True Democrats Don't Bankroll Juntas

by Joshua Stacher | published July 12, 2013

The military’s coup in Egypt has placed the American political establishment in a bind. Many observers insist that the Obama administration must either formally condone the military takeover or call it a “coup,” which would require a cutoff of American aid, as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has advocated.

Nuclear Shadow Over the Middle East

by Joe Stork
published in MER143

In the summer of 1984, Newsweek published the results of a Gallup poll of hundreds of top-ranking American military officers. Among the questions was this: where did they see the greatest threat of a conflict situation which might escalate to nuclear war? The majority responded clearly: the Middle East. [1]

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER143

Top Reagan aides from the National Security Council and the CIA fly secretly to Iran atop crates of missiles, Bible in one hand and cake in the other. The image aptly captures the bizarre and dangerous character of Washington’s policies in the Middle East and Central America. Two of the men on the Tehran mission -- Robert McFarlane and Oliver North -- played central roles in earlier military interventions in both regions. McFarlane was the chief strategist on the ground in Beirut in September 1983, calling in the big guns of the USS New Jersey to save the beleaguered Phalange regime of Amin Gemayel Some 241 US Marines paid for McFarlane’s swagger with their lives a month later when a Lebanese suicide attack demolished their barracks. Fellow Marine Lt.Col.

Food Aid Diversion

by Steve Askin
published in MER145

For at least six years, top officials of the Somali government diverted US food aid from the most needy to enrich their friends and to feed the army fighting a long-running border war with Ethiopia. Throughout that period, the US Agency for International Development (AID) tolerated these food diversions which violated their own aid rules. In addition to enriching corrupt officials and assisting the Somali war effort, this food fraud subverted attempts to move arid, food-shortage-ridden Somalia closer to self-sufficiency. These are the conclusions of a 1986 General Accounting Office report which charged that AID knew about the Somali abuses and did nothing to stop them.

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Ethiopia's Contras

published in MER145

In his February 1986 Message to the Congress on Foreign Policy, Ronald Reagan announced his support for “growing resistance movements now [challenging] communist regimes installed or maintained by the military power of the Soviet Union and its colonial agents -- in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.” In four of Reagan’s five regional hot spots, an avowed anti-communist contra-style force maintains a field presence against a regime allied with the Soviet Union.

Ethiopia and the Politics of Famine Relief

by Gayle Smith
published in MER145

Famine takes root when farmers lose their means of production. In Africa, drought and war have forced huge numbers of peasants to sell off their animals and tools and abandon the land on which they depend, thus bringing local economies to a standstill. Grain yields in Africa declined by one-third per hectare over the last decade; food production is down by 15 percent since 1981. One out of every five Africans now depends on food aid. Interest payments on international loans now consume $15 billion per year. The continent’s industrial base is functioning at only one-third of capacity. The incidence of famine among Africa’s rural producers has in turn brought national economies to a halt.

Alignments in the Horn

Famine Reshuffles the Deck

by Dan Connell
published in MER145

A decade ago, the Horn of Africa was the scene of one of the most spectacular geopolitical realignments in Cold War history. A devastating famine helped trigger the ouster of Ethiopia’s strongly pro-US emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. A military junta seized power in Addis Ababa and pledged to place the strife-torn empire on the road to “socialism.” Three years later, the US and the Soviet Union switched positions in Ethiopia and Somalia and the entire region rippled with the aftershocks.

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Public Law 480: "Better than a bomber"

published in MER145

The US food aid program originated in 1954 as a means of disposing of costly domestic agricultural surpluses. In that year, Congress passed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, known as Public Law 480. PL 480 enables food-deficit “friendly countries” to purchase US agricultural commodities with local currency, thus saving foreign exchange reserves and relieving US grain surpluses.

The Language of Food

PL 480 in Egypt

by Jean-Jacques Dethier , Kathy Funk
published in MER145

“I went down to Cairo with a little wheat in my pocket and they had the red carpet out for me there…. I was speaking the language of food and they understand.” -- US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, 1974

 

For more than a decade now, the political embrace of Washington and Cairo has directly affected what Egypt’s 45 million people eat and how much they pay for it. Once a leading granary for the entire Mediterranean, Egypt today is one of the largest food importers in the world, and one of the largest markets for US agricultural exports. Each year more than $4 billion worth of imported food comes through its ports. About one quarter of this comes from the United States.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER145

For working people in the United States, April is the month for rendering unto Caesar. This is the time when we pay for things like the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, the aircraft carriers cruising the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and weapons to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and a host of other worthies.