pork is better for sex than Viagra" seem to take up most of the space.
But it does cause you to wonder sometimes just how insane our foreign policy really is.