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Pakistan

[ 68 ] May 23, 2012 |

So if the Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden gets 33 years in prison for treason, does this mean the Pakistani government has explicitly tied itself and its national interests to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda?

I recognize the complexity of Pakistani life and internal politics, but this seems like a really stupid move on their part. It also seems like a priority of the U.S. needs to be getting the Pakistanis to let him go into exile (and in fact Clinton and Panetta are on the case). Which could be the part of the point–if the Pakistanis can make the doctor a bargaining chip, they win something.

Comments (68)

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  1. Anderson says:

    Bargaining chip, hell. How about “military aid goes to $0 until this guy and his family land in the United States”?

    • joe from Lowell says:

      They’d call our bluff, and a bluff is exactly what that would be.

      • Walt says:

        This is surely true, but at the same time I don’t really understand it. The US needs Pakistan to keep a lid on Islamic extremism, but at the same time Pakistan needs the US to not tilt too far in favor of India. I don’t understand how Pakistan manages to have the upper hand in negotiations, but they seem to.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Because of China. If Pakistan doesn’t get what they want from us, the Chinese would be happy to strengthen ties.

          And, lately, because of the Afghan War. We need to stay on their good side as long as we rely on using a land route through Pakistan to supply our forces there.

          • PSP says:

            Except, it was in the news the other day that we are negotiating to reopen the land supply route. It seems that Pakistan has closed it off for months.

            Put Pakistan on the state supporters of terrorism list and let China have the untrustworthy sobs.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              It seems that Pakistan has closed it off for months.

              At enormous cost to the US, which has had to use much-more-expensive, inefficient air supply.

              Don’t get me wrong, I share your sentiments about the worst. ally. ever.

              But it would certainly come at a cost.

      • Anderson says:

        Predictively, yes, Obama and Clinton wouldn’t dare carry through.

        As policy, it has much to recommend it. We’re not so much “controlling” Islamic terrorism via Pakistan as simply bribing some of its chief sponsors.

  2. Dave S. says:

    If a citizen of country X aids an intelligence service of country Y in an operation inside country X, country X would seem to be within its rights to charge the citizen with being an agent of a foreign power. I agree, though, that under the circumstance the sentence is changed to exile.

    Speaking of the complexity of Pakistani politics, it was interesting to note that the trial and conviction was via tribal court rather than national court. Frontier justice, indeed.

    • DrDick says:

      Not to mention that his activities actively contributed to an unauthorized, covert military operation on Pakistani soil by a foreign power. I am pretty sure we would have done exactly the same under the circumstances.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      “Being an agent of a foreign power” is not the same thing as “treason,” though. To say that this action was “treason” is to say that the United States is an enemy of Pakistan, and that attacking bin Laden was an attack on Pakistan.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Right–the only way this is “treason” (I think) is that Bin Laden actually represented the government of Pakistan and thus the doctor betrayed his national government by helping a foreign power kill that representative.

        I’m not sure I made my definition clear in the original post.

        • Heron says:

          No there’s another way. Any hostile action by a foreign military force on your sovereign territory not approved by your government is a violation of that sovereignty and an assault upon The State. By “providing aid and comfort” to the US military in carrying out such an operation, this doctor helped such an assault happen. In this way, his actions could be considered treason independent of Osama bin Laden entirely, with the two provisos that 1) neither I, nor any of you I assume, have any idea how the treason statue in question in this case reads, and 2) he wasn’t convicted of treason under national Pakistani law by a national Pakistani court, but rather under a different rubric by a tribal court as the article notes.

          • Heron says:

            To take another view, as he was convicted under a separate code governing “treason” in the tribal areas, it may very well be that the act of “treason” here was helping a foreign power kill a protected guest of the tribe in question. As I said I know nothing about Pakistani law so I’m likely off-base, but considering the importance of guest-rights in their society, and with an eye on the old Sanctuary laws which were maintained in Europe for centuries, I can see it being construed legally as this doctor having aided in an attack upon the specific prerogatives of his own tribe, if bin Laden or al-Qaeda fighters was staying there under their protection.

          • DrDick says:

            This is the same point I was trying to make above and I am quite certain that the US would have followed a similar course had the roles been reversed.

      • Dave S. says:

        Agreed on the difference between treason and agent of a foreign power; I should have been more clear in my original comment.

