Friday, July 01, 2005

Live8 comes!

Yawn. Bob Geldoff and others feel guilty again. Guess they make too much money for their consciences.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for providing assistance to the poor. This ain't it. Remember Live Aid? Great music. Glorious band reunions: Led Zepplin, The Who, Genesis. Plenty of money: $245.4 million, in 1985 dollars.

Then What? Ethiopian Dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam misappropriated the money. He played Geldoff for the fool, and the West played the fool right along with the musician-turned-fundraiser:

In the time of Band Aid, "negative angles" were out. It would have been negative, although true, to have emphasised that Mengistu was one of the most vicious African dictators of the previous quarter-century, that he was fighting three wars at the time (two in the north, in Tigray and Eritrea, and one in the Oromo lands of the south), and that his troops were committing atrocities in the region where the famine was unfolding.

It would have been distinctly negative to have reported that the dictator was using food as a weapon of war - bombing crops and markets while setting up roadblocks to prevent the movement of food. The methods used by Mengistu’s armies were bound to create famine, and they did.

Journalists and aid workers were not the only ones wary of confusing viewers at home with "negative angles". While it was Band Aid and, later, Live Aid that caught the imagination of the world, they funded only a small proportion of the aid effort: 90 per cent or more of the aid came from Western donor governments. As the governments would only deal with a recipient government, not with rebel movements, most of the aid - again, roughly 90 per cent - was channelled through Mengistu’s hands. In a grotesque irony, we found ourselves supporting the government that was causing the famine we were supposed to be alleviating.

Twenty years later, how much has Africa changed? Judging from Sudan, Zimabwe and Nigeria, not much. Millions again will be raised. Will it help the people in need? Or will it support their oppressors?

A preferential option for the poor is not served by depositing people's hard earned money into the hands of Dictators. Especially when these tyrants create the humanitarian crisis for political purposes. Ed Driscoll of the Weekly Standard says it the best:

While Live Aid was spectacular television, it was just another in a series of Big Events from people who believed that throwing money at a problem eventually solves it. Eerily, it forecast how the left would interact with Iraq: Substitute Mengistu for Saddam Hussein and it's amazing how all the rest of the players stay the same--the BBC, the United Nations, and celebrities who believe that despots can be reasoned with to do the right thing. We won't get fooled again? Of course you will.