Backtalk, January 17, 2005

Yes to US Aid, No to USAID

Regarding Ms Mercer’s comments about private as opposed to official aid: What she fails to address, and perhaps doesn’t know about, is the fact that a significant proportion of USAID aid funds are actually programmed through American NGOs such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services, and Save the Children. Most often the USAID-supplied funds are used to match privately raised funds. Sometimes the USAID match is five to one, meaning they put in $5 to every $1 the NGO contributes. (I would guess that as much as half of the tsunami aid the president pledged will go through the NGOs already on the ground in the affected region.) I know this to be fact. I was a CARE director for two decades and worked with USAID on many occasions.

~ Neil R. Huff

Ilana Mercer replies:

Dear Neil,

I am not aware of this, but I do think that so-called private-public collaboration must be discouraged, especially if it comes with subsidies (and the attendant attached strings and regulation).

What NGOs don’t seem to grasp is that accepting subsidies from governments not only co-opts their organizations but has unintended consequences – government subventions to nonprofits tend to crowd out private philanthropy. This is because, as Arthur C. Brooks observes in the Fraser Forum, “The perceived need of the recipient organization declines in the eyes of potential donors.”

Thanks for Ilana Mercer’s article distinguishing USAID from U.S. largesse. As one who has had firsthand knowledge of how USAID works to put walls up against U.S. citizens volunteering their help to nations in need (in my case a program to provide energy conservation techniques to Estonia), I can verify how agents of USAID use the same procedures as our intelligence agencies to head off volunteer efforts. The results of their subterfuge usually provide off-the-books profits for “investing” corporations.

~ Roger Conway

Mercer does not realize that this “private giving” in the U.S. is mainly for tax write-off reasons. That’s just one of the reasons why billionaires and millionaires can continue to keep the vast bulk of their profits and dividends each year. “Charity” donors are just using a system that’s designed for them.

~ Al

Ilana Mercer replies:


True, taxpayers get a reduction in taxes for making charitable donations. What’s wrong with that? It simply means that charity gets you a (tiny) reprieve from government theft.

But, even with a deductible, a person will keep more of his money if he simply AVOIDS giving charity and pays higher taxes.

An example:

If you earn $100,000 and pay 28% tax then the government robs you of $28,000 for tax.

If you give a gift of say $2,000 to charity, the government will only charge you tax on 100,000 – 2,000 = $98,000.

Pay your 28% tax on this remainder and you have paid $27,440 of tax. This is the “tax break” you got as a result of being charitable. But there is a total of $2,000 + $27,440 = $29,440 not in your pocket. ($2,000 you gave; $27,440 was stolen from you.)

So, by being charitable, you did have a reduction in tax, but still have $1,440 less to your name.

The situation may be different for some corporate donation options – I know little about them. I do know that American individuals are tremendously generous.

America’s Death Squads

As a hardened cynic, I had thought that my ability to feel revulsion had been lost. That was until reading about the grotesque murder of an Iraqi civilian by U.S. troops in Justin Raimondo’s posting, “America’s Death Squads.” The spectacle of American troops laughingly tossing two Iraqis (one of whom subsequently drowned) off the top of a dam is sheer depravity, nothing less.

I have sent an e-mail expressing my sorrow and disgust at this hideous crime to the Iraqi blogger who is cited in Mr. Raimondo’s piece. (The murdered man was a cousin of the blogger.) I am also sending letters by certified mail to my Congressional representatives requesting that a Congressional investigation of this atrocity be opened.

This is a descent into barbarism that nobody, whatever their views about the current war, should stomach. I am not naive about the horrors of war, but this is something that no one calling themselves civilized can or should countenance.

~ T. Tunney

This is just a note to add to Justin Raimondo’s latest column. He mentioned that commanding officer Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassaman had ordered his men to lie about the murder of an innocent Iraqi who was pushed into the Tigris River and drowned.

This happens to be the same Lt. Colonel Sassaman who provided one of the most memorable quotes of the Iraq war. In December 2003, he told a New York Times reporter, “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.” …

~ Patrick Cummins

The fact that the war is indeed destroying our national security, by increasing anti-American sentiment worldwide, is indisputable. There has never before been a time in history when Americans abroad have had so many warning issued by the Dept. of State that in essence say: Don’t go anywhere; we’re hated and despised so widely that it’s not safe.

