Monday, March 7, 2011

Raymond Davis and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: How America keeps messing up ties with Pakistan

Logo from the blogsite: About Aafia

The relationship of the US to Pakistan is - perhaps - the most obvious case today of trouble brewing to the point of no return among those with whom Americans interact daily. There are many reasons and many cases which have fueled this situation over many decades of course. Yet in the five or so years I've watched Pakistan and America interact, I've never seen things more volatile.

Somehow last year's fiasco with the Dr. Aafia Siddiqui case set the stage for the Raymond Davis incident to fuel rage to the point of nearly endless damage. Perhaps these fires could be paralleled to the burning of oil in a gigantic oil spill out of control. In both cases there have been a multitude of smaller incidents which the most aware could have seen as predictive of what would come. Yet, finally there are crucial incidents which explode into major trouble and those affected only ask weakly, 'How on earth could this have happened'? Here is my attempt to answer this question.

When Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was tried in a lower Manhattan courthouse (New York, New York) a year ago last January, I was there for the entire trial. I had already followed Aafia's case intently for years - along with many other US and international journalists.

I saw the handwriting on the wall - as did many other writers usually under the radar - that there were a number of cover-ups. This was obvious in the misleading and scarcity of commentary and reporting from the mainstream US media as well as from military/government spokespersons which were dogmatic or deliberately misleading concerning Aafia's guilt. Disguising or blacking-out what really happened was also obvious because there were "facts" given which in time had to be corrected often by "facts" diametrically opposite to the ones given earlier.

One common pattern in US media was to use headings labeling Aafia an "al Qaeda mom" and hinting that her Neuroscience degree was somehow related to bioweaponry. She'd never been charged a member of al Qaeda. Her degree was related to cognition - especially pertaining to how children learn and had nothing to do with chemistry. Misleading journalism and reporting was true of both Pakistan and the US - yet I'm here addressing problems mostly in US procedures and handling of such sensitive cases. Both the Davis and the Siddiqui case go well beyond the usual such rights questions in impacting US and Pakistani ties.

Unfortunately, even some of the human rights groups withdrew from the layers and complications in the Aafia Siddiqui case which may have involved some aspects of torturing in order to get information and contacts from Aafia. As often happens, if there's any indication that there's a murky link, there's a major pull-out of skittish rights groups. Yet, as at least one key article indicated, the victim became the criminal. Now most readers who are reading this know the pattern: this is how all too many perpetuators of abuse cover-up for their own crimes.

Dr. Aafia's trial was full of unseemly and unconstitutional license in and right outside the courthouse. For beginnings: the trial took place too close to the scene of the 911 tragedy, the comments of the judge were highly condescending to Dr. Aafia and he incessantly underlined to the jury what they were NOT to allow to influence them. Like Aafia said in court, it was as if Judge Berman held up a large warning sign which yelled, "Don't Go Here", while thereby bringing plenty of attention to certain very sketchy made-up theories unfit for the trial and unrelated to the charge.

All these strange actions continued to fan the flames of the fear-mongering done daily in the New York media, in the barring from Pakistan journalists from the early part of the trial, in requiring strict body searching and identification (which had to be written down without the court saying where such ID info would be sent) -especially for any who looked Muslim or foreign - before allowing entry to the courtroom. These procedures were followed all day long even if the person already searched and identified remained on the same floor of the courtroom between breaks.

The reporting from the New York Times (who's reporter was absolutely clueless as to the issues involved.) was among the most problematic.

One Pakistani "drop-in official" added his own misleading insinuations and flamed even more fear - of this tiny, fragile, abused 90 pound woman - in his whispered rumors in and out of the courtroom - before the trial had even concluded.

Other influential attenders, reporters and participants in the courtroom - given commands from 'higher up' were complicit in ignoring one of the major premise of democratic rule of law - ie - that the defendent is to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

So although the actual cases of Dr. Aafia and so-named "Raymond Davis" were entirely different, the parallel cases do strike similar chords. They illustrate why other nations see the US operating today in this so-called "war on terror" as people who continually say "do as I say, not as I do". How can any respect across nations come from this?

A bully nation is getting by with blatant abuse of Dr. Aafia - including her indictment by a swayed jury where there were no finger marks on the weapon, where no one was hurt by the accused -let alone murdered. Aafia's now imprisoned in an institution famous for the abuse of women. She's in for a ludicrous number of years well beyond an average lifetime (just in case, of course, she should outlive her captors by a longshot) so that the secrets of the US would die with her. She's refused return to her nation, her children, her sister and mother - even in exchange for "Raymond Davis".

To add injury to insult, her own blood brother, who lives and practices medicine in Texas, the same state as the institution where Aafia is incarcerated - not allowed even a short visit. (With no explanation given - and even while his application has passed all criteria for such a visit.) What kind of world-aware citizen would fail to recognize that such treatment could lead to anything but rage? How can American officials keep speaking out of both sides of the ugly american mouth without fallout? Fortunately, there's an peace action scheduled in front of Carswell on April.

