Tuesday, April 29, 2003

In recent months, I have certainly been very critical of President Bush and especially his advisors. I do not need to repeat myself as to why. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. Occassionally, the administration does get something right.

Last Friday, the president signed the Clean Diamonds Trading Act passed by Congress. This law brings the US in line with the international Kimberly Process.

The Kimberly Process was initiated to combat the scourge of 'blood diamonds.' The export of diamonds from conflict zones have been used to fund some of the African continent's most brutal civil wars, especially ones in Angola and Sierra Leone which have recently ended (one hopes).

The alleged 'blood diamond' links between Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda probably didn't hurt the efforts by humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to convince Congress and the president as to the importance of this legislation. Given that Americans buy as much as 70% of the world's diamonds, passage of this law was particularly important.

You also may remember the commitment the president made in his state of the union address concerning funding for programs to fight the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Some called it a cynical move to soften up moderates and progressives (that along with the call for funding hydrogen fuel cells research) in the speech before launching his hard-line rhetoric against Iraq.

The president was scheduled to announced today support for a $15 billion plan to fight AIDS/HIV around the world, however the plan is being targeted by conservatives who want to derail the initiative. As you might expect, hard-liners object to programs that include needle exchanges, contraception and other things that many conservatives object to. We may shortly be able to gauge the depth and sincereity of the president's commitment to this issue.

Hopefully, the president will find it as beneficial to spend a multi-billion dollar amount fighting the world's worst disease as he found it to spend a multi-billion dollar amount fighting one of the world's worst dictators.


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