Why on earth have we been giving tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid to an unrepentant state sponsor of terrorism that continues to harbor one of our worst enemies?
The facts: Osama bin Laden has long been one of America's most wanted fugitives from justice. Son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian construction magnate, CIA-backed guerrilla organizer during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and ringleader of the world's most extremist Muslim terrorist coalition (the "Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Americans"), bin Laden issued a "fatwa" in 1998 urging Muslims to kill American civilians "in any country in which it is possible to do it.''
Bin Laden is suspected of masterminding the bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania three years ago, which killed 224 people -- including 12 Americans. He is linked to the bomb attack on the USS Cole last fall in Yemen, which killed 17 American soldiers. And he is now the No. 1 suspect behind the unfathomable carnage that took place this week on our soil, a massacre that killed untold thousands of innocent American men, women and children.
Bin Laden has been living since 1996 in Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban militia. They refused to hand over bin Laden to face trial for the U.S. embassy murders. They praise him as a "welcomed guest" and "great benefactor." On Aug. 31, the Taliban reportedly appointed bin Laden as commander-in-chief of its armed groups in Afghanistan. And this week, the Taliban government unabashedly defended bin Laden against global accusations that he is responsible for orchestrating Tuesday's murderous hijack-and-destroy missions. He "does not have such capabilities," a Taliban spokesman sniffed.
In the meantime, the brutal Taliban had the gall to demand that Afghanistan be spared from attack, pointing to the country's abject poverty: "We appeal to the United States not to put Afghanistan into more misery because our people have suffered so much."
This is disgusting. It is the Taliban who have caused all that suffering -- from murdering political opponents and torturing women and children, to forcing religious minorities to wear identity badges, executing citizens for merely laughing in public, and plunging the country into decades of civil war. It is the Taliban who put their millions of starving, oppressed citizens at risk by harboring bin Laden and his Islamic extremist network.
What's truly horrific, however, is that we ourselves have financed this violent, terrorist-friendly regime.
This year, the U.S. continued a Clinton-era policy and committed more than $100 million in foreign aid to Afghanistan -- making us the country's largest humanitarian donor. In May, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced an additional $43 million in relief, which includes 65,000 tons of wheat, vegetable oil, blended foods, health programs and shelter. Naive officials claim that none of this aid will go to the Taliban because it is being filtered through international agencies of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
But since the Taliban have started throwing foreign aid workers in jail (including two young Americans who volunteered for a Christian food assistance charity and await a sham trial), it's obvious that this high-minded attempt to bypass the terrorist coddlers in Afghanistan is a self-defeating farce.
Foreign aid to this rogue state is 100 percent fungible. It's money the Taliban don't have to spend feeding their people, buying them medicine or building them houses. It's money that helps free up funds to pay for other items more important to the religious zealots who run the Afghan regime. Things like guns and bombs. And missiles and aircraft. And pilot training and living expenses for bin Laden's followers in the U.S.
President Bush was at his strongest and most resolute when he vowed: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." There must and will be revenge. Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's adoring host, is rightly at the top of the target list.
But before we send bombs to the land of our enemies, we should stop sending them cooking oil and corn meal.