Pet projects put foreign aid in pockets of war criminals

It is hard to disagree with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (“Protecting America’s first line of defense,” Sept. 19) about the pressing need to increase or at least maintain USAID and State Department budgets. Indeed, every dollar spent on foreign assistance probably offsets 10 dollars spent on conducting wars, doing emergency supplies of preventable maladies and infrastructure breakdowns around the world, which strains us even more and puts our people in harm’s way.

 However, something just as important, that Schiff does not mention, is how that money, allocated to USAID and the State Department, is being directed to be spent. Because of some in the Congress, and against the wishes of State Department and USAID themselves, it is allocated in sometimes quite wasteful and even immoral ways that go against U.S. national interests. 

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 Case in point — the slipping in of an obscure provision to channel direct aid, millions of taxpayers’ money that is unilaterally allocated by the Foreign Ops subcommittee since 1998, to the criminal secessionists in the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. That happens over the objections of the State Department and opposition from the USAID, infringes on Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and rewards war crimes perpetrators with aid, freeing up their resources to continue their occupation of Azerbaijan and denial of basic human rights to the 800,000 Azerbaijani and Kurdish displaced. 

Azerbaijan has been characterized by several top-ranked State Department officials as a “strategic U.S. ally” that contributed troops to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, is an important linchpin in the Northern Corridor, supplies 1 million barrels of oil per day to the Western markets and provides more than 25 percent of Israel’s oil supply. Does it deserve such mistreatment by the U.S. Congress?

 Schiff, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, knows this issue very well — he has been voting for and vocally supporting this obscure and illegal allocation ever since he came to Congress in 2001. How many more such pet projects are buried within the hundreds of pages of the Foreign Ops bill annually? 

If we are serious about fiscal reform, deficit reduction, sensible and need-based aid and better standing in the world, taxpayers’ money must be spent more wisely, rewarding allies and making the world better for America, Americans and all those disadvantaged who truly need USAID’s helping hand.

From Adil Baguirov, managing director and co-founder of the U.S. Azeris Network, Washington, D.C.

America to Congress: Find common ground

President Obama says his plan to ask the super-rich to pay their share of taxes is not class warfare, it’s math (“Obama plays to base with tax plan,” Sept. 19). Typical of the world we live in today, the president was attacked by Republicans before he could finish his sentence.

I don’t care what anyone calls it: if 2+2=4, the equation works. The way the Washington spinmeisters already are working overtime on this, it’s setting up to be another congressional showdown like the July debt-ceiling debacle. Personally, I don’t think the nation can afford another meltdown now. 

Here’s what I want to say to House and Senate leaders: Show the American people you truly heard what we told you during your August recess. Find common ground on this critical tax issue and get on with governing.

From Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Congress approval ratings no surprise

I am not surprised that both Congress’s and the president’s approval ratings are languishing at alarmingly low depths (“Poll: Obama approval at 43%, Congress at 12%,” Sept. 17). Everybody is frustrated and angry in the country. While there has been a dearth of leadership, especially from the White House, the real issue is that there is no consensus about how to solve the economic problems that are plaguing the country. Instead of finding answers, there is this constant drone of partisan bickering. The atmosphere in Washington became so extreme that the United States nearly defaulted on its obligations in August over what is usually a pro forma vote over the debt ceiling. 

I think that Democrats and Republicans would do themselves and the country a great service by doing two things. First, Congress could pass a jobs bill that has bipartisan support. Second, Democrats and Republicans could tell the American people that while the measures the government takes can make a modest impact, there is no silver bullet that will ameliorate our economic woes. Perhaps then, approval ratings of everybody in Washington would improve.

From Glenn Hyams, Jericho, N.Y.