Jewish World Review July 1, 2002 / 21 Tamuz, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Aid to Africa
helps fight terrorism | We have seen so much death and horror wrought by the spread of AIDS that it was good news to see President Bush step up and propose that the United States commit $500 million to preventing the spread of the disease in Africa and the Caribbean.

While Bush's automatic enemies will shriek that such a number is far from enough, there is an irony here in that Republicans would have been foaming at the mouth if former President Bill Clinton had proposed the same thing. They would have termed it an ungodly and irresponsible amount of money. But, of course, the Republicans cannot attack their own man as he becomes more and more of an internationalist in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Some are saying that Bush's AIDS proposal is the result of Secretary of State Powell's influence, because such a commitment reflects his desire to assist Africa and, as a member of a West Indian immigrant family, to help people in the islands. Let us hope that if this is true, it is not interpreted as an irresponsible and sentimental connection and that Powell won't find himself accused of playing some kind of international race card behind closed doors.

Quite the opposite, the fact that the administration is backing Powell's promise that the U.S. will do what it can for Africa is more than a little important. In the long view - which is not something that we seem to have much of when it comes to international relations - American aid to Africa could help develop an alliance to keep the Arab nations in check.

Let us not forget that many Arab nations have raised barely a peep against contemporary slavery in African countries, a fact that, an anti-slavery Web site, documents. We also should note that black Africa has not benefited from the oil wealth of nations such as Saudi Arabia.

So American funds that benefit Africans - rather than prop up dictators - could do the United States plenty of good, especially since Africans are quite aware of the fact that the Al Qaeda bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi killed far more Kenyans than it did Americans.

Africans are well aware that Islamic terrorists have no interest in their lives and make no distinctions when it comes to killing. The black Falashas, who are Jews, have discovered this truth in Israel, where some of them have been among those slaughtered by suicide bombers.

In this country, apparently, the ongoing killings of civilians in Israel is starting to pierce that sentimental and inaccurate identification with Islamic extremists that has so long been fostered among certain black people by the Nation of Islam, by the statements of Malcolm X and by a naive desire to take sides with those opposed to America, Christianity and so on.

In such an atmosphere, the Bush administration has made a very intelligent decision to commit money to Africa. Let us hope that it is part of a long-range vision that not only benefits us, but reduces the attractiveness of terrorists to those who are around them.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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