Can the US afford big aid increase to Somalia?

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today the U.S. would commit millions of dollars more to the relief of the famine emergency in East Africa. Nearly four million people face starvation after a three year drought in Somalia.

The U.S. is the largest donor to the famine emergency. Today CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley asked Clinton about America's role.

Pelley: When you see these pictures that are coming out of the famine emergency, what do you think?

Clinton: Well, it just breaks my heart. There is no doubt that some of this is the unfortunate consequence of, you know, weather patterns - of drought. But I would say most of it is because of bad policies and bad people.

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Pelley: What are your concerns about al Shabaab in Somalia?

Clinton: Well, I have many concerns about al Shabaab. Al Shabaab is a terrorist group. Al Shabaab has been particularly brutal, even barbaric, to the people under their control, even before this famine.

But what we've seen in recent weeks just beggers the imagination, Scott. I mean it's one thing to have a view of religion that is so brutal and totally at odds with anything that anyone else believes, but it's something entirely different to prevent women and children from getting to a place where they could be saved. And I've called on them and their leaders to show some mercy and some compassion. So far we've seen no evidence that they're willing to do that.

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Pelley: How's the United States responding to the emergency?

Clinton:Oh, I think we are responding very effectively in the face of a very large challenge. We're by far the largest donor. Over $550 million that we have put into trying to help save lives. And we're not only providing emergency food stuff, we're helping with sanitation and healthcare. We're trying to vaccinate people so there aren't epidemics in the refugee camps. So its not just that we're responding to the emergency, we're also trying to change the underlying conditions.

Pelley: Some reasonable people would say this is a terrible, terrible tragedy, but we can't afford that. And I wonder what you would say to that?

Clinton: I would say look at these pictures. And the one thing that Americans are so well known for, is our-- our heart. You know? No matter what anybody says about us anywhere in the world, people have to admit that when there's trouble anywhere, Americans are there. That's part of the DNA of the American character. We certainly can afford to do what is necessary now. And I would hate to think our country would ever back off from that.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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