        Given Pakistan’s fractured political structure, the term “treason” as we understand it may not even apply in this case, since I can imagine that the national government, the ISI and the tribal areas would have different and possibly mutually antagonistic definitions for it.

  3. wengler says:

    The Bin Laden raid made the Pakistani government look extremely weak and feeble.

    Of course, put the shoe on the other foot and see if such a thing wouldn’t happen here. An American helps the Pakistani military conduct a raid against a someone that is enemy number 1 in Pakistan. That person is killed and they hightail it across the Mexican border.

    It’s doubtful the US government would look too kindly on the person that helped the Pakistanis.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      To put the shoe on the other foot, we would have to assume that the US military and CIA were sheltering the head of a foreign terrorist organization that was targeting the Pakistani public and government.

      The closest analogue would be the head of the Pakistani Taliban, the group that assassinated Bhutto and carried out the bombings of the Shiite mosques. Rather than sheltering such a person, the U.S. has been launching Hellfire missiles at him.

      Now, if we were sheltering the head of the Pakistani Taliban, and the Pakistanis snuck into the country and killed him, then I imagine we’d be plenty pissed off. But, then, if we were sheltering the head of the Pakistani Taliban, then fuck us.

      • John says:

        Ok, change the scenario to Cuba then…

        • Jay B. says:

          Or, if you want to change the dynamic to laying down and letting foreign government assassinate Americans (and Ambassadors) on American soil and letting them get away with it (possibly even giving some intel for the hit) — there’s this example.

      • Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

        No, all we would need to do is to remember that the United States sheltered the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the deposed Shah of Iran.

        The Iranian people had every bit as much right to want Pahlavi tried, convicted and executed as the U.S. had with bin Laden. The only uncertainty is how many more people Pahlavi killed during his 37-year reign. Since the Shah’s own regime told Amnesty International (in 1978) that it had 2,200 political prisoners in custody, there’s little doubt it was in the tens ouf thousands.

        The US absolutely refused to discuss handing Pahlavi over to anyone. American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, Goid’s Chosen People– we can do whatever we bloody well feel like, you stinky pagan wogs. Neener-neener.

        When the Iranians decided to try realpolitik and acquired a bargaining chip, the US freaked. I remember those days well. (And, let’s remember, the Iranians treated their noncombatants humanely. The US didn’t leave anyone alive.)

        Had the Iranians been able to mount an armed mission into the US and take Pahlavi out, the US would have declared war. Any US citizen aiding in the planning or execution of the attack would have been executed for treason.

        You can stomp and kick your feet as much as you like, but Pakistan did precisely what the US would have done. If you want to be angry with someone, blame the US for not getting the people who felped them safely away.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      We try whistleblowers and people who SPEAK to designated terrorist organizations without spitting on them. We’d sure as fuck try this guy.

  4. James E Powell says:

    I can’t get over the belief that a significant portion of the Pakistani military/security complex found Osama bin Laden to be a useful thing to have. And while those people can live well without him, they do not like it when anyone messes with their assets. Given the apparently lawless nature of parts of the country, they probably felt it was necessary to send a message.

    • fasteddie9318 says:

      I can’t get over the belief that a significant portion of the Pakistani military/security complex found Osama bin Laden to be a useful thing to have.

      Of course they did. The “Pakistani military/security complex” are first against the wall when the revolution comes. Hosting Bin Laden was one of the ways they were keeping the revolution at bay.

  5. Steve S. says:

    Yeah, it’s an outrageous punishment for a guy who collaborated with a foreign government to run a fake vaccination program. Put me down as in favor of running all the fake vaccination programs necessary to root out terrorists. And if some quantity of parents become suspicious and refuse to vaccinate their kids as a result, oh well, it’s for the greater good.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I give up: how is giving hundreds of people actual Hepatitis B vaccines a fake vaccination program?

      The argument seems to be, in the process of finding and killing Osama bin Laden, the United States also vaccinated a few hundred poor Pakistanis against Hepatitis B. Those monsters.

      I do like the way you suggest that people were given fake vaccines in order to make the operation seem sinister. Because you’re so horrified at the thought of people not being vaccinated, right?

