To the Editor:
It is ironic that stories suggesting Colin Powell is in line to be the next vice-president are appearing the very time that President Bush is going to force the Secretary of State and his department to eat a healthy dose of crow.
Unless the President has an abrupt change of heart, he will very soon order Mr. Powell or one of his close aides to announce that the U.S. is permanently blocking all funds for the United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] family planning programs.
Last year, it was Secretary Powell who told Congress how important UNFPA's work was and how the administration supported international family planning for the well-being of women and children. At his urging, the President asked for $25 million for UNFPA and a bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress approved $34 million in a bill signed by President Bush last December. In January, the President inexplicably announced a "hold" on these funds pending a review of UNFPA's work in China [which more than 60 foreign diplomatic delegations had already reviewed and reported as exemplary and which no U.S. funding goes to, anyway.] The President's hand-picked team went to China and reported that UNFPA was doing good work and was helping China move away from its coercive population policies [that from "sources" since the White House has refused to release the report.]
If the president is withholding the UNFPA funds only to appease his more vocal domestic supporters, it's hardly surprising. He owes his job, in some part, to those people. If withholding these funds only kept the UNFPA from saving the lives of 4,700 women and 77,000 children under the age of five or from preventing 800,000 abortions but served some larger foreign policy initiative, I would have been troubled, but perhaps understood that there is some “bigger picture.”
But Bush's decision to withhold UNFPA funds is not only bad for women and children in the developing world, it is terrible foreign policy. This decision puts us at odds with our most important allies [The United Kingdom, Japan, Germany] and is counter to our strategic interests everywhere in the world.
So Mr. Powell will eat his crow, the domestic radical right ideologues will brag of a victory, and our friends in the international community will wonder what has happened to America. Meanwhile, thousands of women and children who could have been saved will die, and and an outstanding Secretary of State will be left to ponder whether his job is to conduct foreign policy or to do the bidding of Mr. Bush's radical right.
Peter H. Kostmayer