Many Pakistani leaders and scholars remember for years the harmony begun when Pakistan became a democracy. The US was the only foreign country whose representative attended the birth of Pakistan on August 15, 1947 ** What has happened since then? Pakistan and America might have continued to be twin havens among the world's enemies a united demonstration of the value of democracy and goodwill between nations. Of course the problems since 1947 are multi-tiered and the responsibilities for difficulties lie somewhat buried underneath the rubble of history in both countries. Yet, here my purpose is to address mostly the mote in the eye of the "official" American.

Since so many others are writing about the "Raymond Davis" incident,I don't need to demonstrate further how his name and Aafia's are often in the same commentary. See "Raymond Davis and Norms of Justice" in this morning's Pakistan Tribune
by Amjad Malik Sahib provides some clear answers - should any Americans still ask the question: Why is Pakistan and Pakistani's justice system so stubbornly refusing to return Davis immediately into the hands of the US?

What about the kind of US "officials", diplomats, contractors and those they hire to go abroad? What about a few independently operating US cowboys with rather magical-thinking schemes of being one man empire savers such as Duane Clarridge (who wants to compete with both the CIA and keep Rush Limbaugh and Fox news and even The Washington Post supplied with half-truths?)

All the above American "outlaws" in the world at large keep predictably destroying the nation's once amiable reputation in the world. What could be less harmful to any well-meaning intentions for mutual security and reduction of terror than the way "the ugly American" keeps behaving toward other peoples as if they could do anything they please and make it "right" or legal AFTER each misled action?

That the murder by drones ceased for a short reprieve when "Raymond Davis" shot two Pakistanis was worthy of asking why. Yet once again, the drones drone on at the loss of many lives (even discussed in this morning's BBC news) and leading not only to wrecked lives on every hand yet continuing to be a strong recruiting tool for the many youngsters who watch such harm to their area and families.

That the US military would continue to drop their heartless video-controlled weaponry from the sky after a short reprieve - unabated - and at great ongoing risk to civilians in both Afghanistand an Pakistan shows an arrogance and disregard so outragish it smacks of laughable strategy naivete - were the results not so hellish.

Then, as mentioned here, add the poorly-informed if not downright injust and manipulated actions of US representatives in the cases of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and "Raymond Davis".

How did America come to assume that this occupation of other nations (usually without the clear approval of the people themselves on both sides of the world) for alleged benevolent reasons (when most know it's for oil, location and other resources) could continue indefinitely without great outcries from many corners?

By what standard have the US representatives abroad and certain patronized officials in Pakistan come to assume they could act on their own and without the clear approval of the people at large? (Either Pakistan or the US?) Seldom any longer can "aid" money, weaponry, former western influence or any other assumed "entitlement" justify such denial, pressure and bullying. Nor will any media which continues to allow the government to stifle their written integrity - with pleas, perks, demands or even threats - survive for long as journalism.

No more can officials anywhere mutually cover-up for one another without some group of "the people" somewhere finding out key pieces of the truth. No more is it possible for any nation to hide behind such self-justifications as might, intelligence, wealth or "entitlement".

No country, no official in our times is likely to survive for long (especially among among the scholars of rights) by expecting or demanding differential or exeptional treatment. Or if perchance there would continue to be such occasions - upon discovering such expectation without justification - the fury of the people affected will come back to haunt the peoples of such a nation which keeps producing and sending out such poorly-groomed representatives.

By Connie L. Nash

"Raymond Davis"

photo framed
by Anwaar Hussain -
the author of the
first OpEd on the Davis
case originally entitled
* "Everybody Loves Raymond"

** See early archives on the Aafia Siddiqui case in the blog "About Aafia" from an award-winning biographer of the life and thought of Allama Iqbal - beloved poet, philosopher and visionary the world over and the major spiritual guide for the founding of Pakistan. Note the striking stated theme of this blogsite: "US was the only foreign country whose representative attended the birth of Pakistan on August 15, 1947. The Case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui appears as an epitome of entangled issues which seem to threaten this proverbial alliance, and hence also prospects of peace in the region. This is about saving a bridge." GO here and the official family site on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui here

See recent releases at The International Justice Network here

Plz go to the post below for another recent OpEd and references


  1. Notice how important this case is and the way the ongoing use of drones comes up. Keep in mind as well there are layers of issues at stake which include things both nations want to hide.

  2. Last I read from Dr. Fowzia, Dr. Aafia's sister, they were willing for an exchange of Aafia for Davis - as the family of victims were willing for this. Of course all key to these circumstances are well aware that the two cases are quite different. The one similarity is that it's crucial for Pakistanis to have Aafia repatriated while it's near or at the top for US to want Davis returned to the US.

    I am fully against the death penalty for many many reasons - see some of these at another blog I work with "The Journey of Hope"

    So to help save Davis from death penalty in Pakistan, the exchange appeals to me and for many other reasons as well. For those who are updated on Aafia's case, such as Tina Foster, with International Justice Network - such a strategy could remove Dr. Aafia from Carswell where a history of abuse are added to the refusal to allow her to have a visit from her brother. Add this to the distance from her family and homeland.

    There is - as many readers will know - the great outcry for her return by Pakistanis. Add also need and desire among many lawyers, human rights folk and some key legislators for her repatriation. These all point toward (hopefully) a more humane situation for Aafia in Pakistan.