      • Steve S. says:

        Guess you missed the well-publicized stories:

        Many in the aid community have been deeply critical of the CIA’s decision to run a fake vaccination program in a bid to identify Osama bin Laden before he was killed last May, saying the link with espionage has endangered aid workers.

        Or this:

        reportedly, incensed by the American-sponsored ploy, the security apparatus has tightened its monitoring of international aid agencies and local NGOs involved in the health sector, potentially disrupting the urgent work of stamping out the polio virus that has been resurgent in Pakistan in recent years.

        Or this

        However, on the ground in Abbottabad the Guardian discovered that while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on, in April this year, to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

        “The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid,” said Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president. “The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.”:

        Anybody with even a smidgen of intelligence and awareness would have realized the potential dangers of covering a CIA operation in Pakistan with a humanitarian front.

        And I said the program was fake, which it was, not the vaccines themselves, liar.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          …none of which change the actual vaccination program that vaccinated hundreds of people into a “fake vaccination program.”

          And I said the program was fake, which it was, not the vaccines themselves, liar.

          Actually, you hysterical little thing, you said that the program in which people received vaccinations was a “fake vaccination program,” which as I wrote, was your way of suggesting that people were given fake vaccines.

          Need a hug, son?

          • Heron says:

            You’re being deliberately obtuse. In that it did not follow proper procedure, did not return for the necessary followup to monitor progress and mitigate the possibility of resistance developing, and in that it the professionals used in the program were dedicated to a purpose other than helping the populace, it was in fact a “fake vaccination program”. You may think that insisting or reading that as a “program distributing fake vaccinations” instead of as “a program dedicated to finding someone instead of vaccinating” is clever. In reality, that you have to grasp at such thin rhetorical straws just to keep your head above water in this discussion shows how weak your argument is.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              In that it did not follow proper procedure, did not return for the necessary followup to monitor progress and mitigate the possibility of resistance developing, and in that it the professionals used in the program were dedicated to a purpose other than helping the populace, it was in fact a “fake vaccination program”.

              Yeah….no. Words, including the word “fake,” mean things. Established things, that you don’t get to alter because you really, really think a particular word would give an argument some extra oomph.

              You may think that insisting or reading that as a “program distributing fake vaccinations” instead of as “a program dedicated to finding someone instead of vaccinating” is clever.

              Clever? I don’t think it’s clever; I think it’s so blindingly obvious that the description was wrong that only someone significantly below average intelligence, or someone truly, passionately dedicated to not admitting error, ever, no matter what, could fail to notice the problem.

              Tell me, do you frequently use the word “fake” to describe something that does what it purports to do, but has an ulterior motive? If so, you need to stop doing that.

              such thin rhetorical straws

              Noting that “fake” means “fake,” as opposed to “having an ulterior motive,” is a “thin rhetorical straw?”

              Hokay. Whatever you say.

          • Steve S. says:

            Genius, google up “CIA fake vaccination program” or “phony vaccination program” and note all the mainstream news organizations, writers, and international health experts who used those exact words. Then read this from the AAAS website. Multiple links send comments into moderation, it appears, so I’ll leave it at that for now, but there is much, much more from health experts who work to alleviate disease worldwide

            Then you should come back and apologize, not to me but to all the aid workers and innocent people who have been hurt by this atrocity which you are apologizing for. Since you’re demonstrably stupid and a liar I won’t hold my breath.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Oh, assurances that people said something, and some really angry posturing. What a compelling alternative to arguing the merits of a position.

              You know, you don’t actually have to insist on the merits of the term “fake” to make what seems to be your actual point. It’s not a good idea to allow yourself to get so wound up that lose sight of what you’re trying to say.

              You seem to have lost your composure a little bit. You have a good one.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Then you should come back and apologize, not to me but to all the aid workers and innocent people who have been hurt by this atrocity which you are apologizing for.

              Lawlz. Yes, hysterical child, I owe aid workers and “people who have been hurt by this atrocity” an apology for noting that you misrepresented it.

              eyeroll

        • joe from Lowell says:

          You know what the difference is between your comments and the CIA’s vaccination ruse?

          There are people in Pakistan who won’t get Hepatitis B because of the CIA’s vaccination ruse.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Whoops, my bad. What I meant to say was:

            You know what the difference is between your comments and the CIA’s “atrocity?”

