KATIE COURIC [in Los Angeles]: It’s early for a rock star, but Bono is still in Washington this morning and joins us now. Bono, good morning.
BONO: Good morning, Katie. How you doing?
COURIC: I’m fine, thank you. I know that you were completely heartened during the State of the Union Address when the president promised $15 billion over five years to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. But I know this year, the United States was scheduled to give $3 billion and that number was reduced to $2 billion because of something called “absorptive capacity.” Can you explain what that means?
BONO: Well, you know — no, it’s often an excuse that the Africans, we could give them more money if only they’d be able to spend it properly. And it’s really all nonsense. But I will say this: The United States Congress and, indeed this president, President Bush, they’ve done an extraordinary thing this year. And actually there’s $2 billion in foreign aid — one extra billion going to Africa, which is…I think it’s the biggest increase in about 40 years. They’ve doubled, actually, assistance to Africa. This is an extraordinary thing, and President Bush should be really proud of it — and both sides of Congress the same. And actually people who watch the Today show should be proud of it, because a year ago — I think probably this week a year ago — we went on a speaking tour. You may remember Ashley Judd and myself spoke to you, Katie, and we got more interest from Today show viewers. I think 10,000 of them got on our web site data.org and got organized. And America said, “Look, this is something we care about. And we care about what’s going on in Africa. We also care about the way that the rest of the world sees us, and we want to lead the charge here.”
COURIC: But, Bono, at the same time you’ve expressed a great deal of frustration that this money is not available now. As you said in the piece, 500,000 people…
COURIC: …will die of AIDS in Africa in the next two months. What is the holdup? Is it understandable legislative delays, or is it a lack of political will?
BONO: It’s not a lack of political will, to be fair. It’s the usual bureaucracy, red tape. And I’m sure Tom Daschle, who’s the leader of the Democrats and Senator Bill Frist will sort it out. I really… They better. And, you know, I’ve just come back from South Africa when you saw the stuff in the film. I was very angry. I’m more frustrated now because those statistics, well, they’re actually people and I met some of them.
I met with Beyonce Knowles, who by the way is an extraordinary girl, and smart and curious about what’s going on in the world. And it’s just when you hold a child in your hands and you realize it’s so easy to save their life. When you see people making the most ugly decisions about who they’re working with will live or die. That’s AIDS activists who we’ve met who are literally sitting around and think about it, in your canteen today, you know, “Oh, well who will we give the drugs to? You know, such and such, do we need them more than such and such?” I mean, it’s shocking. One girl, Prudence, an amazing AIDS activist, her sister had died the year–the day before. And she said “You know, even if I had the drugs I wouldn’t have given them to my sister because we need these AIDS workers more”‘ And I was shocked and bewildered. There is, Katie — I really don’t want to give the wrong impression — there is a movement in America and in the United States Congress. And this president, you know, when he banged his hand and said, “We’ll get the drugs on motorcycles and bicycles if we have to” in that State of the Union speech, that was inspiring stuff. We just don’t want to lose all that momentum to bureaucracy and, you know, the usual bullocks.
COURIC: But you’re so, so… This morning, if I understand it correctly, you remain frustrated at the pace, but convinced that the money will be allocated soon?
BONO: That’s it. It’s in the pipeline, but it’s stuck. It’s like there’s a burning building and we’ve got a fire truck for the first time to it and now there’s no water in the hose.
COURIC: And quickly…
BONO: …because they haven’t turned it on, you know?
COURIC: Bono, have you talked about this with President Bush? Have you expressed your frustration to him?
BONO: I haven’t spoken to him recently about it. We spoke a few weeks ago. And, you know, he’s very passionate about this. And, you know, he doesn’t have to be listening to an Irish rock star talking to him about this, but he does and he cares about it. And yeah, I want to see him, you know, be as frustrated as me with the bureaucracy. And I think the United States Congress deserves a great year on this. This is a global emergency. It’s not another cause, as I told you the last time. It’s not a rock star with a cause. Seven and a half thousand Africans dying every day is not a cause, it’s an emergency.
COURIC: Mmm-hmm. Bono…
BONO: And I want to thank America for waking up to that.
COURIC: Well, as always, we appreciate your talking with us. All the best to you. And thanks again.
BONO: Thanks a lot, Katie. Thank you.