This week, a whos who of world leaders convened in Bangkok, Thailand, with the objective of "advanc[ing] the global response to HIV/AIDS" at the 15th International AIDS Conference.
Indeed, a noble and worthy cause.
However, as is generally the case at such meetings, the stated focus of developing strategies to combat the worldwide epidemic quickly shifted to one of blaming the United States and American drug companies for the rapid spread of the deadly disease in developing nations.
Not unexpectedly, crowds of organized protesters, many of whom had no idea what they were protesting against, showed up in force. Several sessions were interrupted by unruly demonstrators holding blood-stained "Wanted" posters of President George W. Bush and brandishing such offensive messages as "AIDS Accomplice" and "Greed Kills."
French President Jacques Chirac, who never misses an opportunity to publicly attack the United States, also got into the act when he released a written statement accusing America of strong-arming Third World nations into what he described as surrendering their "rights" to make cheap generic HIV/AIDS drugs.
To be sure, Chirac believes that U.S. companies should surrender their patents on anti-AIDS medications, with little or no effective oversight, to any third-rate wanna-be looking to make a quick buck under the guise of "for the good of mankind." And further, that the Bush Administration should turn a blind eye to the theft of such patents the very patents that ensure American drug companies have the research and development capital necessary to create newer and more effective drugs to fight the deadly disease.
Setting the "bash America" tone at the Conference was none other than U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who used his keynote address to lambaste the United States for not taking a greater "leadership" role in fighting HIV/AIDS.
"We hear a lot about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), we hear a lot about terrorism. And we are worried about WMD because of the potential to kill thousands. Here we have an epidemic that is killing millions," said Annan. In an interview with the BBC, Annan went a step further, suggesting that America is spending so much time fighting the War on Terrorism that its not paying enough attention to the global fight against AIDS.
Thats right, the head of the United Nations, the organization founded to protect peace, is upset that the United States has made its national security, and frankly that of every other nation that doesnt support and harbor terrorists, priority one. How quickly Annan forgets the horrible events of 9-11, the equally abhorrent train bombing in Spain, the terrorist bombing of Australian tourists in Bali, and almost daily global intelligence reports that uncover terrorist plots to attack again including reports that al Qaeda is planning a massive campaign to disrupt the November elections, the foundation of our democracy.
Lets be very clear: Annans comments stem from his anger that the record $15 billion in public funds the United States is spending to combat the worldwide AIDS epidemic is not being administered through the U.N. account that he set up and that he oversees. Annan wants the United States to just hand over the money to the U.N. whose record of financial mismanagement and corruption is staggering and growing. He wants us to do so with no guarantee that the resources will be devoted to buying medications approved by the FDA, the worlds best-equipped authority for ensuring drug safety.
Perhaps distracted by as many as nine formal investigations into the gross abuse of funds and corruption of the U.N.-run Oil-for-Food scandal the worst scandal in the organizations history, and growing Annan must have forgotten about the additional billions of dollars in philanthropic grants distributed by U.S. corporations and charitable foundations to fight AIDS worldwide.
In 2001 and 2002 alone, the top 51 U.S. HIV/AIDS private grant makers donated more than $800 million to the cause more money than most U.N.-member countries donate and thats just from U.S. charitable foundations. Included among those top grant makers are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and yes, the Bristol-Myers Squib Foundation, the Merck Company Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation and several others set up by U.S. drug companies companies considered public enemy number two (second to only America as a nation) by Annan, Chirac and their hate-America friends.
The facts are very clear, even though Annan chose to ignore them earlier this week in his reckless comments to the International AIDS Conference. Contrary to what Annan believes, the United States can successfully tackle two problems at once. And thats just what were doing: winning the war on terror and leading the global fight against AIDS.
The best way Annan could help the people who need this help (just as the Iraqis who needed the food and medicine they never got courtesy of the U.N.) is by getting out of our way.July 15, 2004