Thursday, May 24, 2012

Coming To A Theatre Near You

"What Dr. Afridi did is the furthest thing from treason.  It was a courageous, heroic and patriotic act which helped to locate the most wanted terrorist in the world, a mass murderer who had the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands.  Dr. Afridi's continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to U.S.-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress's willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan."  Carl Levin, John McCain

The death of Osama bin Laden, arguably the world's most feared outlaw and certainly the United States's most wanted fugitive was a matter of celebration in the United States and among its allies, all of whom had good reason to want the man destroyed.  Unfortunately, the fire he lit, bringing to a raging blaze the Islamist vision of violent jihad in response to the West's purported war on Islam, is not dead, its offshoots are alive and well, from the Middle East to North Africa and beyond.

Slaying the Terrorist Dragon was no mean feat; it required careful aerial reconnaissance, split-second timing, and human intelligence to achieve.  What represented a triumph to the free world, spelled a raging insult to the world that Pakistan inhabits.  The jailing of Pakistani surgeon Shakeel Afridi shortly after the raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound - situated close to an elite military installation, because it became known that he had been extremely useful to the CIA planners of the raid - has in its turn enraged America.

While Pakistan's military and secret intelligence service was livid with fury over the lightning-strike that succeeded in eluding detection as it entered Pakistani airspace and completed its mission without informing Islamabad of its intention, as a purported ally of the United States it appeared baffling to the uninitiated that this reaction occurred at all.  Embarrassment yes, at being caught out in a series of flagrant lies respecting lack of knowledge of the al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts.

Rage that a mission to detect his presence, verify it, and then proceed to dispatch him, questionable.  But succeeding, in fact, in persuading the American Congress that the pretense of partnership between their country and Pakistan is blatant and absurd nonsense.  Leading one Congressman to describe Islamabad as an adversary to the United States: "This is decisive proof Pakistan sees itself as being at war with us."

Pakistan's humiliation by the successful night-time raid by U.S. Navy SEALs led to a search for someone to blame and to hold accountable, and that someone was, of course, Shakeel Afridi.  "He was a spy who betrayed his country", fumed a spokesman of Pakistan's military establishment.  And just to demonstrate that they've done their homework, the additional poke in the eye: "Has the U.S. released Jonathan Pollard after 20 years?"

They haven't, but they most certainly should, since although Mr. Pollard is an American citizen, the data he released was to Israel, a reliable and long-time ally of the United States.  That represents an unfortunate failure of diplomatic action, since Mr. Pollard has been penalized more than long enough, and the U.S. administration simply keeps ignoring reasonable requests for his release.  Another failure on the part of the U.S. is not having acted swiftly to remove Dr. Afridi and his family from Pakistan, to give him haven in the United States.

Shakil Afridi. File photo Shakil Afridi could end up spending 33 years in prison
His wife, Mona Afridi heartily resents the situation her husband finds himself in, as a result of his having been helpful to the United States as a useful undercover recruit.  That's what human intelligence is all about, and it is invaluable, but with it comes a certain level of responsibility.  She has not seen her husband for a year.  And he will serve out his 33-year-sentence in one of Pakistan's most notorious prisons, one that also houses senior Taliban commanders. 

How secure will his life be there?

But some in the U.S. aren't exactly sitting on their hands over this, either.  A U.S. Senate panel has taken steps to cut $33-million in aid to Pakistan.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has stated it plans to cut U.S. aid by one million for each year of Dr. Afridi's sentence for treason.

And, as an interesting endnote, Hollywood has prepared a film, titled Zero Dark Thirty, about the Abbottabad raid, scheduled for release in mid-December.

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