How Washington F@#$%! the budget


How Washington F@#$%! the budget = Since 2001, lawmakers time and again have cut taxes or increased spending without finding ways to pay for their decisions. Both parties share the blame.

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THE FIX OF FIXING THE US BUDGET

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by Charles Riley, CNN

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Note for WoP readers:  Another piece yet again frm Ghulam Mitha:

 The prophetic words uttered by that English genius [Oscar Wilde] are still ringing in my ears…’Empires decline when they’ve to pay their bills’.

There is an interesting article on CNN about how, under baby Bush, America’s financial decline started, from 2001—the year the war on terror also started. I couldn’t help reflecting upon the decline of other empires, notably the Soviet’s when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. 20 years later the USSR no longer exists on the map. Now what about the great American empire? Is it also doomed to perish…like the Soviets? Because the US too has to pay it’s bills.

The article depicts how the US is in dire financial straits. In 2001 the ratio of US debt to GDP was 60%. Ten years later it has doubled to 120%.

When Bush and Republicans were in power, the Democrats opposed them and now the Republicans are opposing the Democrats on exactly the same tax and budget issues.

Obama is no different than Bush. Both are literal pawns on the Zionist chessboard. One black, one white. Same shaped pieces.

BUSH TAX CUTS: 2001, 2003 and 2006

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After a brief few years of budget surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration, lawmakers opened the new century by blowing a hole in the budget with major tax cuts

Since 2001, lawmakers time and again have cut taxes or increased spending without finding ways to pay for their decisions. Both parties share the blame.

The Bush tax cuts carried an initial 10-year cost estimate of $1.35 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They were reauthorized and expanded in 2003, and then again in 2006. In 2010, President Obama signed another extension.

The cost of the latest two-year extension? $544.3 billion.

Proponents argued that the tax cuts would spur economic growth. But Democrat Tom Daschle, then the Senate majority leader, warned in 2001 that the cuts were too large and too expensive.

“I just know that at some point that reality is going to come crashing down on all of us and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Daschle said.

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WAR FUNDING: 2001 TO PRESENT

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In order to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Presidents Bush and Obama have spent more than $1 trillion on direct costs alone.

On top of that, annual defense spending has just about doubled since 2001, rising to almost $700 billion in 2010. Military spending now accounts for more 20% of the entire federal budget.

Obama ordered more troops to Afghanistan in 2009, while he has simultaneously drawn down forces in Iraq. Costs are still sky-high. In February, Obama requested $118 billion to fund the wars just for fiscal year 2012.

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MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: 2003

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Without finding a way to pay for it, Congress passed a law in 2003 that expanded prescription drug benefits for seniors on Medicare.

Originally estimated to cost $395 billion over 10 years, costs are now expected to be much higher — and there is no expiration date.

Bush characterized the measure as “the greatest advance in health care coverage for America’s seniors since the founding of Medicare.” But there was no corresponding tax increase or spending cuts to pay for it.

Now, it’s estimated that Medicare Part D will cost about $1 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

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BUSH STIMULUS: 2008

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With economic indicators signaling a slowdown, lawmakers mounted a bipartisan effort to move a $168 billion stimulus package through Congress in hopes of stopping the recession in its tracks.

The tax cuts and other incentives — totaling around 1% of GDP — weren’t paid for.

Bush praised the quick work of Congress and urged Americans not to “overreact” to the economic troubles. But by the time the nation recovers, the government will have pumped trillions into the economy.

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TARP BAILOUT: 2008

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In October 2008, Congress authorized the Treasury Department to spend up to $700 billion to help stabilize financial markets.

The money would be used to bail out banks and Wall Street firms, finance General Motors and Chrysler’s trips through bankruptcy and help homeowners modify mortgages they could no longer afford.

When lawmakers authorized Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (right) to tap the aid, it was unknown how much would ever be returned to the Treasury. Turns out, the bank bailouts have turned a small profit, while taxpayers are still holding the bag for bailouts for the auto industry and AIG.

According to the latest CBO estimate, TARP — the whole program — will ultimately cost taxpayers $19 billion.

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AMERICAN RECOVERY ACT: 2009

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In the face of a deepening recession, Congress put together a massive stimulus package. A combination government spending and tax cuts, the bill included money for infrastructure, energy-related projects and unemployment benefits, among other items.

It was originally estimated to cost $787 billion but later revised to $862 billion.

Not a single Republican in the House voted for the bill.

