Good news, oppressed queens and dykes of the world, Barack Obama is coming to the rescue!
Yessir, the Hope Man has announced that he’ll be prioritizing foreign aid based on the status of the country’s treatment of the LGBTQ community.
“Great!” Says the world.
“Idiocy!” Says I.
Playing Politics With Aid
The problem with America basing its foreign policy on the cause du jour is that it usually ends with an Arab country getting invaded. What’s worse is that the intended humanitarian goal is rarely actually achieved.
In 2001, it was First Lady Laura Bush championing a campaign to ‘liberate’ the women of the Middle East. That ‘let little girls go school!’ rhetoric has been a big driver in the billions of American aid dollars that go to Afghanistan every year.
If you ignore the data that says Afghanistan gets a score of 2 (out of 100) for the status of women (making it second last) – it totally worked!
Thank goodness, too, considering that America justified its continued occupation of the country based – at times – exclusively on promoting the status of women.
It’s just like what America did in Iraq, circa 1990. Some girl named Nayirah showed up in Washington and told the American media that the marauding Iraqis were taking new-born Kuwaiti babies from incubators and throwing them around like baseballs. The horror – the horror.
This all having come just two months after the U.N’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Americans naturally used it as a pretext to ‘liberate’ Kuwait.
Unfortunately, it was completely untrue.
Immediately after the invasion, The New York Times discovered that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States and the stories were a complete fabrication.
The American government has had to find a new cause célèbre to justify its interventionist policies worldwide.
Unfortunately for the gay community – it might just be us.
The problem, see, is that America ran a justification deficit after the Cold War. For a good 40 years, the U.S. could just yell ‘Communists!’ and do whatever it wanted – from selling weapons to Iran to fund death squads in Nicaragua or invading the Dominican Republic and replacing the democratically-elected government with a military government.
The American government has had to find new cause célèbre to justify its interventionist policies worldwide.
Unfortunately for the gay community – it might just be us.
Let’s look at the case of Lebanon. Outwardly, the government has criminalized homosexuality, publicly admonished the queer population and has turned a blind eye to discrimination. From the outside, Lebanon is a bad country that should not be receiving American aid.
Inside, however, Lebanon has active LGBTQ support groups, activist organizations fighting the (rarely-used) law against homosexuality and queers marching in the streets without reprisal.
But, because America (and Canada) classify their Hezbollah government as a terrorist organization with close ties to Iran, it seems like a good place to play the ‘gay rights!’ card.
Maybe Obama will choose another country, but you can bet it won’t be one of the human rights abusers close to the American government.
Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Nigeria and Pakistan are some of the worst offenders against gays and lesbians, but they also share warm and cuddly relations with the United States and their war on terror/drugs.
Enter Rick Perry
After Obama announced the changes, Rick Perry couldn’t help but play the fool and release a statement condemning the decision, saying:
“Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.
“This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.
“I have proposed a foreign aid budget that starts at zero. From that zero baseline, we will consider aid requests based solely on America’s national security interests. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money…
…“President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”
This pains me to say – but he’s right. For all the wrong reasons.
Uganda will never adopt America’s view of homosexuality, as perhaps it shouldn’t. It should find its own way of accepting its queer population. That doesn’t mean we should let Uganda execute people for their sexuality, but revoking their aid isn’t going to fix that.
The real way to foster change isn’t to try and extort reforms from foreign governments, it is to empower activists on the ground to make their own change, like queers in North America did.
Gay rights should not be a pretext for meddling into Middle Eastern affairs. Children shouldn’t starve because the Obama government thinks it can play good cop/bad cop with Ayatollah Khomeini.
Despite what Perry says, America’s aid decisions on foreign aid are already heavily based on self-interest.
Proof? Some of the biggest recipients of American aid in 2010: Afghanistan ($2.8 billion,) Pakistan ($1.4 billion,) and Israel ($600 million, excluding Palestine.)
Why the hell does Israel need aid money? They should get their aid money taken away before Uganda does.
Of that money given out, most fund basic necessities (health, education, infrastructure) while things like ‘social and economic services and protection for vulnerable populations’ (which ostensibly includes protecting queer populations) is ranked seventh, just above ‘private sector competitiveness.’ Funding for ‘rule of law and human rights’ ranks 15th, with a measly $270 million going out to all the recipient countries.
Promoting human rights and anti-discrimination measures can do a whole lot more good than just taking your ball and going home.
And let’s not forget that America has a few problems accepting its own LGBTQ population.
So please, Obama, spare us the lecture on morals.