I don’t like Obama. He annoys me in personality and policy. Unlike some I still must look at his actions rationally. I’ve seen this headline splashed all over the conservative pages as a gotcha moment against Obama. I’m not so sure it is. “…the Obama administration approved a grant of $200,000 of taxpayer money to an al-Qaeda affiliate in Sudan — a decade after the U.S. Treasury designated it as a terrorist-financing organization. More stunningly, government officials specifically authorized the release of at least $115,000 of this grant even after learning that it was a designated terror organization.”
That sounds bad. It may be bad.
But it wasn’t Obama just saying give this terrorist group money. An aid group was working in the area to help with health issues, clean water, etc. A larger sum was given to the aid group, an evangelical group called World Vision working with USAID. Of that money about a third went to this terrorist group. That’s what we call them, but they called themselves the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA). At the time the initial money was given no one was quite sure if the group was listed as a terrorist group or not. A second (smaller) grant of money was given later after if was clear the group was listed and had dealings with Bin Laden since around 1997 before there was an al-Qaeda and later after there was.
It’s classic money laundering. The money starts with World Vision, Goes to ISRA, and ends up with “Maktab al-Khidamat (MK), the precursor of al-Qaeda.” The group, it seems, was tossing around cash to try to get itself removed from the watch list. One Republican congressman was caught up in this. “Former U.S. congressman Mark Siljander (R., Mich.) pled guilty in 2010 to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent after prosecutors found that IARA-USA had paid him $75,000 — using misappropriated USAID grant money — to lobby the government, in an attempt to remove the charity from the government’s terror list.”
Later the grant was canceled and as punishment for not getting its cut of the cash political leaders in Sudan called for World Vision to be kicked out. They worked with the Department of State who approved a onetime fund. That allowed them to remain and do their work.
The below linked article states, “Obama-administration officials knowingly approved the transfer of taxpayer dollars to an al-Qaeda affiliate, and not an obscure one but an enormous international network that was often in the headlines.” and asks how this could happen. It’s a good question. First off, the group (ISRA) was registered with the government as a relief agency and had an official number in the system. So they went in the front door and registered themselves on the USAspending.gov web site and were granted what is called a DUNS number which is how they are tracked in the system.
Now to Obama.
The article says, “It is no secret that the Obama administration sought to downplay the threat of Islamism, and even to co-opt some Islamist movements to promote its agenda.” Anyone who would argue that this isn’t true simply wasn’t paying attention during Obama’s presidency. He most certainly did this. I always believed it was his way of making peace. As the article puts it, “It is difficult to argue that these efforts were the product of anything but great naiveté and political dogma.” I mostly agree with that. I don’t agree that it’s difficult to argue that there was something more sinister behind Obama’s moves. People argue that all the time, and pretty well. What it comes down to though is belief. Do you believe that Obama was intentionally trying to support Islam or do you believe he was trying to make peace with Islam. If the former then his moves were not naive but were calculated, if the latter then he was blind to the facts on the ground.
The president sets the tone and his minions follow as best as they can. He does not personally approve every thing they do. It’s very likely Obama had no idea that this money was handed out. It is equally likely though that if he did know, he would have approved.
Why he would have approved is really the thing that people can debate.
Government officials specifically authorized the release of at least $115,000 of this grant even after learning that it was a designated terror organization.