Written by Arnold Ahlert
In the past few weeks, Americans have been subjected to a barrage of doomsday predictions regarding the disaster that would befall us should the sequester come to pass. Many were rightly incensed, then, that last Thursday, only one day before the “devastating” sequester cuts were scheduled to kick in, newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Obama administration will be giving $60 million to a group of Syrian rebels fighting Bashsar Assad.
This hypocrisy was quickly followed up with an announcement on Sunday by Kerry that the administration will be giving Egypt’s increasingly anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood government $250 million in return for promises of economic reform — which will rise to $1 billion if that reform is deemed successful.
Kerry made the first announcement, on Syrian rebel aid, while attending an international conference on Syria in Rome. After asserting that Syrian President Bahsar Assad is “out of time and must be out of power,” Kerry revealed that the United States will be sending food rations known as M.R.E.s, as well as medicine to the rebels, via their central military headquarters. American advisors will supervise the distribution. Other countries will send additional aid, and Kerry is convinced the “totality” of that effort will impress Assad.
The rationale behind the funding is that something must be done to counter the extremist rebel factions who have better-organized networks for providing political and humanitarian services to Syrians resisting the Assad regime.
The aid will be given to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the ostensible counter-weight to the Islamist al-Nusra Front, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States. “We need to help them to be able to deliver basic services and to protect the legitimate institutions of the state,” said Kerry. “You have a vulnerable population today that needs to be able to resist the pleas to engage in extremism.”
Despite Kerry’s announcement, such resistance isn’t costing American taxpayers a total of $60 million. That money is earmarked for essential services, such as sanitation and education, in areas currently controlled by rebels. Another $50 million dollars has already been spent providing assistance, such as communications equipment, to activists and local councils. Both amounts are in addition to the $385 million this administration has provided in humanitarian aid to the war-weary Syrian population.
Despite their newfound largesse, some of the rebels were disappointed by the outcome of their meeting with Kerry. “It is obvious that the real support is absent,” said Walid al-Bunni, a spokesman for the anti-Assad coalition. Al-Bunni insists weapons are priority number one. “What we want is to stop the Scuds launched on Aleppo, to stop the warplanes that are bombing our towns and villages,” he said.
At this point, that isn’t going to happen. Britain is supplying the rebels with militarily useful items, such as vehicles, bulletproof vests, and night vision goggles, but neither the U.S. nor the EU has any current intention of arming the rebels, for fear such weapons may end up in the wrong hands. The New York Times reports that the CIA is training Syrian rebels in Jordan, according to an official who wishes to remain anonymous. Yet neither weapons nor ammunition have been given to them either.
Former military intelligence officer and police detective Mike Snopes puts the timing and scope of the $60 million giveaway in proper perspective. ”This is an amazing example of Obama’s priorities,” he contended. “He spouts gloom and doom for the American people many of whom suffer daily due to an awful economic picture, but he spouts hope to Syrian rebels, many of them members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
Unfortunately, Kerry was only getting warmed up. He more than quadrupled down on Sunday in Egypt. The $250 million given to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was based on Morsi’s promise to enact economic reforms necessary to procure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That loan had been agreed to in principle last November, but violent street protests in December drove Cairo to suspend the request, according to Reuters. Yet according to the Washington Post, loan negotiations were set back by Egypt’s refusal to raise taxes last year. Complicating the issue even further was a downgrade of Egypt’s debt rating by Fitch, who contends the IMF loan is unlikely to happen until Egypt holds its next round of parliamentary elections beginning in April, and running in four stages through June.
Kerry is obviously trying to jumpstart the process. ”The United States can and wants to do more,” Kerry said in a statement. “Reaching an agreement with the IMF will require further effort on the part of the Egyptian government and broad support for reform by all Egyptians. When Egypt takes the difficult steps to strengthen its economy and build political unity and justice, we will work with our Congress at home on additional support.”
The initial $250 million funding will be divided into two parts. First, $190 million is aimed at alleviating what Kerry characterized as Egypt’s “extreme needs.” It comes from a $450 million package of aid that had been frozen by Congress due to Egypt’s instability and U.S. budget concerns. Apparently not enough concern: despite the objections of congressional Republicans disenchanted with Morsi’s policies and past statements on Jews, the outlay was approved.
Another $60 million, for the creation of a fund aimed at “direct support to key engines of democratic change in Egypt, including Egypt’s entrepreneurs and its young people” brought the total outlay to a quarter of a billion dollars.
Again in the context of the relentless doom-and-gloom campaign surrounding sequestration, such assistance is dubious enough. Yet Americans must also remember that while half the sequestration cuts are being endured by the military, the U.S. is still sending 200 state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and 20 F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as well. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) attempted to block the deal, originally made in 2009 with then-president Hosni Mubarak, but his amendment was defeated 79-19 in the Senate. Only Republicans voted against the measure.
An Abrams tank costs $4.3 million. An F-16 fighter jet is $45 million. Thus, another $1.760 billion of taxpayer funding has been used to further enhance the Muslim Brotherhood’s military capability. Yet when the amendment was defeated, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) contended the alternative was far worse, including “a loss of thousands of American jobs,” and “more than two billion dollars in contract-termination penalties for U.S. taxpayers.” In other words, the arming of a nation dominated by Islamists with interests completely inimical to the United States is the “lesser of two evils.”
John Kerry’s giveaway is even worse because it has occurred despite the fact that Egypt has denied U.S. interrogators access to Abu Ahmed (also known as Mohammed Jamal), the only publicly known suspect tied to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. While not suspected of taking part in the attack, Ahmed allegedly established training camps in Eastern Libya for those who did. This is on top of fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, at the first opportunity, moved to crush the Egyptian democracy movement in its cradle by granting the president uncheck authority, and has faced extreme opposition from genuine voices for freedom. The Morsi government has also adopted a Sharia-based constitution, continues to harass its Coptic Christian minority, has paid thugs to sexually assault women protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and has reportedly begun to assemble a “morality police” force.
Promising upwards of a billion dollars to such a regime is bad enough in its own context. That the Obama administration is seemingly oblivious to the timing of this announcement, as well as one regarding the Syrian giveaway, borders on surreal. One is left to wonder how the laundry list of calamities we were assured would befall us — including cuts to education, small businesses, food safety, research and innovation, law enforcement, workplace safety, etc., etc., all of which would ”threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class” — fits in with our subsidizing the ludicrous fiction that so-called Arab Spring has become.
The most obvious answer is that this administration remains confident that few Americans will make the connection. Or, in the event that they do, the same media that invariably rises to defend this administration will do its best to assure the malcontents that such expenditures are “minuscule” in the context of $3.6 trillion dollar annual budget. That would be the same media that took the exact opposite position regarding the 2.4 percent cut in spending engendered by the sequester.
Perhaps someone in the media could ask President Obama to explain his administration’s priorities, and why, so soon after warning us that doomsday was at hand, the interests of Islamic totalitarians apparently come ahead of American ones.