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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Clinton Asks House Appropriations for $7B for Middle East Stability

WASHINGTON (CN) - State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton requested an extra $7.1 billion from the House Appropriations Committee Thursday to stabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine. She admitted it's a "significant sum" but said it "will be far less costly in lives and dollars than military action."

"Fifty million more people could end up living in poverty this year," said Clinton. This can spark new humanitarian crises.

She argued that the State Department is a better investment in the stability of nations than the Department of Defense, referring to hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq during the past six years.

Committee chair Nita Lowey, a democrat from New York, asked how more State Department funds would improve global security conditions, and complained that spending authorized for global security in the past had not been helpful, especially in respect to Afghanistan.

"After eight years and billions of dollars, we are no closer to improving security, solving the poppy problem, empowering credible partners to eliminate corruption and stabilize the government, or enabling a more tolerant society that respect the rights of women," said Lowey.

Clinton said the extra $980 million going to Afghanistan will stimulate jobs and alternative agriculture to poppies, which will help to stabilize local communities. "For the majority of Afghans, the lure of violent extremists like the Taliban has more to do with economics than ideology," she said.

Clinton stressed agriculture in a strong Afghani future. "I was so surprised when I heard that Afghanistan used to be called the garden of Central Asia," she said, comparing it to the eroded and dusty land now. We need to develop that nation's agriculture, help provide a market Afghan products, said Clinton.

She offered up one solution. Pomegranate juice has been proven to lower cholesterol, she said, and Afghanistan has been a large grower of pomegranates.

For Iraq, Clinton requested and additional $482 million to push the country towards more self sufficiency. She said the money will go towards civilian institutions and that it will help to diversify the economy. Supporting Iraq will help us, she said, because Iraq has been largely matching or exceeding U.S. spending on reconstruction. The more stable the Iraqi government, the greater the burden it can assume.

Pakistan may receive $497 million to strengthen law enforcement in areas with little government control. The money would also go towards helping refugees who have been displaced by violence along its border with Afghanistan.

In a move that brought concern from Lowey and New Jersey democrat Steve Rothman, Clinton requested $840 million be spent on humanitarian and economic aid in Palestine. Lowey, Rothman, and some protesters suggested the money might go towards Hamas, especially because Clinton and Obama have said they would accept a Palestinian Authority government even if it included members of Hamas.

Clinton did say the government would have to accept certain peace principles.

Struggling developing countries would get $448 million to "forestall the possible destabilization of developing countries committed to responsible governance," said Clinton.

"The United States must continue to be a world leader in providing food aid and life-sustaining support for refugees," she said. "We are losing ground."

Jamaica recently asked the United States for aid, but when it couldn't get the money, China stepped in to pay roughly $150 million. Clinton said this was unacceptable.

Finally, $836 million was requested for the United Nations. Some of that is to pay debts from the past. It costs 75 percent less to deploy U.N. troops than U.S. troops, she explained.

During the hearing, a woman dressed in pink with the word "PEACE" written on her shirt yelled, "Israeli settlements in Palestine are not the solution to Middle East peace." Clinton ignored her.

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