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You have to love this guy Bono. The lead singer for U2 really wants to help the world, and I admire that. His trip to Africa with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was a great photo opportunity for both men. But behind the glittering 8-by-10s, Africa is still a major mess.

The problem is that in most African countries there is no infrastructure. Tribalism has crippled coordinated attempts to improve the standard of living for the 800 million or so people who live there. Life expectancy on the continent is the lowest in the world – about 50 years – and the main reason is because ancient hatreds rule, cooperation among people even in the same nation is rare.

Bono and many others want the United States to send more money to Africa. The New York Times screams that America sends less aid than any other developed area. On a per capita basis Canada sends more and so does Europe.

But in real dollars America has been a generous player in Bono’s band. In the past 25 years, American taxpayers have contributed almost 40 billion dollars to help Africans. And what do we have to show for our money?

Nothing, that’s what.

Now some of that is our fault. We sent millions to brutal dictators to keep them out of the Soviet orbit. We bribed killers so they wouldn’t become commies. But it didn’t matter whether they embraced Leninism because thieves are thieves no matter what ideology they spout. Much of the aid that America sent to Africa went directly into the bank accounts of the Robert Mugabes of the world. Thugs, pure and simple.

Bono and some American media people would have us believe that things are different now, that the African governments are ready to “evolve” as they say in California. Well I’m from Missouri on this one: Show me.

One of the biggest fallacies going is that America can afford to send a lot more money to Africa. American workers are taxed to the hilt and the war on terror is costing the U.S. about 2 billion dollars a month. That’s real money – not loans or credit.

In case Bono and everyone else with their hands out haven’t noticed, America is protecting the world here. We are hunting down terrorists and rebuilding pathetic countries like Afghanistan. It is enormously expensive.

Should we rebuild other pathetic countries in Africa? The answer is no. But we can help Africans help themselves – if they stop the nonsense.

First off, all American aid should go toward specific projects overseen by the American Embassy in the country receiving our money. If Nigeria needs a highway, then American officials should oversee the project. If South Africa needs money for AIDS education, then Americans should sign off on the nature of that education.

With all due respect to Bono and other concerned rich guys, most Americans work hard to pay their taxes and having aid money stolen by greedy thugs is not only insulting, it is criminal. The days of wine and roses are over for corrupt, coup-installed “generals.” Do it our way or you don’t get the highway.

A few years ago another Irish rock guy, Bob Geldof, put on a big benefit to help victims of a terrible African famine. Millions poured in. Did the money get to the starving people? Not according to many associated with the project. The African bureaucracy overwhelmed Geldof’s good intentions.

So I hope Bono and Secretary O’Neill had a nice time running around Africa. It is a fascinating place to visit. But you wouldn’t want to live there because it is so easy to die. Millions of Americans would like to help improve that situation. But African nations must stop the chaos and corruption and begin to help themselves. That is the only way things will ever get better over there and everybody should know it. You too, Bono.

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