The US government just decided Islamic shariah law is not so bad after all – at least not in the case of jailed CIA agent Raymond Davis. The burly Davis, an ex-US Special Forces soldier, former Blackwater gunman, and now CIA “contractor” (jargon for mercenary) was jailed in Pakistan after shooting dead two Pakistanis, who were either robbers or government security agents. A third Pakistani was killed by a car driven by a CIA rescuer racing up a one-way street the wrong way.
Pakistanis were outraged, but their weak government, which subsists on $3 billion of annual US aid, caved in to its American patrons. After weeks of intense negotiations over US claims that Davis had diplomatic cover, some $2.3 million or more “diyaa,” or blood money, was paid to the grieving families of Davis’ victims. Case closed.
The CIA’s man in Islamabad was quickly rushed out of Pakistan to a US base in Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has become as adept at bending the truth as her hubby Bill, stoutly denied Washington had paid any money to get Davis released.
She was technically right. The Zardari regime in Islamabad paid off the families after strong-arming them to accept the sleazy deal. Washington will pay Islamabad back.
According to sources here in Washington, the “diyaa” ploy was the brainchild of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, which my old friend denies. He is widely known as the smartest ambassador in Washington.
Very diplomatic, very clever. The Davis crisis is over – at least in Washington. But not in Pakistan, where public fury over Islamabad’s crass sellout is boiling.
The Davis case will confirm the growing belief among most Pakistanis that their nation has been de facto occupied by the United States as part of its war in Afghanistan. What else could they conclude when American Rambos and spies run amok in Pakistan and US Predator drones pound its northwest frontier? Or as they watch Pakistan’s once proud soldiers, now turned sepoys of the new Raj, stand at attention to receive Pentagon orders.
On Thursday, at least 41 Pakistani civilians were killed by US air strikes along the northwest frontier – just as the Obama Administration was threatening war against Libya for doing the same thing.
Even the unloved former president, Pervez Musharraf, claims right after 9/11, Washington “put a gun to our head” and told him to either accept US semi-occupation of Pakistan or be bombed back to the Stone Age. This meant US use of Pakistan’s major ports, depots, key airfields, radar sites, intelligence service ISI, security police, and 120,000 troops.
Senior military and intelligence officers deemed insufficiently pro-American or Islamist were purged, among them many of the army’s ablest officers.
A decade later, polls show most Pakistanis believe the US is continuing to take over Pakistan, and aims to get control of their nation’s dispersed nuclear arsenal.
At the same time, Pakistan is increasingly becoming a free-fire zone for US gunslingers and CIA hit teams. The Zardari government in Islamabad, well lubricated by secret US “black” payments and stipends, raises few objections.
CIA harbors deep mistrust of Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, because it still puts Pakistan’s strategic interests ahead of those of the US.
The Davis affaire is very unfortunate for the United States. At a time when Washington is preaching democracy and rule of law to the Arab world, it is seen in Pakistan to be crassly violating norms of law and diplomacy, simply bribing its way out of trouble with venal Pakistani politicians and officials.
This behavior further undermines the feeble Zardari regime, the house of cards on which the US-led Afghan War rests. Nor did it help this week in Washington when US Afghan commander, Gen. David Petraeus, asserted there were less than 100 al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
CIA chief Leon Panetta had previously told the US Congress there were no more than 50 al-Qaida types left in Afghanistan. So why, one wonders, are there 110,000 US troops and another 40,000 NATO troops there? Could it be some other reason?
Davis should never have been allowed to Rambo around Islamabad, armed and dangerous, in a cowboy shirt. Who is running US policy in Pakistan?
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.