Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The return of the $43 million error. In an otherwise impressive essay for the New Republic's "Liberalism and American Power" issue, Samantha Power recycles a hoary old canard. As an example of the Bush administration's inconsistent foreign policy, Power writes, "We can go to war against the Taliban, never acknowledging our previous aid to the regime -- we offered a grant of $43 million as late as May 2001 -- for its help quashing opium production." (Power's piece is online here, but is available only to TNR subscribers.)

As I reported more than a year ago, and as others have reported as well, this was simply not the case, an inconvenience that has not prevented it from attaining the status of accepted truism. The fact is that the US distributed $43 million through the UN and non-governmental organizations to help feed starving Afghans. Even in announcing the aid package, Secretary of State Colin Powell pointedly criticized Afghanistan's Taliban government.

Unfortunately, this is one error that has been repeated so often, and has been so rarely challenged, that it has taken on the color of truth. Surely the Bush White House's foreign policy has been cynical enough without having to tar it with a grotesque misdeed that it did not actually commit.

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