“Just because Republicans spent too much money after September 11 and lost our way on financial matters doesn’t mean the Democratic Party should be allowed to wreck our ship of state,” said Republican Congressman Zach Wamp. “This is taking us quickly down the wrong road. Vote no.”

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OBAMA TAX PACKAGE: 2010

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Sold as a form of stimulus, this legislation included a reduction in the estate tax threshold, a patch for the alternative minimum tax, a partial one-year payroll tax holiday and some additional tax breaks for businesses that invest in plants and equipment.

It also included an extension of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012, and is projected to cost $858 billion over ten years. The spending and tax cuts in the bill were, once again, not offset by any increase in federal revenue.

With both the annual budget deficit and public debt hitting record levels, and the House now controlled by cut-happy Republicans, the debate has shifted to reducing the size and scope of government.

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DEBT AT THE BREAKING POINT

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There is plenty of blame to go around for the nation’s current budget troubles. Democrats and Republicans alike pushed major legislation that increased government spending, without corresponding increases in revenue.

Of course, there was also the deep recession, which started in 2007 and caused tax revenue to plummet.

Today, the national debt stands at more than $14 trillion, and Washington is gearing up for a brawl over the debt ceiling, which will have to be raised sometime in the next month or so. Both sides agree the debt must be addressed, though there’s little agreement on how to get there. Stay tuned!

Related Posts:

1. The United States’ credit card is nearly maxed out 2. U.S. is bankrupt and we don’t even know it 3. The US maxes out its credit card 

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The United States’ credit card is nearly maxed out


Ben Shalom Bernanke is current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. During his tenure as Chairman, Bernanke has overseen the response of the Federal Reserve to late-2000s financial crisis. Bernanke has served as member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and outlined the Bernanke Doctrine and first spoke of The Great Moderation, where he postulated that we are in a new era, where modern macroeconomic policy has decreased the volatility of the business cycle. 
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RUNNING A MASSIVE PONZI SCHEME FOR SIX DECADES STRAIGHT

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duanestorey.com

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We’re only about two month’s away from the US hitting its debt ceiling of 14.3 trillion dollars.

Congressionally the US isn’t allowed to borrow any more than that amount (the entire wealth of the population of the planet is around 100 trillion dollars – so that means the US owes almost 15% of the entire wealth of the planet in debt).

The estimated date of this occurring is sometime this month I believe. When it does, the US has two options: default on some of their debt obligations, or raise the limit. (more…)

Published in: on 25/04/2011 at 3:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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U.S. is bankrupt and we don’t even know it


In its report issued July last year, the International Monetary Fund summarized these bland words about U.S. fiscal policy: “Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to fiscal stabilization, but noted that a larger than budgeted adjustment would be required to stabilize debt-to-GDP.” But delve deeper, and you will find that the IMF has effectively pronounced the U.S. bankrupt. 

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DELVE DEEPER AND YOU FIND THAT THE US IS EFFECTIVELY PRONOUNCED AS BANKRUPT 

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by Laurence Kotlikoff 

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Let’s get real. The U.S. is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills.

 What it can and must do is radically simplify its tax, health-care, retirement and financial systems, each of which is a complete mess.

But this is the good news. It means they can each be redesigned to achieve their legitimate purposes at much lower cost and, in the process, revitalize the economy.

In its report issued July last year, the International Monetary Fund released its annual review of U.S. economic policy. Its summary contained these bland words about U.S. fiscal policy: “Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to fiscal stabilization, but noted that a larger than budgeted adjustment would be required to stabilize debt-to-GDP.”

 But delve deeper, and you will find that the IMF has effectively pronounced the U.S. bankrupt.

 Section 6 of the July 2010 Selected Issues Paper says: “The U.S. fiscal gap associated with today’s federal fiscal policy is huge for plausible discount rates.” It adds that “closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP.”

 The fiscal gap is the value today (the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.

DOUBLE OUR TAXES

To put 14 percent of gross domestic product in perspective, current federal revenue totals 14.9 percent of GDP. So the IMF is saying that closing the U.S. fiscal gap, from the revenue side, requires, roughly speaking, an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act.

Such a tax hike would leave the U.S. running a surplus equal to 5 percent of GDP this year, rather than a 9 percent deficit. So the IMF is really saying the U.S. needs to run a huge surplus now and for many years to come to pay for the spending that is scheduled. It’s also saying the longer the country waits to make tough fiscal adjustments, the more painful they will be.

