President Barack Obama is proposing that American taxpayers spend about $1.55 billion on aid to Egypt and another $1.5 million – not billion - on aid to Libya in the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1, which would be the same amount allocated for Egypt in the current fiscal year, and a decline of about $1 million in Libyan aid.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks during a Transfer of Remains Ceremony, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
The attacks this week on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, have caused some members of Congress to question whether taxpayers’ money is being well spent.
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The morning after the Benghazi attack, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans (including Ambassador Christopher Stevens), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said many Americans were asking, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.”
But she said the attack was the work of “a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya.”
As “complicated” and “confounding” as American engagement in Egypt and Libya might be, Sen. Rand Paul, R- Ky., took to the Senate floor Thursday to offer a simple response to the events: either halting or putting tight restrictions on the flow of U.S. aid to not only Egypt and Libya, but to Yemen and Pakistan as well.
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Paul offered an amendment that would require the governments of all those countries to cooperate with investigations of the attacks on U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt and the consulate in Benghazi and turn over those who planned or took part in any of those attacks to U.S. custody.
(Paul also wants the Pakistani government to release from prison Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped the U.S. to locate Osama Bin Laden.)
The amendment has not been voted on by the Senate.
“The American people are tired of this,” Paul said. “Our Treasury is bare. There is a multitude of reasons why we should not continue to send good money after bad.”
He added, “Not one penny more for Libya or Egypt or Pakistan until they act as our allies. Some say we have to keep sending it. Fine, let’s send it when they act as our allies. Let’s send it when they start behaving as civilized nations and come to their senses.”
Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters
Senator John Kerry, D-Ma., addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D- Mass., responded: “Whatever happened to the great commitment of the conservative movement in America to freedom and democracy and to help it develop? Just turn our back on it and pull out the aid? What the heck - because we don’t think they are civilized?”
Kerry warned that “unscrupulous people (who) we all know have hated us for a long time” would “love to get the upper hand” in all those countries and Paul’s amendment might help them do that.
As far as Libya is concerned, Karim Mezran, adjunct professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said the actual dollar amount of U.S. aid matters far less than the symbolism of supporting a pro-Western, pro-U.S. government. “Do you stand with a regularly elected government which the U.S. and the Europeans helped bring to power, or do you allow it to sink by withdrawing support?” Mezran asked.
The foreign aid numbers make it clear that Egypt is a far bigger matter than Libya.
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According to the Congressional Research Service, between 1948 and 2011, the United States gave Egypt $71.6 billion in foreign aid. In the past fiscal year, Egypt ranked fifth among countries receiving U.S. foreign aid money, after Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
For the fiscal year which begins on Oct, 1, Obama is requesting $1.55 billion in aid to Egypt: $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid.
To put that number in perspective, the federal government spends about $1.5 billion a day on Medicare.