            There are people in Pakistan who won’t get Hepatitis B because of the CIA’s “atrocity.”

            My bad. I APOLOGIZE for using the wrong term.

          • ajay says:

            There are people in Pakistan who won’t get Hepatitis B because of the CIA’s vaccination ruse.

            This turns out not to be true because they didn’t get the required second dose.

            • edwin says:

              It is worse than this – not only did they not get the second dose, they probably assume, falsely that they have received the necessary immunity.

  6. central texas says:

    I think it means that Pakistan has, once again, tried to send the message that they are a sovereign country who do not take kindly to foreign armed forces and spies operating as though they owned the place. This concept of sovereignty is apparently very, very difficult for the average American to grasp, witness about 80% of the postings above. (and the OP)

    Our country is in a very poor position to criticize others for ludicrous, excessive, and cruel punishments sold under the bloody shirt of security and patriotism and used to stifle dissent, critical thought, or to attack terrorist loving boogie men.

    • I think it means that Pakistan has, once again, tried to send the message that they are a sovereign country who do not take kindly to foreign armed forces and spies operating as though they owned the place.

      There is no single voice that speaks for Pakistan’s interests in the way that Obama speaks for America’s.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      the message that they are a sovereign country who do not take kindly to foreign armed forces and spies operating as though they owned the place

      …a message that would have a great deal more credibility if they didn’t allow the leadership of al Qaeda to set up shop in the shadow of their military academy while receiving assistance from their military and intelligence services.

      • DocAmazing says:

        That would be funny if you had ever heard of Omega 7, Alpha 66, the Bay of Pigs, Hermanos al Rescate, or the various bombings of Cuban airliners that were undertaken with the at least tacit approval (and often active connivance) of US intelligence. It would also be funny if you were unable to remember the Contras in Nicaragua or current events in Colombia and Honduras.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          I don’t know why you think I haven’t heard of the anti-Castro Cubans our government worked with, or why you think it makes my comment funnier to pretend I haven’t.

          Oh, wait, yes I do. You got to say “America did bad stuff!” and Lord knows, tu quoque statements are just such a knee-slapper.

          • HumorMe says:

            Man,”joe”, you are the poster child for all that’s wrong with the modern progressive movement in the US. Your snide dismissive rhetoric is indistinguishable from the dishonest crap you find on the average right-wing shout fest, and you and this misguided post are the reason I deleted LG&M from my bookmarks. I got here through Greenwall’s link, from a piece that clearly explains what was wrong with the fake vaccination program, that it only administered 1 of the necessary 3 shots to provide immunization, and how this increases mistrust of international medical aid programs in parts of the world that need them most. Go read it and come back and tell everyone how stupid and misguided they are for pointing out how this would be handled by the US government if the situation was reversed.

  7. Heron says:

    A “Tribal court” sounds an awful lot like “Islamabad didn’t have much to do with this”. The tribal areas in Pakistan (and the tribes that live in them) have a pretty significant amount of autonomy. I would say it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that this was done without the agreement(or knowledge) of Pakistan’s central government, particularly in light of how weak the civilian authorities are. As such, talk about retaliation against Pakistan as a whole seems to me both premature and unhelpful.

    Having said that, let’s flip this situation. What if a US physics professor was contacted by the intelligence arm of the CCP regarding information on his former students, and this information was then used to recruit those students as spies. In response, the US government convicted the professor of espionage, and in response to that, China declared a limited trade embargo with the US, or launched some sort of military retaliation. Putting aside how effective such a response would be diplomatically, would you also feel that act was morally justified?

  8. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  9. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  10. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with [...]

  11. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  12. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  13. [...] of all types – Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives – are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  14. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  15. [...] of all types — Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives — are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani [...]

  16. Erik Loomis says:

    Really?

    Look, I’ll put my leftist credentials up against anyone, but fuck bin Laden and fuck the Pakistanis for hosting him.

  17. joe from Lowell says:

    If there’s one principle that defines “old progressive” values, it’s National Sovereignty Uber Alles.

  18. njorl says:

    You just like seeing brown people get thrown into prison for 33 years.

    Hey, whaddya know, thoughtless insults are easy!

  19. Dave S. says:

    Easy – Bush and Cheney are our war criminals, as opposed to bin Laden’s “guest” status in pakistan.

