These are among the conclusions of a year-long study by a team of seasoned reporters – known as the Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) --under the aegis of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI).
The ICIJ report, titled “Collateral Damage”, concludes that “the influence of foreign lobbying on the U.S. government, as well as a shortsighted emphasis on counterterrorism objectives over broader human rights concerns, have generated staggering costs to the U.S. and its allies in money spent and political capital burned.”
“Deals to provide military aid to what are perceived as often corrupt and brutal governments have set back efforts to advance human rights and the rule of law,” the ICIJ report says.
Since 1950, the US government has provided over $91 billion to militaries around the world from a single fund. There are a number of additional funds, so total is substantially higher. Most of the money comes from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State (DOS).
Joanne Mariner, Director of the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program for Human Rights Watch, told us, “It's difficult to know (the precise total amount of military aid funding) because there's covert funding as well, which is thought to be pretty high. We're concerned that US military aid is, in some cases, showered on repressive governments. In our view aid should be more carefully conditioned to ensure that abuses are not carried out with American funding.”
In their investigation, 10 ICIJ reporters on four continents explored American counterterrorism policy since the 2001 terrorist attacks. They found that post-9/11 U.S. political pressure, Washington lobbying and aid dollars have reshaped policies towards countries ranging from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, to Pakistan and Thailand in Asia, Poland and Romania in Europe, to Colombia in South America.
The ICIJ report documents substantial increases in U.S. military aid since the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The 2008 budget presented to Congress by President George W. Bush requested an increase of more than a billion dollars for military and security assistance, particularly to key ''front-line'' states in the ''war on terror".
But the ICIJ report notes that many of the recipients of this aid are countries believed to be guilty of human rights abuses.
For example, the report highlights the continued use and recruitment of child soldiers by governments and government-supported paramilitaries, militias and other armed groups in eight countries. The U.S. provides military assistance to six of those eight countries: Afghanistan, Chad, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.
It charges that countries receiving military aid from the U.S. have also participated in “extraordinary renditions” – kidnapping suspected terrorists or transferring prisoners to countries known to practice torture and other inhuman and degrading practices.
Reliable data shows that airplanes chartered by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made at least 76 stopovers in Azerbaijan, 72 in Jordan, 61 in Egypt, 52 in Turkmenistan, 46 in Uzbekistan, 40 in Iraq, 40 in Morocco, 38 in Afghanistan, and 14 in Libya. Most of these countries are recipients of U.S. military assistance.
The British Government recently disclosed, and the U.S. acknowledged, that CIA aircraft had touched down on Diego Garcia, a U.K. territory in the Indian Ocean. It is believed that CIA flights included hundreds carrying prisoners to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba.
Until North American and European media exposed the practice, the U.S., along with countries reportedly receiving rendered prisoners, denied that “extraordinary renditions” were part of government policy.
For example, in a meeting with Human Rights Watch in late August 2007, Jordanian officials categorically denied that it had held prisoners rendered by the United States.
Often characterized by the mainstream press as being one of the most moderate nations in the Arab Middle East, Jordan was receiving more than $2.7 billion in U.S. military aid as of 2004, and the sum has reportedly increased since then.