Unfortunately, the other sad part is the pending bankruptcy of the country. We can’t piss away 5 billion bucks a month (and God only knows how many more lives of ours and theirs), indefinitely, without taking a toll on how we live here. Already states are cutting back to pay for things they once got federal funding for, and we have an infrastructure here in this country that’s just about falling apart due to neglect. We cannot afford this war in any way, make, or form.

So, Justin, keep hammering the point home. The idiot in the White House at some point will have to accept the fact he has weakened the nation beyond possible repair (and that’s one hell of a legacy).

~ Dennis P. Cimino, Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist

Against War? Stop Buying It

Thanks for alerting me to the existence of this bill. I am not courageous enough to stop paying taxes, but I can certainly call and write my representatives and senators in support of this bill – because I would absolutely prefer that my taxes not fund the military, in any form.

~ D. Schultz

Gonzales and the Torture Cult

As a great fan of (in the past, you’ve linked to two of my Washington Dispatch articles), I have just got to get this off my chest.

Justin is making a very serious and critical mistake in this article – he’s taking John Derbyshire seriously! Derbyshire is nothing but a cheap controversialist, perfectly at home in the company of the intellectuals powered by Google over at NRO. Not only does Derbyshire have what might politely be called “issues” with homosexuals, you should see him on Irish Catholics! Man, does he hate our ass!

Derbyshire is a not untypical Englishman of his generation, who will probably not be able to answer this most difficult question: he is a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher; Margaret Thatcher was at the height of her power in 1985, having broken the miners’ strike; why, then, did he emigrate to the USA in 1985?

~ Martin Kelly, Glasgow

Never Smile at a Crocodile

I‘m surprised that the good doctor didn’t mention what I have found to be a moderately effective antidote to the type of right-wing identity politics that drives the spread of war fever in this country. As a pro-lifer, I have silenced prowar Republicans mid-sentence with the simple statement that I would not be very pro-life if I supported a war that has led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths. As Whitehurst makes clear, identity is extremely important to conservatives as well as liberals. Hope for the Republican Party in particular, and this country in general, may lie in the fact that Bush’s agenda is so contrary to traditional conservative ideals.

~ Marc Z.

Iraq: The Unthinkable Becomes Normal

I thought that I had become calloused and bored by antiwar opinionating, but Pilger aroused my sad (and growing sadder) outrage over the sinister deeds of American war-hawks.

If only the sleepy misguided American public (not the vengeful racist population for whom Arabs are the flavor of the decade) could absorb, or, alas, comprehend, the moral abyss we have sunk to. Those ever trusting patriotic sheep who attend church and pray for Bush would, however, have to dare to lift the lid on the Big Lie in order to reach the moral clarity that Pilger calls us to.

I would not have found Pilger if not for So I’m coughing up, again, some financial support, with my renewed hope that truth might some day win out over the outrageous failures of the mainstream press to perform its proper function in a mass society.


~ John Denton

Calling the Kosovo Humanitarians to Account

The article by John Pilger about the Milosevic trial had some good points but is seriously flawed by his reference to Milosevic as a “brute.” A man who has outsmarted the best team of lawyers NATO money can buy is no brute. Even NATO’s friends are willing, even keen, to admit to his ability.

By comparison with Mr. Pilger’s claims, when Lord David Owen testified, he said that Milosevic was the ONLY leader who had been consistently and sincerely seeking peace and that any form of racism was personally “anathema” to him. I doubt if even Mr. Blair’s closest friends could honestly testify the same about him, under oath. The reason’s why his astonishing testimony was not reported, as indeed most of the “trial of the century” isn’t, is something on which we can only speculate.

It has come to a strange pass when Lord Owen reports the facts the government doesn’t want us to know while John Pilger genuflects toward the government propaganda position.

~ Neil Craig

We Must Leave Iraq

Mr. Raimondo,

I’m surprised at your surprise to see your articles translated into other languages. Well, I personally have translated a few of your articles into Urdu (national language of Pakistan, fifth-largest populated country in the world, and also a common language of communication in India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia; now you count the numbers). By the way, I’m editor/publisher of a monthly Urdu magazine in Toronto, Canada, and I don’t know how I could have produced it without’s help.

Thanks a lot for great service to humanity by relentless attack on oppressors. May Allah bless you and all the people for your efforts to save humanity from savages.

~ Sajjad Hyder, Editor/Publisher, (Urdu monthly magazine) Aafaq, Toronto, Canada

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