  20. joe from Lowell says:

    How is this different from what Pakistan did with bin Laden?

    Question: Is the observation that Pakistan was treating bin Laden the way the United States treats its former Presidents supposed to be an argument against the mission and in favor of Pakistan?

  21. joe from Lowell says:

    It occurs to me that it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to come up with a reason, other than “hypocrisy,” to explain why former Presidents are treated differently than heads of terrorist organization who snuck into the country illegally.

  22. joe from Lowell says:

    Bin Laden killed 3,000 people

    Actually, he killed a whole lot more than that – in the African embassy bombings, for instance – but I guess you don’t count “brown people.”

  23. joe from Lowell says:

    Whoops, Anonytroll, you forgot the handle you were using.

  24. joe from Lowell says:

    The only thing remotely interesting about your trolling is the way it demonstrates how difficult it is to differentiate between Anonytroll and any number of people who write this stuff in earnest.

  25. joe from Lowell says:

    …just as long as you look at the Iraqi civil war, set off unintentionally by the United States but intentionally by al Qaeda, and assign every death to the United States and none to al Qaeda.

    Please, Anonytroll, tell us more about hypocrisy.

  26. joe from Lowell says:

    Uh-huh. Unintentionally set off. Whatever you say.

    See, it was all a brilliant plan by Bush and Cheney to take the most important initiative of their Presidency and cause it to fail miserably, at massive cost in blood and treasure to the United States, thereby losing Congress and the Presidency, discrediting their foreign policy vision, enhancing the power of Iran, and empowering the most extreme elements in Iraqi society.

    It’s all so simple. WAKE UP, AMERICA!

  27. joe from Lowell says:

    And there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq until the US invaded.

    …at which point they came into the country and implemented a campaign of atrocities intended to set off a civil war, in order to bring about the failure of Bush’s Iraq policy.

    As I said already.

  28. joe from Lowell says:

    They let the civil war happen on purpose. Because the main goal of American foreign policy is to keep all other countries in the region weak and prostrate before Israel and the American MIC.

    And while the smooth installation of a puppet regime, quickly and effectively asserting control throughout the country, would have been a terrible setback in their efforts to achieve this objective, a nice big civil war – one that served to enhance the influence of Iran and of the most belligerent, nationalist, extremist factions in Iraq – was a fantastic way to make sure that the region remained safely under our thumb.

    Wait…what?

  29. Asteele says:

    I have no interest in getting involved in the larger discussion.
    However, the Iraqi’s were not children that were somehow tricked, by a handful of foreign terrorists, into having a civil war. Also the various groups that America liked to call Al-Quaeda during the Iraq war, were not a monolithic block, and we have no real insight into their motivations and intentions.

  30. joe from Lowell says:

    One hardly has to be a child, or tricked, in order to take up arms in the midst of a back-and-forth campaign of atrocities and retaliations between one’s own community and another, antagonistic one.

    Also the various groups that America liked to call Al-Quaeda during the Iraq war, were not a monolithic block, and we have no real insight into their motivations and intentions.

    But we’re not talking about the various groups that America liked to call Al-Quaeda during the Iraq war. We’re talking about the actual al Qaeda organization, not various local Sunni groups in Iraq (who were frequently misidentified as al Qaeda). The actual, honest-to-God al Qaeda organization carried out a campaign of anti-Shiite atrocities in order to provoke a backlash by Iraqi Shiites, against Iraqi Sunnis, for the purpose of rendering Iraq ungovernable. We do not lack insight into the motivations of the people who did this.

  31. Asteele says:

    Now your saying the civil war wasn’t “set off” by Al-Qaeda, or are you still saying that, I honestly don’t know?

    Also, I’m still not sure that what your calling Al-Qaeda had much to do with the Bin Laden organization rather than a mostly domestic Iraqi organization with just some ties to it, or that they really had such a internal plan to make Iraq ungovernable, but I could be convinced. I mean this seriously, I would be interested if you could point me to a book, or just about anything that talks about this that doesn’t come from a western intelligence or military source.

    It’s a bit unconnected to my main point which is that Al-Qaeda, was a pretty marginal player, and when you want to look at why a civil war between 25 milliion people happened your probably better off looking at the central players, the ones with actual political and military power.

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