IS THE IMF BONKERS?

No. It has done its homework. So has the Congressional Budget Office whose Long-Term Budget Outlook, released in June, shows an even larger problem.

‘ UNOFFICIAL’ LIABILITIES

Based on the CBO’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. This gargantuan discrepancy between our “official” debt and our actual net indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem.

 Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities “unofficial” to keep them off the books and far in the future.

For example, our Social Security FICA contributions are called taxes and our future Social Security benefits are called transfer payments. The government could equally well have labeled our contributions “loans” and called our future benefits “repayment of these loans less an old age tax,” with the old age tax making up for any difference between the benefits promised and principal plus interest on the contributions.

 The fiscal gap isn’t affected by fiscal labeling. It’s the only theoretically correct measure of our long-run fiscal condition because it considers all spending, no matter how labeled, and incorporates long-term and short-term policy.

$4 TRILLION BILL

How can the fiscal gap be so enormous?

Simple. We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young their eventual turn at passing the generational buck.

 Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under U.S. President Richard Nixon, coined an oft-repeated phrase: “Something that can’t go on, will stop.” True enough. Uncle Sam’s Ponzi scheme will stop. But it will stop too late.

 And it will stop in a very nasty manner. The first possibility is massive benefit cuts visited on the baby boomers in retirement. The second is astronomical tax increases that leave the young with little incentive to work and save. And the third is the government simply printing vast quantities of money to cover its bills.

WORSE THAN GREECE

Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax, interest rates and consumer prices. This is an awful, downhill road to follow, but it’s the one we are on. And bond traders will kick us miles down our road once they wake up and realize the U.S. is in worse fiscal shape than Greece.

Some doctrinaire Keynesian economists would say any stimulus over the next few years won’t affect our ability to deal with deficits in the long run.

This is wrong as a simple matter of arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the government’s credit-card bill and each year’s 14 percent of GDP is the interest on that bill. If it doesn’t pay this year’s interest, it will be added to the balance.

Demand-siders say forgoing this year’s 14 percent fiscal tightening, and spending even more, will pay for itself, in present value, by expanding the economy and tax revenue.

My reaction? Get real, or go hang out with equally deluded supply-siders. Our country is broke and can no longer afford no- pain, all-gain “solutions.”

 (Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and author of “Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Laurence Kotlikoff at kotlikoff@bu.edu

You might also like:

1. The US maxes out its credit card 2 United States’ credit card is nearly maxed out

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Published in: on 25/04/2011 at 3:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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The US maxes out its credit card


With a credit card, you have a whole lot of financial convenience, say the credit card companies but when the spending is more than the limit you are to avail, the whole lot of convenience turns into a whole lot of worries and it’s these worries that kill you. So maxing out your credit card means a financial death wish. Beware guys! You have duly been warned!
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THE US MAXES OUT ITS CREDIT CARD

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by Eric Margolis

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The US dollar sank further last week and gold hit $1,500 an ounce, frightening investors and destabilizing financial markets. A leading credit rating agency warned the US AAA rating might be downgraded.

 While Rome burned, President Obama and the Republican-controlled US Congress traded childish taunts and hot air.   Both parties refused to tell Americans the painful truth:  government’s yawning $1.4 trillion US budget deficit had to be slashed to prevent a financial meltdown.  That would mean pain for everyone.

 But the two political parties are deadlocked:  Obama’s Democrats want to raise taxes. Republicans demand tax cuts. They want to cut health, education and welfare, all three sacred cows to the Democrats, while increasing military spending when 40 million Americans draw government food aid.

 This dishonest debate mostly ignores the 800-lb gorilla in the room: America’s bloated $750-900 billion annual military spending.  Some experts put total annual US military and intelligence spending at $1.2 trillion.

 Few American politicians dare suggest seriously trimming the Pentagon’s runaway spending.  

 The US National Priorities Project estimates that in 2011, out of one dollar of US federal spending, 27.4%  is military; 21.5% health; 13.8% interest on the debt; 10.9% social security benefits; 3.5% on education; and 23% on everything else.

 In 2010, US military spending exceeded by 50% the average spent in the Cold War years when America had a serious rival in the Soviet Union.  Since 2000, US military spending has grown by 67% (all figures adjusted for inflation).  Yet today America has no real military rival.

