The AP's Matthew Lee reports:

American taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday.

The department said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will get a daily $200 honorarium for the 15-day tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which is intended to promote religious tolerance.

Airfare is included, as well as the standard federal government per diem for expenses and lodging in each of the cities he will visit, spokesman P.J. Crowley said. Those per diem rates range from nearly $400 to nearly $500, according to official documents.

The State Department's spokesman told Fox News last week that Rauf is just one of 1,200 people the United States sends abroad to foster dialogue.

Why was Rauf chosen? "We think he's a moderate U.S. cleric," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who hastened to cop the "Bush did it, too" defense: "He was actually selected for this program under the Bush administration."

It's just a tiny drop in the flood of red ink that is our national deficit, but I can't imagine taxpayers think they're getting their money's worth for this program in general--and especially for Rauf's trip in particular. He's not only called the United States “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11, refused to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization, and provoked outrage over the Ground Zero mosque proposal--Rauf has defended the legitimacy of the Iranian regime.

This is the voice of moderation and tolerance that the United States wants to promote--and fund--abroad?

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