Pakistan’s President’s Opens Debate on Whether American “Aid” Should be “Reparations”

As Pakistan celebrates the birth of founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi raised a point which will likely be discussed ever more in future years among nations that have suffered due to failed US military interventions. The Pakistani President quoted a Tweet by Donald Trump which itself is a quote made by one of the only anti-war US Senators, Rand Paul (the son of anti-war Congressman and media personality Dr. Ron Paul). Senator Paul’s statement as quoted by the US President reads as follows:

“It should not be the job of America to replace regimes around the world. This is what President Trump recognized in Iraq, that it was the biggest foreign policy disaster of the last several decades, and he’s right…The generals still don’t get the mistake”.

In response, the Pakistani President Tweeted the following:

“The countries who were the testing platforms for such policies have suffered tremendously. After this admission the next step obviously could be humanitarian reparations for the damage and suffering caused by these wars”.

While the idea of the US owing reparations to foreign nations will not go down well among most Americans, especially in the era of “America first”, the US nevertheless continues to give billions away in so-called “foreign aid” in attempts to politically influence countries through soft power measures that ae typically backed by ultimatums requiring a strict pro-US foreign policy line from the recipient nation. And yet for Pakistan, this year has seen the election of a new government led by the PTI party and Prime Minister Imran Khan that from its first moments in power made it clear that Pakistan seeks respect based friendship with all nations, but will never again kowtow to any foreign power, including and especially the United States.

Not long after the election, the US announced an end to $300 million in so-called “aid” to Pakistan. At the time, many Pakistani officials and civilians were outraged at the move, not because Pakistan cannot receive loans and investment from friendly nations (Pakistan has in fact got loans, new investment or both from countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), but because Pakistanis had always viewed US funds transferred to Islamabad as a small reparation for the tremendous loss of life and treasure that Pakistan had suffered at the hands of the terrorism unleashed on the country by America’s so-called war on terror in neighbouring Afghanistan. This is to say nothing of the multiple Bush and Obama era drone strikes in Pakistan which far too frequently slaughtered innocent civilians rather than groups of terrorists.

And yet, if the US decided to give “reparations” rather than “aid” to multiple nations across the world, it could actually be a win-win situation for both the donor and the recipient. Many America first minded politicians complain that not only is foreign aid a waste of money (a legitimate argument in many if not most cases) but that the “aid” in question is not appreciated by many recipient nations. This second matter requires a level of introspection that most US politicians with the exception of Ron and Rand Paul, appear incapable of.

The fact of the matter is that many countries resent the patronising language of “aid” when they feel it is American military and foreign policy that has caused them economic and other forms of material hardship in the first place. Therefore if the US is to continue to give funds to foreign nations, would it not be a better soft power move for Washington to call the money “reparations” rather than “aid”?

Logic would dictate that if the US is going to send funds abroad irrespective of domestic public opinion, it costs nothing to re-label the funds and call such monetary packages something that would be seen as more respectful and sensitive by nations on the receiving end.

For example, when China offers monetary packages to its economically poorer partners, it usually goes out under the empowering name of “development funds” rather than the term “aid” which implies weakness or even victimisation. The US could therefore learn about the optics of “aid” from China and because the US is justifiably seen as the successor to the European empires that once rode roughshod over much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, American “aid” in the form of “reparations” would psychologically go much further in vast parts of the world and all without Washington incurring further costs above its existing “aid” budget.

While the term reparations is deeply controversial in both European and US historical discourse, in parts of the world where people have objectively been victims of imperial and neo-imperial aggression, invoking the term could actually help to make some such nations feel that there is even a little justice being served.

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