 The US now accounts for almost 50% of world military spending.  Add America’s wealthy allies in Europe and Asia, and the total rises to 80%.  And yet Americans are incessantly barraged by wild claims their nation is under dire threat, the latest and most preposterous being that dirt-poor Myanmar (former Burma) is getting nuclear weapons.  China, with a military budget only 1/10th the size of America’s, is the only future threat the Republicans can come up with.

 Most Americans think of “defense” spending rather than calling it “military” spending.  This gives the totally mistaken impression America’s shores are somehow being threatened by enemy invasion.

 In reality, the Pentagon’s vast budget sustains US world military domination, with over 100 overseas bases, air and naval fleets, two wars, numerous smaller “police actions” in Africa and Asia,  rented allies, and a  strategic nuclear arsenal at least 75% larger than needed.

 President George W. Bush waged two wars, cut taxes, and spent billions in farm and medical subsidies without funding them through tax increases or spending cuts.  These costs were simply loaded on to America’s huge national debt.   If American taxpayers had to actually pay for their $1.6 trillion wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these conflicts would quickly end.

 President Lyndon Johnson also financed the Vietnam War through debt.   The result:  a worldwide wave of inflation that took a decade to overcome.   The same thing is happening today thanks to the profligate George Bush who doubled US government spending.  The US has been exporting inflation around the globe by debauching the dollar and massive borrowing to finance its deficits.

 Bush and now Obama’s unpaid-for wars, recklessly low US interest rates, commodity speculators, and China’s overheated economy are fueling the rising tide of world inflation.

 The subject of modest cuts from the sacred cow of military spending is being timidly raised by politicians of both parties.  But they are terrified of being accused of the ultimate sin in hyperpatriotic US politics, being unpatriotic and “not supporting our boys.”

 Yet unless the Pentagon’s budget is cut – perhaps by as much as half or more – the US, dangerously top-heavy with debt, may capsize.   History amply shows more empires done in by poor finances and debt than invasion by enemies.

 Alas, America’s governing system, dominated as it is by such powerful special interests as the military-industrial complex, Wall Street,  and agriculture,  can’t seem to escape from the national addiction to war and debt.

 As my friend Arnaud de Borchgrave writes, while the US has spent $1.5 trillion on its Afghan and Iraq Wars, China is using US interest payments to win friends and customers around the world.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011

You might also like:

1. U.S. is bankrupt and we don’t even know it 2. The United States’ credit card is nearly maxed out

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Published in: on 24/04/2011 at 10:09 pm  Comments (3)  
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Pakistan: walking a tightrope


Pakistani demonstrators shout slogans during a rally against a U.S. consular employee, suspected in a shooting, in Lahore on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. Photo: AP
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While there is immense pressure on Pakistan from the U.S. on the Raymond Davis issue, there is also the clear danger of a street backlash from within.


RAYMOND DAVIS: A SLIPPERY COURT OF CHOICE

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by Anita Joshua

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Very little in the case of the American employee of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Pakistan, arrested after the killing of two locals in “self-defence” in a crowded intersection of Lahore on January 27, rings true. The only cold facts are the bodies that have been piling up.

First, there were the bodies of the two men that the American — whose name is yet to be confirmed but referred to in the media as Raymond Davis — admits to have gunned down. Then there is the third man run over by a speeding U.S. embassy vehicle that was rushing to Davis’ help. And, now — 10 days later — the wife of one of the two men killed by Davis commits suicide; apparently in protest against the ‘VIP’ treatment being given to him and fearing that he would be allowed to go free by a pliant government.

Much else in this case, which has whipped up rampant anti-American sentiments and hogged the headlines since January 27, remains in the realm of speculation, fed primarily by the refusal of both governments to clear the air on who the American is and what he was doing in Pakistan. While the Pakistan government has maintained a studied silence — except for the Interior Minister stating that Davis has a diplomatic passport and the general insistence that the courts would decide the matter — the U.S. is yet to reveal his name even. And, for the first two days after the incident, the U.S. embassy refused to comment on whether he had diplomatic immunity.

Four statements from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad make no mention of his name, and Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley added to the confusion by stating in his Washington briefing, a day after the incident, that the name doing the rounds in the media was incorrect.

Instead of clearing the air, the official statements put out by the mission added grist to the rumour mill. The media did not have to split hair to make their reports. The U.S. embassy was most helpful. First, it called Davis a staff member of the Consulate-General in Lahore. A day later —  when 48 hours had passed — it described him as a “U.S. diplomat” assigned to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with a diplomatic passport and a Pakistani visa valid till June 2012.

