Thank You, George Bush


Say the people of Liberia.
Juli Endee pulled the microphone close and belted out, "Thank you, George Bush."

"Thank you for democracy," she crooned over the electric guitar, shaking her hips wrapped in yellow cloth. "Thank you for the rule of law," she sang. "Thank you for debt relief."

Doesn't sound like a top-40 hit, exactly, but this pop singer's peace songs were the nation's refuge during its civil war, and now she says

If you were to take a survey, you would find that there is not one Liberian that doesn't love George Bush.

An exaggertion, no doubt, although Bush did help push the abominable Charles Taylor out.

A Pew poll of 47 nations found that America's popularity is exceptionally high in Africa, where some hold the United States in higher regard than Americans do themselves.
Just why do they love him? Aid and AIDS money in part, but also trade and anti-corruption programs that are helping support true freedom instead of merely throwing money at problems:

The Bush administration has made Africa the centerpiece of its aid strategy. Twelve of the 15 countries receiving funding from the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are in Africa. Nine African countries are among the 16 drawing grants from Mr. Bush's Millennium Challenge Corp., which provides support to nations that have reached benchmarks from stemming corruption to investing in immunizations.

Since Mr. Bush took office, U.S. development aid to Africa has tripled, funding for HIV programs has vaulted from less than $1 billion to more than $6 billion per year and garment exports from Africa to the United States, fueled by special trade deals, increased sevenfold, according to U.S. statistics.

But the President keeps insisting the aid goes to governments and programs that actually work.

I'm frankly not interested in, you know, spending taxpayers' money on governments that end up pocketing the money and not helping citizens live.
And insisting:
I'll just put it bluntly -- America doesn't want to spend money on people who steal the money from the people.
And insisting:
Upstairs we talked about the Millennium Challenge Account. It is a sizeable sum of taxpayers' money, aimed at helping you achieve your objectives, because your government, led by you, is one that fights corruption and invests in its children, invests in the health of its citizens.

Bush says aid to Africa is both a moral question and a matter of US interest:

I'm oftentimes asked, what difference does it make to America if people are dying of malaria in a place like Ghana? It means a lot. It means a lot morally, it means a lot from a -- it's in our national interest. After all, if you believe we're in an ideological struggle against extremism, which I do, the only way these people can recruit is when they find hopeless people. And there's nothing more hopeless than a mother losing a child needlessly to a mosquito bite.
Isn't this neat?
Benin, where Mr. Bush's trip began Saturday, received a $307 million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corp. two years ago for its commitment to democracy. The commitment was especially apparent that year when a shortage of government funds for election machinery nearly caused the elections to be canceled. They were saved by voters, who raised cash, lent computers and used their motorcycle headlights to illuminate ballot-counting centers.
Who has done more for Africa in real terms than George Bush? It might even make some people proud of our country. Read his lovely address to the people of Liberia.

Photo credit: (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)