COMMENT: This man, Davis —Shahzad Chaudhry - Monday, February 21, 2011

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The Vienna Convention caters to diplomats and half-diplomats, their staff, family members, pets and household in no unambiguous terms, but what it does not cater to are the pseudo-diplomats and those that are professional killers and agents of strife in another country

Raymond Davis may be a contract employee of the Pentagon. Or, maybe not. He may well be a hired gun of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which has just been put on the Pentagon roll for convenience. You see the CIA will have a fairly self-contained, compartmentalised operation, with part-timers not in the least possible, maybe at least not in the deadly game of killing. But not all hands may be enough to do the task or the type of task, hence there always exists the possibility of hiring hands and palming them off under various covers. This is the oldest game in town and yet there continues to be a veil pulled over it to keep up appearances.

The only other possibility is to determine if Davis is not actually what he says he really is. For example, could he be a regular special-ops guy, which means a regular military man of the US forces, temporarily retired for the period of assignment, established as a civilian contractor for a suitable cover, and re-hired to kill in a country that purportedly is an ally, and against whom no war may have been declared, but whose citizens may well be bona fide targets for US interests. The Geneva Conventions will look at that rather poorly. A nation cannot enter into a war against another without declaring one. Reportedly, there may well be around 300 of these hired killers roaming the Pakistani streets. What goes on at the hands of these agents of death in an environment of pervasive strife is anyone’s guess. To Pakistan itself, it can hardly be a matter of any comfort. When conspiracy theories abound, and the prevalent environment lends credence to the probability of each of such possibility, every shadow projects untold fears.

The Vienna Convention caters to diplomats and half-diplomats, their staff, family members, pets and household in no unambiguous terms, but what it does not cater to are the pseudo-diplomats and those that are professional killers and agents of strife in another country. You see, espionage is an established but entirely legal business, older than when Mata Hari and Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond series, glamourised it, but equally essential in the matters of the state. So when James Bond went skiing in the highlands or indulged in the company of beautiful women sipping dry martinis on the rocks, he hardly ever invoked the Vienna Convention; he was expected to fight his way out of trouble, to fight another day. Contemporary spies depend heavily on covers and as specialists in their field, are loath to break it. What gives Davis away is his absolute disregard for such a need. He not only ostensibly blew his cover, he also blew the lives out of his unaware targets. That is no spy. He is not even a James Bond. He is more a Rambo built on his country’s experience in Colombia, Nicaragua, Iraq and Afghanistan and a whole lot more that gets depicted in the make-believe world of Hollywood, where killing an individual is ‘blowing the brains out’ of one, and a marine’s task is to ‘make a lot of noise and break things up’.

When the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) law needed implementation, which really meant the supply side of the $ 1.5 billion to Pakistan, the quid pro quo was to enable visas to this entire group of the US’s agent provocateurs to make an entry into Pakistan in the garb of operational need in support of the war against terror. Pakistan dithered, KLB was put on hold, and the US-Pakistan ‘strategic’ relationship hit the first snag in the process. To Pakistan $ 1.5 billion was life, and the visas had to be given. In fact, allegedly 500 of those were granted in Washington without due process. Any surprise then that Raymond Davis exists in Pakistan without a full record of either his status or the nature of his duties. The Foreign Office may well need another three weeks to cover for its inadequacies. Lest another Davis should happen, it is paramount that the US embassy and all its consulates verify and legalise the presence of these attached guests under a suitable status. For an ally, with tasks that are complementary and in aid of a combined strategic objective, it should not be difficult to bring the receiving nation up to speed on the underlying intent of their presence. Heck, they could even be assisted by the none so naïve Pakistanis in that mission. For Pakistan’s own sake, it remains imperative. When it happens it has the making of a third serious bump in the ‘strategic’ relationship. The second snag, of course, has been Raymond Davis himself.

Somewhere during the time of George Herbert Walker Bush, president-extraordinaire, when expeditionary US forces became a norm following the expeditionary imperialist policy of the neo-cons, a set of conditions was formulated that governed the treatment of the US forces when received by the inviting nation. Just as Iraq or Afghanistan were deemed to have invited the US forces in pursuit of hallowed ideals of democracy, liberty and freedom from tyranny, each of the receiving nation was thus to have signed such an instrument of compliance. This instrument stated the following (paraphrased): the US forces will be deemed as having immunity from all local laws that may hinder their mission; any weapon carried on the US soldiers or in their use will be deemed as licensed and authorised as per the US law and for the purpose that it may be used; US soldiers will not be tried in the receiving nation for any crimes. Ladies and gentlemen, that is total immunity, and more. Question: when did Pakistan agree to such an instrument and reach the dizzying heights of a receiving nation? The Foreign Office may well be looking for such a document, and hence the three weeks.

Have the US’s strategic objectives changed in the region? Do they wish to bring a successful end to their Afghan expedition? After all, their investment is touching a trillion dollars in this undertaking, in addition to countless lives and almost 10 years of their national effort. Is 2012 important to President Obama and to his politics? Is the military mission in Afghanistan, which depends heavily on the logistic lines that traverse the land of Pakistan, important? Is Pakistan important to the US? It should be, though for the wrong reasons; it remains politically and socially unstable; and it still remains the only Muslim nuclear nation in the world. The price that the US is willing to offer on Davis is far too much. There is tradition, there are hallowed slogans, there is pride, but what one needs to look out for is all that is quietly transcending the realm of reason into imperiousness, pretence and arrogance. That always is a losing battle. Recovery from each of these is still possible, and President Obama would do well to keep out and let it be resolved at the functional level.

The writer is a retired air vice marshal and a former ambassador

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