OMMENT: Mighty dichotomy —Dr Mahjabeen Islam - Thursday, February 03, 2011

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The situation gets murkier when the US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter telephones Nawaz Sharif about the Davis situation. Is the US dangling the proverbial carrot to him? What the Pakistan government does with the Davis situation will set the tone for the future

Indecisiveness at a personal level can have serious consequences. But waffling on the world stage only serves to expose the dichotomy that the US has consistently employed in its management of foreign affairs.

Stunned by Raymond Davis’ brazen killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore last week, the State Department spokesman expressed condolences and full cooperation with the Pakistan government in the investigation of the tragedy. And yet, in the space of 24 hours, repeated demands were made to hand over Davis to the US with the claim that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. And the bravado that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention detailing diplomatic immunity.

Raymond Davis, it appears, does not have a diplomatic passport; he is just a contractor employed with Hyperion, a Florida company. The other individual that raced to his rescue and killed an innocent motorcyclist has not been named or prosecuted. Even if Davis was an employee of the US consulate and enjoyed diplomatic immunity, he must be prosecuted for murder under Pakistan’s law. The Vienna Convention assumes diplomats representing their nations not running Rambo-style, armed and dangerous, in other countries. It thus does not cover the murderous inclinations of supposed diplomats.

The hubris of the sole superpower of the world presents itself in what has now become a nauseating display of ‘we make the rules and break them at will’. The Vienna Convention specifically mentions diplomatic immunity from baggage and personal search. Indian ambassador Meera Shankar, travelling in Mississippi in December 2010, did not even trip the metal detector but was singled out for a pat down, probably due to her wearing a sari. She mentioned her diplomatic immunity and presented her passport to the airport employee who seemed amused at her claim of diplomatic immunity. This usurpation of immunity is not new for diplomats visiting the US and the fig leaf of the war on terror is used for this illegality.

The situation gets murkier when the US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter telephones Nawaz Sharif about the Davis situation. Is the US dangling the proverbial carrot to him? What the Pakistan government does with the Davis situation will set the tone for the future. If he is handed over to the US, the message is loud and clear: do come and kill our people whenever and for whatever.

This same curious indecisiveness was on display in the early days of the Egyptian crisis. President Obama and his cabinet, while watching the rapidly changing situation unfold, sent out sitting-on-the-fence generic messages. Despite 9/11, the average American is still not conversant with global issues. They are more bogged down with the day to day, the foreclosures, high unemployment and the health care crisis, with pressure to make both ends meet, ends that have become more and more inelastic.

The White House spokesmen talked of being “on the right side of history”. One wonders where principles went. This ‘right side of history’ in the early days of the crisis was uncertain. There were government spokesmen who spoke of “managed change” in Egypt and an “evolution rather than a revolution”. Mubarak, they thought, might still stay.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but the US’s military might was unleashed on Iraq with the additional rationalisation of exporting democracy to it. So why so circumspect now that Egypt’s people want democracy? Dictators are so easy to manipulate — no messy parliaments and representation of the people, just a single tart phone call and the question “are you with us or against us” and the job is done.

Senator John Kerry was the only legislator that urged Hosni Mubarak to resign in the early days of the crisis. Even Senator John McCain was surprising in wanting the US to back the will of the people rather than their puppet Mubarak. He was concerned that the revolt might acquire the tones of the Tiananmen massacre. All his murmurings seemed wonderful and committed, unlike the US government at that point, until the interviewer asked him his greatest concern. The regular person would be concerned with the loss of life and the hope that it be minimised. But McCain’s concern was of Islamists getting power in Egypt, even though it is very evident that this is a secular revolt and the Muslim Brotherhood, though part of the conversation, does not have a majority. He also used the absurd “we must be on the right side of history” statement.

Now that the situation has acquired a no-turning-back quality in Egypt with Mubarak’s resignation as the main demand, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out with more Egyptian-people oriented statements.

The US posturing is evident in the Raymond Davis-Pakistan situation and the revolt in Egypt. Egyptians do not want any part of the US interfering in their affairs and will arrange an interim government, rewrite the constitution and hold elections. We, on the other hand, had no hesitation in joining the war on terror based on a single 3:00 am phone call, opening our skies to let the drones rain down, allow foreigners to drive darkened sport utility vehicles, resist searches and now let Americans terrorise and murder our people with impunity. The Egyptians will control their destiny. Pakistan’s was gifted to the US 10 years ago.

The writer is an addictionist, family physician and freelance columnist. She can be reached at

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