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U.S.: Generous and humanitarian country

The school movie. What a glorious thing it was to a student eager to avoid real work. The lights were dimmed, and nothing was expected from us except to gaze at a screen. (Later, we understood that lazy teachers liked movies for the same reason.)

But at least the films we saw conveyed good information, unlike so much of the leftist drivel that is marketed to our kids today. I remember in particular the films about American aid to the Third World. I recall those huge white sacks of grain with “gift of the USA” printed on the sides. And the faces of the starving children (Biafra was the starvation current when I was in elementary school), as their bowls were filled with nutritious food. You wondered whether it was too late for those hollow-cheeked, haunted faces.

Silly me. I was proud of the United States for trying to help those people in distant lands. I did not have the benefit of the tendentious, anti-American claptrap that is routinely served up in American schools today.

In my new book, “Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help, and the Rest of Us,” I quote Professor C. Sheldon Thorne, who said: “By the time students emerge from 12 years of public education, they are exquisitely sensitive to every nuance of racism, sexism and imperialism in American history. ... Most of my U.S. history students have it all figured out before they step into the classroom: America is rotten to the core.”

Paging through The New York Times recently, I came upon just the same sort of spin in a news story about world food aid. “U.S. Cutting Food Aid That Is Aimed at Self-Sufficiency” announced the headline. Reading on, one learns that, “In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening federal budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.” Nowhere in this page 3 article does the New York Times reporter Elizabeth Becker place these cutbacks in context.

The Times does not tell readers that the United States is the world’s largest food aid donor by far. In 2004, the United States provided $826,469,172 — almost a billion dollars — to the United Nations World Food Program. The next largest donor, the European Union, contributed $187,102,068. This, despite the fact that the European Union has a total population of 453 million, compared with the USA’s 281 million, and a gross domestic product that is larger than that of the United States.

Japan was third on the list, giving $126,906,097, and the United Kingdom was fourth, with donations totaling $109,247,050. Iran gave $40,000. The Saudi Kingdom gave $3,345,325 — about the cost of one trip to Paris for the Crown Prince. And Kuwait, the OPEC fund and the Russian Federation gave nothing.

Those huge sacks of American wheat, corn, soybeans and legumes have been traversing the globe for more than 50 years, since Eisenhower signed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954. Kennedy renamed it Food for Peace, and it has undergone numerous changes since. But the essential generosity of the American people has remained intact.

Whether it is a famine in Ethiopia, a civil war in the Balkans or Somalia, or genocide in Sudan, the United States is always the largest donor of food and other humanitarian relief.

Just one month ago, the United States negotiated with the Libyan regime to permit it to ferry food aid to Sudanese refugees in Chad by going through Libya. As the Voice of America explained: “Convoys of 40 trucks at a time, carrying American food aid, are being driven ... through southeastern Libya on their way to camps in Chad. They are part of a delivery of 6,540 tons of U.S. food aid destined to Sudanese refugees who have fled the fighting in the Darfur area.”

In this season of peace, it is useful to remember that we live in a very generous and humanitarian country — even if The New York Times does its best to obscure it.

Mona Charen writes for Creators Syndicate. She may be contacted through the Web site: