Fundamentalism Kills: Abstinence, AIDS and the Bush Base

Esther Kaplan at Talk to Action has an important post on some of the dismal -- not to say fatal -- results of the Bush Regime's cynical pandering to the hardcore pseudo-Christian Right. Over the past few years, Bush has essentially farmed out U.S. policy on all health and family welfare issues to the blinkered fanatics in his sex-obsessed religious "base." These zealots -- haters of women more than lovers of God -- have taken over government departments, federal commissions and U.S. delegations to various treaty organizations and UN panels, aligning America with such enlightened states as Iran and Sudan in ruthlessly throttling international efforts to improve the lives of the planet's most vulnerable people: the women and children mired in poverty and ignorance throughout the developing world -- and along the underbelly of the "developed" world too. [See "Body Blow: Bush's Worldwide War on Women."]

Bush has also given control of his much-ballyhooed AIDS initiatives in Africa to these same extremists -- with entirely predictable results. As Kaplan notes, Bush's "base" has transformed Uganda from a glittering success story in the fight against AIDS into a backsliding swamp of rising infection rates -- almost doubling over the past two years. Uganda's former program was centered around widespread condom use and sex education, an effort that reduced HIV rates down from 15 percent to 5 percent by 2001, Kaplan reports. But with the help of Uganda's evangelical President Musaveni, Bush's holy warriors have reversed the program's effectiveness with their monomaniacal focus on "abstinence-only" admonitions as the only holy way to combat aids. They don't want people to have safe sex, so condom use and education are relegated to the back burner; in fact, they don't want them to have sex at all. After all, why should these dusky heathens be allowed any human pleasures? If they do so indulge, then they should die. This is your tax dollars at work.

Bush is now taking this proven failure of a program to the international level, loading the US delegaton to a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS with extremist Basers and political cronies -- including his former speechwriter, the ever-unctuous Michael Gerson. But that's not all; as Kaplan notes acidly: "Just in case we wondered whether Bush was serious about confronting AIDS, two more names on the delegate list give us a hint: his daughter Barbara Bush and her party playmate Maggie Betts are both listed as "'senior advisors.'"

Look, it's really very simple. Bush doesn't care if these people in Africa live or die. He really doesn't. And I mean that literally: if they live, swell; if not, who cares? His only concern is throwing red meat to his base -- who keep him porked up with cash and political muscle -- while mollifying the distracted multitude of the center with some high-profile PR moves that look like "compassionate conservatism" -- as long as you don't look too closely. No one with the slightest genuine concern for the sick, the weak and the vulnerable of the world could have countenanced the policies that Bush has adopted in the past five years.

Kaplan has much more on this sorry tale; you should read the whole thing.

(Photo copyright by Lee Mayr; see her blog here.)