President Bush had not alighted for his July 8-12 African tour before Washington activists pronounced it a failure. Salih Booker of Africa Action labeled spending plans to fight AIDS and poverty "a cruel hoax." Emira Woods of Foreign Policy Focus said the president's "decision to play 'global cop' is fundamentally a doctrine of reckless endangerment for Africa."
But the liberal humanitarian establishment will have a hard time selling anti-Bush rhetoric while culture icon and rock legend Bono is on the president's side.
"I believe the president is sincere in his conviction to put the United States out front in a way that has not been done before on this issue," the U2 lead singer told a group of reporters on July 7. "We have to make sure his intentions are not undone."
Bono, a longtime proponent for fighting AIDS in Africa who toured U.S. churches last year for the cause, said he is "ready to trumpet" a Bush plan to double over the next five years aid to Africa through both a $15 billion global AIDS initiative and a $10 billion development fund called the Millennium Challenge Account. Congress is expected to act on the spending measures this month. Bono spoke to a half dozen reporters (including WORLD) by phone from his home in Dublin to stress the importance of aid to Africa underwritten with U.S. dollars.
"This is the kind of American that I am a fan of, the American that liberated Europe and rebuilt Europe and invested in Europe as a bulwark against Sovietism," Bono said in the interview. "It is very smart to invest in Africa now as a bulwark against extremist ideology in the hot war [on terrorism]. I think it is very smart as well as the right thing to do."
Bono told reporters he agrees with a senior White House official who recently told him "there are potentially another 10 Afghanistans on the continent of Africa." But security concerns for the rock star are still second to his campaign against AIDS. Over 5,000 Africans die every day of what he calls a treatable disease. "We don't want to be tourists in other people's tragedies. And I don't think America right now wants to be in a place where it doesn't make good on promises of this scale."