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Mr. President: Be Pro Bono

I prefer Beethoven to Bono. But when I heard Bono on Meet the Press yesterday, his words sounded to me like the music of the spheres. Bono wants you, Bush, speaking for America, to pledge more money at the upcoming G8 meeting to help the poor, the starving, the sick, the dying in poverty- and disease-ridden Africa and other unfortunate regions of the world. Bono promises you a hero’s place in history. I believe such a gesture of compassion would earn you much, much more: it will bring you closer to winning the war on terror than anything you have done to date. So please, Mr. President, be pro Bono.

Bono was eloquent, and I'd like to quote him at length. But here is ust a sample:

"It's just one of those moments. You know, you have the French and the Germans agreeing with the British. That already is extraordinary in these times, believe me, in Europe. The French, you know, have their colonial past in Africa, and they see themselves as an interface and are ready to step up to .7 percent GDP commitment by 2011. The British, .7 commitment. And, you know, the United States is down at about .17; .2 is within sight. But really to get serious about this, the United States has to get up to .3, .4, .5.

"...We know you've got a deficit problem. We understand there's a war being fought. But, really, if we're to take this issue seriously, and we must, because in 50 years, you know, when they look back at this moment, they'll talk about the war against terror, they'll talk about the Internet, and they'll talk about what we did or didn't do about this continent bursting into flames. It is the most extraordinary thing to watch people dying three in a bed, two on top and one underneath, as I have seen in Malawi, in Lilongwe, Malawi. I mean, it is an astonishing thing. And it's avoidable. It's an avoidable catastrophe. You saw what happened with the tsunami. You see the outpouring, you see the dramatic pictures. Well, there's a tsunami happening every month in Africa, but it's an avoidable catastrophe. It is not a natural calamity."

Isn't it sickening that "there's a tsunami happening every month in Africa, but it's an avoidable catastrophe"?

I was disappointed when Jeffrey Sachs pleaded for money from America and he did not get it. I was disappointed again when Tony Blair came to visit you in the White House to plead for money and you turned him down. Now Bono is pleading. Please do not turn him down. How can the richest country in the world not do all it can to conquer this "tsunami"?

Remember what happened with the Asian tsunami? You needed to be coaxed into doing more for the tsunami victims. But once you acted, many victims of the Asian catastrophe were saved. The negative opinions Asians had of Americans became somewhat more positive, as a result, according to recent surveys.

You see, compassion is powerful. It makes America loved. Compassion is a basic American value. Showing compassion to the unfortunate in the world demonstrates to the world what America truly stands for. It makes clear that we are not militaristic, we do not want to impose anything on other countries, we want all countries to be free to pursue their dreams as long as they do not harm others.

Mr. President, I'll go further. Demonstrating compassion, as Bono suggests, is another way of fighting the war on terror. So far, our fighting has been done militarily, and military action causes resentment. This resentment is being used by Al Qaeda to recruit more terrorists. Look how terrible things are in Iraq. By being magnanimous in compassion, we can show would-be terrorists that we are not so bad. It is pretty hard to attack people who are trying to help you. (Of course, this isn't true of fanatics. But most would-be terrorists are not fanatics.)

Helping the poorest of the poor on Earth should be one of the "weapons" we use in the fight against terrorism. It is just as important to reduce the number of people who become terrorists as it is to kill those who already are terrorists. In the long run, reducing the incentive for terrorism should be our paramount goal.

Let's give all we can. We said we'd give .7 GDP and that is what we, as leaders of the free world, should give. But you say we have a deficit. I have a simple suggestion: take the money out of the Defense Department budget. You know the Defense Depatment has many boondogles. Pick one of them - maybe the anti-missile defense system, which does not work - and get rid of it. Pledge the money at the G8 meeting.

I know a doctor who does pro bono work to help the poor who are sick. I know a lawyer who does pro bono work to help the poor in legal trouble. I hope I can say I have a president who does pro bono work for the impoverished and downtrodden of the world.

Mr. President, please be pro bono. Help the poor of the Earth, thereby making youself a hero, not only to them but to all segments of America - including Democrats.

Posted by Paul Siegel at June 27, 2005 3:30 PM