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Sunday, May 27, 2012

U.S. “Foreign Aid” Enabling Pakistani Betrayal

Officials speaking on behalf of Pakistan’s government claimed that Pakistani officials did not know that Osama bin Laden had been living in Pakistan, and yet a Pakistani court sentenced a Pakistani to a 33-year prison sentence for treason in having conspired “to wage war against Pakistan” by aided the CIA in its hunt for bin Laden. If trying to find him constitutes treason, it follows that the Pakistani government was opposed to the Americans finding him. Meanwhile, that government accepted hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. Government.  The reaction of an appropriations committee of the U.S. Senate in 2012 was merely to cut $33 million from $800 million in foreign aid to Pakistan. It would seem that the U.S. Government wanted it both ways—to castigate Pakistan for essentially hiding bin Laden while seeking to retain some influence with the Pakistani government by bribing it with foreign aid.

That the Pakistani government linked the 33-year prison sentence to that government’s demand for an apology form the U.S. for an airstrike that accidently killed 24 Pakistanis is, according to Sen. John McCain, “beyond ludicrous.” At the very least, the linkage violates the defendant’s human right to freedom, as he had nothing to do with the U.S. airstrike. Senators McCain and Levin claimed to be outraged, yet it is strange that the result is a paltry $33 million cut (out of $800 million of foreign aid to Pakistan).  If helping the U.S. Government find the man behind 9/11 constitutes waging war against Pakistan, then the U.S. itself can be faulted for continuing to give Pakistan anything. Demanding that it earn back the privilege of being trusted (a privilege given the aid) is not too much to ask, especially for $800 million (even less the $33 million).

Even if the U.S. Senate was not principled enough to act on principle, the interest if the United States can be distinguished from financially enabling a government that prosecutes citizens for “waging war” against Pakistan for having helped the U.S. in a mission that the Pakistani government itself had indicated it accepted (and would help, rather than hinder). It is not in one’s interest to consider the friend of one’s enemy as one’s friend. That is to say, the U.S. Government could have done better even in terms of its own interest, if it is defined as something broader than short-term manipulation of other governments by essentially bribing them. Such influence assumes that governments do not accept the “foreign aid” only to act against the “donor.”  Therefore, even from the standpoint of political realism, the U.S. Senate committee did not go nearly far enough in its fiscal policy of foreign relations. As a result, other governments must have gotten the message that it is possible to take the money and tacitly act against the United States.


Jonathan Weisman, “Senate Panel Holds Up Aid to Pakistan,” The New York Times, May 24, 2012.