Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

US seeks to win hearts and minds

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And, failing that, simply kill everyone. Here’s an example:

In terms of understanding how the U.S. is perceived in the Muslim world — and why some people might become sufficiently enraged to give up their own lives to attack us — consider the following:

(1) On January 27, Raymond Davis, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier, shot and killed two Pakistani citizens in that nation’s second-largest city, Lahore, using a semi-automatic Glock pistol.  Davis claims he acted in self-defense when they attacked his car to rob him — both of the dead were armed and had lengthy records of petty crimes — but each was shot five times, and one was killed after Davis was safely back in his car and the victim was fleeing.  After shooting the two dead, Davis calmly photographed their bodies and then called other Americans stationed in Pakistan (likely CIA officers) for assistance; one of the Americans’ Land Rovers dispatched to help Davis struck and killed a Pakistani motorcyclist while speeding to the scene.  The Pakistani wife of one of Davis’ victims then committed suicide by swallowing rat poison, saying on her deathbed that she had serious doubts that Davis would be held accountable.

For reasons easy to understand — four dead Pakistanis at the hands of Americans, two of whom (at least) were completely innocent — this episode has become a major scandal in that nation.  From the start, the U.S. Government has demanded Davis’ release on the grounds of “diplomatic immunity.”  But the very murky status of Davis and his work in Pakistan has clouded that claim.  The State Department first said he worked for the consulate, not the embassy, which would make him subject to weaker immunity rights than diplomats enjoy (State now says that its original claim was a “mistake” and that Davis worked for the embassy).  President Obama then publicly demanded the release of what he absurdly called “our diplomat in Pakistan”; when he was arrested, Davis “was carrying a 9mm gun and 75 bullets, bolt cutters, a GPS unit, an infrared light, telescope, a digital camera, an air ticket, two mobile phones and a blank cheque.”  Late last week, a Pakistani court ordered a three-week investigation to determine if Davis merits diplomatic immunity, during which time he will remain in custody.  And now it turns out, according The Guardian last night, that “our diplomat” was actually working for the CIA:

The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time. . . . Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. . . . He served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis had worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

A few caveats are in order here.  Though The Guardian uses unusually strong language for its claim (“the Guardian can confirm”), the reporting appears based mostly if not entirely on Pakistani sources and is entirely anonymous (though Davis’ CIA connection has been speculated from the start and never denied by the U.S. Government).  Most countries, including the U.S., have on occasion been forced to release perpetrators of heinous crimes because they had “diplomatic” status (or were family members of diplomats):  including murder, rape and pedophilia, and it often (and understandably) engenders public rage.  The U.S. is hardly alone in spying under diplomatic cover.  And the general custom is that once a person enters a country with a diplomatic passport — as Davis did here — they are entitled to immunity regardless of their specific work.  In sum, both the factual and legal issues here are both unclear and complex (The Guardian today has an excellent article gathering all the known facts, while The Washington Post‘s “fact-checking” feature reviews the international legal issues and “withholds judgment” on who is right).

But several points are quite clear.  There’s the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department invoking lofty “rule-of-law” and diplomacy principles under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — the very same State Department that just got caught systematically violating that convention when WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. “diplomats” were ordered to spy on U.N. officials and officials in other countries.  Then there’s the delusional notion — heard mostly from progressives with romanticized images of the State Department — that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables was terrible because it’s wrong to undermine “diplomacy” with leaks, since the State Department (unlike the Big, Bad Pentagon) is devoted to Good, Humane causes of facilitating peace.  As this episode illustrates, there’s no separation among the various arms of the U.S. Government; they all are devoted to the same end and simply use different means to accomplish it (when the U.S. Government is devoted to war, “diplomatic” functions are used to bolster the war, as Colin Powell can tell you).

But what this highlights most of all is . . .

Continue reading.

And how is this handled by the American press? Exactly as you would expect nowadays:

Earlier today, I wrote in detail about new developments in the case of Raymond Davis, the former Special Forces soldier who shot and killed two Pakistanis on January 27, sparking a diplomatic conflict between the U.S. (which is demanding that he be released on the ground of “diplomatic immunity”) and Pakistan (whose population is demanding justice and insisting that he was no “diplomat”).  But I want to flag this new story separately because it’s really quite amazing and revealing.

Yesterday, as I noted earlier, The Guardian reported that Davis — despite Obama’s description of him as “our diplomat in Pakistan” — actually works for the CIA, and further noted that Pakistani officials believe he worked with Blackwater.  When reporting that, The Guardian noted that many American media outlets had learned of this fact but deliberately concealed it — because the U.S. Government told them to:  “A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration.”

Now it turns out that The New York Times — by its own shameless admission — was one of those self-censoring, obedient media outlets.  Now that The Guardian published its story last night, the NYT just now published a lengthy article detailing Davis’ work — headlined:  “American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.A.” — and provides a few more details:

The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials. . . . Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun slinging overseas.

But what’s most significant is the paper’s explanation for why they’re sharing this information with their readers only now:

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.. On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication, though George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined any further comment.

In other words, the NYT knew about Davis’ work for the CIA (and Blackwater) but concealed it because the U.S. Government told it to.  Now that The Guardian and other foreign papers reported it, the U.S. Government gave permission to the NYT to report this, so now that they have government license, they do so — only after it’s already been reported by other newspapers which don’t take orders from the U.S. Government.

It’s one thing for a newspaper to withhold information because they believe its disclosure would endanger lives.  But here, the U.S. Government has spent weeks making public statements that were misleading in the extreme — Obama’s calling Davis “our diplomat in Pakistan” — while the NYT deliberately concealed facts undermining those government claims because government officials told them to do so.  That’s called being an active enabler of government propaganda.  While working for the CIA doesn’t preclude holding “diplomatic immunity,” it’s certainly relevant to the dispute between the two countries and the picture being painted by Obama officials.  Moreover, since there is no declared war in Pakistan, this incident — as the NYT puts it today — “inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A. ”  That alone makes Davis’ work not just newsworthy, but crucial.

Worse still, the NYT has repeatedly . . .

Continue reading. I believe that Greenwald is pointing out how the democratic infrastructure of our country—including courageous and straight-talking journalism and a government that acts, if not according to its ideals, at last in accordance with law and the international treaties to which it has agreed. We have lost both, and the situation is much as when an arch loses the keystone, only a little bit slower. But the direction we’re going is quite clear, and since it is in corporate interests to continue in that direction, that’s where we’re going. Hope you like the ride and the scenery.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 2:22 pm

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