COMMENT: Raymond Davis: another perspective —Tammy Swofford - Tuesday, March 08, 2011

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Political anaerobes replicate the best within societies lacking decentralised governments capable of meeting the governance and security needs of their large and far-flung population groups. Anaerobes love a vacuum

The family library of my childhood home boasted over 2,000 reading selections. Perhaps due to the torment of four brothers, my adolescent taste leaned toward suspense novels with tightly compressed timelines. Novels by Jack Higgins and Ken Follet were childhood companions. The film adaptation of Follet’s novel Eye of the Needle remains a favourite tale. Canadian actor Donald Sutherland takes the role of the protagonist as a German spymaster with valuable information about D-Day. Both his career and life are reduced to ashes when he takes up with an emotionally vulnerable married woman on a small, windswept island. The final scene of the film shows a man who longs to board the German U-Boat awaiting in nearby waters, his stricken gaze cast toward the woman who quickly moved from being a lover to a hunter, perceiving the threat. Thus ends the career of a resourceful Nazi.

It is said that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. In actuality, spying preceded the lust industry. Cain, the son of Adam, spent time spying on his brother’s growing herd when not tilling the soil of his garden. His observations moved him from a crouch to a pounce, with predictable outcome. The world’s first spy took the first shot.

Truth is always close to fiction. But when it comes to covert intelligence, the best analogy is derived from the medical sub-discipline of radiology. While digital imaging now provides rapid acquisition and lower storage costs for x-rays, the old-fashioned maintenance of the ‘dark room’ resembles the workspace and meticulous data gathering required of an intelligence officer.

A safelight, a 15-watt bulb, which is usually red in colour due to a special filter, is the source of illumination when processing films. This safelight is located close to the work surface for the film being developed. Exposure of undeveloped film to the dim bulb is limited to a couple of minutes. Film is readily damaged by white light, which may leak through the filter, or an outside source so all work must proceed in the dark. Leakage of light can be monitored with a simple test. A penny is placed on an unexposed piece of film with all light sources off, including the safelight. After five minutes the film is processed and if the outline of the coin is seen, the darkness required for work has been compromised.

On January 27, Raymond Davis’s dark room gave way to public coinage. There is little need to rehearse what are presented as the facts of the event, nor any need to recount the multiple conspiracy theories. These theories present as part of the daily and somewhat enjoyable diet of certain Pakistani media outlets. Only Mr Davis knows in entirety the chain of events, which caused him to perceive imminent threat to life and limb. He now stands as charged on two counts: murder and illegal possession of weapons.

My nation claims his right to diplomatic immunity. Whether he is involved in covert intelligence will be sorted out by interested parties with the appropriate security clearances. There is a well-advised homily: if you are not part of the solution, do not make yourself part of the problem. So the intent of my writing is not to sway the opinion regarding the actions of Mr Davis. It would be distinctly unfair. Yet global tensions are such that it seems good to throw out a few thoughts to cause all of us to push back from the table a bit. Actions and reactions of government allies today determine our collective future. Pakistan must consider the political ripple secondary to the Supreme Court determination of the custody status of Mr Davis. A few recollections deserve mention to adjust the gaze from the streets of Lahore with a view to the horizon.

In essence, the ‘war on terror’ is the search for political anaerobes. On a small scale, it is the search for men such as those who abducted a fellow journalist, Daniel Pearl, while he was collecting his story for the Wall Street Journal from the streets of Karachi. Thank you again, for bringing Danny’s killers to justice.

Full scale, the search for terror organisation leadership is about the protection of society at large. Political anaerobes replicate the best within societies lacking decentralised governments capable of meeting the governance and security needs of their large and far-flung population groups. Anaerobes love a vacuum. But they also enjoy the predatory successes, which can be gained from weak centralised government. Quite problematic is the manner by which such organisations stage from weak security areas while planning operations against nations with stronger security apparatus capable of repelling them on the domestic front. In December 2009, seven CIA operatives and an operative from Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate were killed when attempting to collect information to guard against future large-scale attack on our nations. They were working in a weak security area and their own security lapse caught up with them in horrendous manner.

So who is Raymond Davis? Does he enjoy diplomatic immunity? Or is he a renegade agent provocateur, with unsubstantiated media clamour, which declares him as part of a larger rolling stock of American agents working out of their dark rooms in Pakistan?

Undoubtedly, we have already offered an odd number of stones in an attempt to clean up the hindquarters. Senator John Kerry flew to Pakistan to make his appeal, arriving and departing in such quiet manner that his visit gave no real public view as to the inner circle negotiations. But almost as quietly, on February 23, the FBI arrested a Saudi student in Texas on terror charges. The news that Khalid Al-Dawsari intended former President George W Bush’ residence as one of his targets hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area like a surgical strike. Mr Bush has a primary residence in Dallas. This remains ‘Bush country’. This arrest serves as a sober reminder: realism always makes harsher demands on a nation than idealism.

The writer is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves. She is a Nurse Corps officer who resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has written articles and book reviews for the Marine Corps Gazette, and Op-Ed commentary for the Dallas Morning News

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