American Aid is the Pocket Change of Dictators, It’s Time to Cut the Funding

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USAID was unable to account for over 63 million dollars of aid pumped into Afghanistan (Image credit: Council on Foreign Relations).

Ferdinand Marcos died in exile as a pathetic and disgraced leader. A formerly loved and revered Filipino politician who won a Senate seat with the largest plurality ever, Marcos’s reputation had been smeared with accusations of corruption, violations of human rights, and his involvement in one of the Philippine’s worse economic recessions, which saw unemployment spike to 23%. At the time of his death, Marcos had amassed a wealth of $10 billion dollars. His source of revenue is clearly highlighted in Jovito Salonga’s book “Presidential Plunder”, which reveals that Marcos had been stealing American aid. Despite knowing this, the USA kept giving money to the Philippines disguised as “aid”. The reason was simple. The Viet Cong had been fighting against America in the Vietnam War, and America had to keep its puppets in the region in power if it wanted their continued support.

In an ideal world, aid money would go towards supporting the people who need it. In reality, it often doesn’t. 73% of aid goes to dictatorships, ending up in the dictator’s pockets. For example, in Afghanistan, America failed to account for where $63 million of a $236 million investment went. The harsh truth is that, as of now, aid given to a nation is aid given to its corrupt elite or American-installed puppet. 

To reach that goal of an ideal flow of aid, the structure of aid must be changed. CSIS has proved empirically that a lack of money is not the main problem of poor nations. Structural reasons (wars, corrupt governments, etc.) are by far more important. Gilles Carbonnier, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, shows one example of the issue with humanitarian aid, writing 

“The majority of places where you have a humanitarian crisis are places or countries where those crises have been going on for at least eight years but often more than 20 years, and sometimes as long as 30 or 40 years.” If people haven’t been helped by aid, then where has the aid money gone?

It’s far past time that question is answered. Aid money has gone to two main places. The first is that of dictators. A perfect example of this is in Chile, where dictator Augusto Pinochet tortured 30,000 people while in power, exiled 20,000, and scarred the Chilean people who were forced into his brutal regime for life. After being ousted, it was discovered that the USA had given $1.5 million to the dictator and his forces to help him consolidate power. They had even supported his coup against the democratically elected Salvador Allende. The reason was that Allende was on the left, and was nationalizing major industries. The US saw this as a threat to capitalism, and therefore continuously gave aid to Pinochet and his allies to ensure him an iron grip over his country, even if that meant funding the torture of thousands. In international relations, it seems that geopolitical alliances often outweigh helping the people.

The second place aid money has gone is into the pockets of the American government. America’s actions in the Middle East are a perfect example. $150 million dollars of oil money was stolen from Iraq during the Gulf War, which was disguised by Bush as a humanitarian operation. The U.S. food aid program buys food from American farmers and then pays American shippers two to three times the market rate to send it to Africa or Asia. The fact is huge amounts of aid are being used just to make Americans richer. Aid has simply been used as a mask to trick people and organizations into believing that America is helping these countries, while in actuality, American corporations are the only ones benefiting.

Aid is used as a disguise to either allow America to make more money for themselves or to put the people they choose into power, making more money for themselves. This cannot be allowed to go on any further. A world of good aid should and would be one where structural issues within a country are solved before aid is blindly given. Aid must ultimately benefit the people, not the elite, not the dictator, and not foreign nations. 

Written by Pacey Qi

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