Invoking the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which allows him diplomatic immunity, the embassy demanded his immediate release and accused the local police and senior authorities of failing to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the U.S. Consulate-General in Lahore or the embassy in Islamabad. “Furthermore, the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded in custody, which is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Convention, to which Pakistan is a signatory,” the embassy said.

Without saying anything officially, the Pakistan government let the word out that as per its records, there was no U.S. diplomat by the name Raymond Davis and a person with that name had been issued a visa to work in the U.S. embassy as a technician. This got the Americans to admit a day later that the man was on the embassy’s technical and administrative staff but asserted that such employees are also entitled to criminal immunity under Article 37 of the Vienna Convention.

This is all that has been made available by way of ‘facts;’ the rest is all conjecture — based on calculated leaks and educated guesses — but in a country prone to conspiracy theories and for a nation familiar with the machinations of the U.S. in the past, the speculation becomes plausible. More so when the U.S. is held to blame for the blowback effect that Pakistan is facing by virtue of being an ally in the American global war on terror. As one lawyer who believes Davis ought to be extended diplomatic immunity put it, the question is whether popular opinion should be allowed to decide the fate of the American and, as a consequence, bilateral relations. But then, he rues, “right now ‘popular opinion’ holds the nation hostage.”

While moderate voices say the furore is misplaced given the rising crime graph and the fact that the two men Davis killed were apparently armed — giving the American reason enough to fire in self-defence as white-skinned foreigners do face a security risk in this country — the average Pakistani views the incident as a graphic example of the impunity with which Americans operate in the country. That the Americans have no explanation for Davis carrying a gun — Mr. Crowley sidestepped the question whether American diplomats in Pakistan were allowed to carry weapons — feeds into the Pakistani sentiment and almost instantly the incident was equated with the drone attacks by the Central Intelligence Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Given that U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by the WikiLeaks recently show the Pakistan government speaking in two voices on the drone attacks — protesting for the consumption of the domestic audience while allowing the CIA’s unmanned Predators into Pakistani airspace as per a tacit agreement — the widespread apprehension is that the federal dispensation will allow Davis to get away. The general belief is that he is a private security operative like Blackwater agents who are allowed a free run of the country.

Most Pakistanis are certain that had it been the other way round — a Pakistani diplomat killing two Americans in the U.S. — Washington would have moved heaven and earth to punish him as was the case when Georgian Deputy Ambassador Gueorgui Makharadze killed a girl in a driving accident in 1997. The U.S. got Georgia to waive diplomatic immunity in that case.

The vocal U.S. demands for the release of Davis and the pressure tactics only lend credence to the belief that America will resort to every means to get its man out. When no headway was made through persuasion, the U.S. began tightening the screws at various levels. A visiting congressional delegation conveyed to the Prime Minister that the Armed Services Committee may find it difficult to approve military aid and arms supply to Pakistan if the American official remained in custody. The State Department snapped all communication with the Pakistan embassy in Washington and now the U.S. has apparently put on hold all scheduled bilateral contacts.

The federal government, thus, finds itself forced to walk a tightrope. On the one hand, there is immense pressure from the U.S. — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called up President Asif Ali Zardari over the weekend and also raised the issue with the Chief of the Army Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference — amid fears of what this one incident could do to the strategic alliance. On the other, there is the clear and present danger of a street backlash if Davis is let off, similar to the street power shown by the ‘religious’ right-wing organisations over amendments to the blasphemy law.

But it is not as if Pakistan is alone in having to do a trapeze act. The U.S. also cannot afford this strain on bilateral ties as Washington has always maintained that Islamabad’s cooperation in going after terrorists who get safe havens on Pakistani soil along the border with Afghanistan is crucial to the restoration of normalcy in Afghanistan. This particularly rough patch in bilateral ties between two countries which have had a history of blow-hot-blow-cold relationship could not have come at a worse time as the U.S. hopes to begin troops withdrawal from Afghanistan in July.

Little wonder then that satirist and radio host Fasi Zaka wrote in The Express Tribune on February 1: “We have begun the most political of tennis matches, the Desi Davis Cup for the prize of Raymond Davis’s freedom or conviction … The court of choice will be clay, slippery for both Pakistan and America.” And, from the way this “match” has proceeded, there is no straight set clincher coming up.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

YOUR COMMENT IS IMPORTANT

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.

 


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