Rock star Bono seeks US Senate backing for Mideast 'Marshall Plan'

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WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - U2 lead singer Bono appealed to Congress on Tuesday for a "Marshall Plan" to provide aid to the Middle East much like the massive relief the United States provided to rebuild Europe and counter extremism after World War Two.

"When aid is structured properly, with a focus on fighting poverty and improving governance, it could just be the best bulwark we have against the extremism of our age," the rock star and anti-poverty campaigner testified to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.

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Bono urged U.S. lawmakers to act quickly to counteract "an existential crisis" in Europe, with nationalist parties rising in several countries and even Britain considering leaving the European Union.

The hearing took place as lawmakers put the final touches on a new spending plan that may include steep international aid cuts.

See photos from his testimony:

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Bono Testifies On Role Of Foreign Assistance In Confronting Violent Extremism
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Rock star Bono seeks US Senate backing for Mideast 'Marshall Plan'
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2 and humanitarian activist (C) chats with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), (R), and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements after testifying before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on April 12, 2016, in Washington, DC. The hearing was on the causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance. / AFP / Mike Theiler (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2 and humanitarian activist (L) chats with Former National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones (R) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) after testifying before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on April 12, 2016, in Washington, DC. The hearing was on the causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance. / AFP / Mike Theiler (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2 and humanitarian activist speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on April 12, 2016, in Washington, DC. The hearing was on the causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance. / AFP / Mike Theiler (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2 and humanitarian activist listens to testimony during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, April 12, 2016, in Washington, DC. The hearing was on the causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance. / AFP / Mike Theiler (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2 and humanitarian activist (C) poses with members of the activist group Code Pink as he arrives to testify at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, April 12, 2016, in Washington, DC. The hearing was on the causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance. / AFP / Mike Theiler (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 12 : Bono of U2 attends the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance in Washington, United States on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12 - Irish rock star and activist Bono speaks with Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, as Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., enters the room and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., joins on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, before the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
U2 lead singer Bono arrives to testify before a Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on "Causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance" on Capitol Hill in Washington April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: (L to R) U2 lead singer Bono, co-founder of ONE and (RED), talks with U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking member on the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee, before a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on causes and consequences of violent extremism and the role of foreign assistance at the Dirksen Senate Building on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
Irish rock star and activist Bono, second from left, accompanied by Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., second from right, and Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., left, arrives to testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements, left, and Irish rock star and activist Bono, right, arrive to testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Irish rock star and activist Bono, center, accompanied by Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, arrives to testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12 - Irish rock star and activist Bono meets members of Code Pink as he prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, before the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on the causes and consequences of violent extremists, and the role of foreign assistance. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, left, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, talk before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. The hearing looked at the impact of violent extremism and the role of foreign aid. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Patrick Leahy; Lindsey Graham
Bono, singer for the band U2, speaks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Bono testified on the impact of violent extremism and the role of foreign aid. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the panel's chairman, has called for a multibillion-dollar aid program to address the crisis in the Middle East and deal with millions of refugees fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and other countries.

Backers of the plan say defeating Islamic State and other militant groups, and preventing the rise of new ones, will require humanitarian aid and economic development.

"I'm a pretty hawkish fellow, but I learned a long time ago ... that you are not going to win this war by killing terrorists," Graham said.

"We have a moment now that we haven't had in decades" in terms of political attention to the issue, said Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Graham will have a difficult time getting support for a Middle East aid program from his fellow Republicans, who tend to be skeptical about international organizations like the United Nations and generally want tight controls on government spending.

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At the hearing, Republican senators expressed concern about being effective for the American taxpayer and roles for partnerships with private companies.

Bono, who co-founded the international advocacy group ONE, has lobbied in world capitals for causes including debt relief, alleviating poverty and fighting AIDS.

He offered one novel suggestion for countering extremism.

"Don't laugh," Bono said, suggesting that the Senate "send in" comedians Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen to counteract the militants' violent message.

"If you laugh at them when they're goose-stepping down the street, then it takes away their power," he said.

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