Sunday, July 13, 2003

Our lawmakers respond

This week, we asked Tristate legislators in the U.S. House and Senate: "Why should your constituents care about President Bush's U.S. policy initiatives toward Africa?"

The responses we received:

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio

The African continent is in desperate need of outside assistance and the United States has a moral obligation to intervene. The United States is in a unique position to help end the human suffering caused by preventable, treatable diseases and acute, persistent famine in Africa and elsewhere around the world. I have worked on legislative efforts to feed children, to provide loans to businesses in developing countries, to assist farmers, and to fight against the spread of disease. A stable Africa would mean one less place in the world for terrorists to hide.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio

Plagued with civil strife, failed economies, and debilitating health challenges, many African countries are at the brink or over it. Reaching out to the struggling people in these countries not only fulfills the second great commandment - to love our neighbors as ourselves - but it also helps work to head off the types of crises that brought us to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the absence of constructive engagement with free democracies, dictatorships and unstable, conflict-ridden nations become breeding grounds for extremism, shelters for terrorists - or both - and create serious national security problems for the United States. The president's trip is a valuable opportunity to display our nation's humanity and encourage development of a peaceful, free, and stable Africa.

Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

Africa is a continent of great challenges, but also great promise. There was a time when we as Americans thought that events occurring across the oceans didn't affect us, but recent events such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the outbreak of SARS, as well as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the emergence of a truly global market demonstrate that we are interconnected and cannot idly sit by as world events play out.

I also agree with President Bush when he says that a country as great as America cannot stand by as famine, tyranny and disease cripple the African continent. I think President Bush is smart to engage African nations like Senegal, Africa's longest standing democracy, as a model of what can be Africa's future. He is also smart to engage those African leaders who are committed to helping moving their countries toward democracy, free enterprise and peace.

Allowing civil wars and tyranny to go unchecked in Africa, or allowing the HIV/AIDS pandemic to grow, or allowing famine to claim the lives of more innocent children will not only bring dire consequences to Africa, but can lead to terrorism and instability for the world.

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio

President Bush's trip to Africa demonstrates our growing relationship with the continent. I've met with dozens of African leaders and seen firsthand the dire economic conditions plaguing the African people.

These conditions have led to the absence of a centralized government in some African nations, producing a highly conducive environment for terrorist and extremist groups to flourish. The most effective method to improve conditions and eliminate the terrorist threat on the continent is to promote economic independence for African nations. The U.S. can also help stabilize the political climate by combating the AIDS epidemic.

We should recognize, however, that Congress does have an important role to play in determining the amount of aid. Much of the aid in the past has ended up in the hands of despots and dictators rather than reaching the people it was intended to help. We need strong congressional oversight and involvement to protect the American taxpayers as well as help the people of Africa. I think we can accomplish both.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio

President Bush's trip to Africa may be one of the most important trips abroad he's made to date. A peaceful, stable Africa is vital to our security. Often, our enemies take advantage of unstable states and cross-border conflicts - both of which are common on the African continent - as cover for terrorist operations. A stronger, more prosperous Africa would not provide safe haven to terrorist organizations.

I also commend the president for his continued work to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. Particularly on the issue of mother-to-child transmission of HIV - which infects nearly 2,000 babies each day worldwide - I am proud our nation is taking the lead.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Our war on terrorism in the age of globalization has made it abundantly clear: Problems that are "out there" don't stay out there very long. The instability, poverty, disease and despotism that plague too many countries in Africa make them vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists and criminal organizations. That terror and criminality could be easily exported to the United States.

President Bush's $15 billion AIDS initiative, his innovative Millennium Challenge Corporation to kick-start growth in the most promising poor countries, and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which I sponsored three years ago, are important for our security. By strengthening African economies and democracy, we can make those countries partners, not problems, in the war on terrorism.

Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky.

Since the terrorist attacks on our nation, U.S. foreign policy has reached an historic turning point. President Bush has led our country through some very trying times and we all agree that every attempt must be made to prevent any future attacks. History tells us that instability breeds terrorism. Africa is facing many challenges, all of which lead to the proliferation of instability. The AIDS epidemic has reached catastrophic levels in Africa, civil wars continue to erupt, and starvation still plagues many African countries. Every American has felt the effects of these issues and the problems cannot be ignored.

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