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February 17, 2011

What the Raymond Davis Incident Says About the US-Pakistan "Strategic Partnership"
Posted by Michael Cohen

For more than a year and a half supporters of the war in Afghanistan have steadily peddled the argument that one of the reasons that the US must stay militarily engaged in the region (and especially in Afghanistan) is to support Pakistan, particularly in its fight against radical extremists. The Obama Administration has even hailed a new strategic partnership with Islamabad. 

But the latest twist in the Raymond Davis saga should throw some mighty cold water on that notion.

For those who haven't followed the Davis story closely he is a US diplomat who was arrested several weeks ago for shooting two Pakistanis, allegedly in self-defense. Here's the problem, Davis is a member of the US embassy's technical and administrative staff, which means that he has fairly absolute diplomatic immunity and should be released from prison.

Yet, this hasn't stopped Pakistan from charging Davis with murder and detaining him and just yesterday the provincial court that has jurisdiction over the case has said it will be holding Davis for another three weeks until the issue of his immunity is resolved.

Let's put aside for a second that this case seems to represent a fairly clear cut violation of international law. Pakistan is one of America's largest foreign aid recipients and one of our supposedly most important allies in the region; just this week the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry traveled to Islamabad to try and resolve the issue - and was rebuffed; and the Obama Administration has steadily escalated the issue even threatening a downgrade in US-Pakistan relations in order to resolve the dispute.

Yet, Pakistan still refuses to release Davis. Indeed the announcement, even after Kerry's visit, that the matter will need another three weeks of consideration is a huge diplomatic slap in the face to the United States and especially this Administration.

Now I understand that the Pakistan government has some issues with anti-US attitudes in the country (clearly through some fault of their own) . . . and I know that Pakistan allows NATO supply trucks to transit the country and it allows US military drones to attack suspected al Qaeda terrorists (as well as those Pakistan Taliban groups that threaten the Pakistani state). But shall we catalog for a moment all the ways in which Pakistan is not just a lousy ally, but is actually undermining US interests.

1) Is home to Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda lieutenants (and has been for 9 years) and has made little effort to deal with the issue.

2) Is home to terrorist training camps like one where the Times Square bomber was trained - and also has made little effort to deal with that issue.

3) Is actively supporting an insurgent group in Afghanistan that is killing US soldiers on a regular basis.

4) Provides safe haven to that same insurgency and even after repeated US demands/requests/inducements has offered no indication they are willing end its support for these groups.

5) Has created a diplomatic incident with the United States over the arrest of a protected US diplomat.

Does this sound like the behavior of a country that is interested in a strategic partnership with the United States?

Now granted I understand that it can be a long and drawn-out process of improving relations, but after 9 years shouldn't it be obvious that the United States has made virtually no progress in turning Pakistan into a true strategic ally of the United States. If Islamabad feels little compunction about openly violating international law and US diplomatic demands does anyone really believe they will suddenly turn around and be of assistance against the Taliban or even jihadist groups that threaten America?

Pakistan will support the US only insofar as it bolsters Pakistani national interests - and as we've seen repeatedly the Pakistan government is either too weak to be a strategic partner of the US or is simply not interested. Or even worse, they understand that no matter what they do; no matter how many sharp sticks they put in the eye of the United States there will be little to no consequences because we need Pakistan a lot more than they need us. How many more pieces of evidence do we need before it becomes abundantly clear that Pakistan is not interested in doing anything to help the US that would even slighly undermine Pakistan's own interests? 

If the Davis incident shows us anything it is a reminder of how little leverage we have with Pakistan, what little ability we have to shape Pakistan's behavior and how tenuous US-Pakistani relations remain. At what point will US policymakers wake up to that reality and respond accordingly?


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Though not directly relevant to your substantive point -- with which I completely agree -- aren't you being a bit too credulous concerning the US's claim that Davis is "a member of the US embassy's technical and administrative staff, which means that he has fairly absolute diplomatic immunity"? The AP's reporting seems to indicate that Davis's status is anything but clear:

Part of the confusion over Davis' status lies in his background.

The administration insists Davis was part of the embassy's "administrative and technical staff," which means he might have been involved with security, but Pakistani media have focused on him being a former Special Forces soldier who runs an American "protective services" company with his wife.

Although the U.S. says he's an embassy employee, he apparently had been attached for a while to the consulate in Lahore, further adding to the confusion about his status since consulate employees do not always get the same level of diplomatic protection as embassy staffers.

The AP also obtained a photocopy of an ID and a salary document that Davis apparently gave Pakistani authorities, showing that he was scheduled to be paid $200,000 from Sept. 21, 2010, until Sept. 20, 2011, for "overseas protective sec. svcs.," training, administration work and insurance and travel expenses.

Davis is identified as a Defense Department contractor on the ID card.?

Given the complexity of immunity issues and the fact that international law does not provide blanket immunity to anyone associated with an embassy, much less a consulate, Pakistan should not simply take US claims at face value.

Kevin, correct me if I'm wrong but don't members of the administrative and technical staff of an embassy have immunity against prosecution? And isnt it up to the US to determine the classification of their diplomatic employees?

Fabius Maximus has a good rundown on the various problems with the US demand for diplomatic immunity for this particular individual. First, there is a problem of whether he is diplomatic or consular staff. His own statements as well as the document in his position seems to indicate that he was a contract worker (200K/yr) for either the Lahore or Peshawar consulate. Then there is this:

The US embassy, in a list of cases of its employees pending for registration, given to the FO {Foreign Office} on Jan 25 (two days before the incident), intriguingly did not mention Davis. However, a revised list submitted a day after the incident on Jan 28 carried his name.

Consular workers do not have immunity from prosecution for grave crimes under the Vienna convention.

Then there is a great deal of doubt about his story of killing in self defense. The fact that the individuals he shot were shot in the back, and one was shot while running away, seems to argue against self defense.

Without commenting on your main point I think you might wish to tone down the self righteousness on this on.

I won't go into the obvious "Al Qaeda" Adam Pearlman type fictions or the "Bin Laden is still alive" myth but will instead bring up the issue of whether Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity for the crime he committed.

The U.S. has already described Davis position within the embassy as a "technical advisor". Let's see, does shooting someone in the back fall within his duties as technical advisor? It had better, because any sincere desire to faithfully comply with the Vienna Convention will run counter the goals of the U.S. Government.

Here's a pretty straightforward analysis by lawyer Yasmeen Ali:

"Article 38 of the Vienna Convention 1961 states that except where additional privileges and immunities have been specifically granted by the host State, a diplomatic agent who is a national of or permanently resident in that State shall enjoy only immunity from jurisdiction, and inviolability, in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of his functions.

The above article clearly differentiates between an act carried out as part of his official duties and those done as a personal act. Any actions done personally and outside the ambit of official consular duties shall not be covered by “diplomatic immunity.”

Article 37 of the 1961 convention goes on to reinforce the above limitation on immunity by stating:
…Members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, shall, if they are not nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29to 35, except that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State specified in paragraph 1 of article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the course of their duties.

The question then becomes not whether or not those murdered were Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agents, robbers or fruit sellers, but whether Davis did or did not have diplomatic immunity, but whether his fatal shooting of the two men was conducted while he was involved in performing his official duties.

If the answer to that question is no, Raymond Davis cannot claim diplomatic immunity."

To Intercept Media, the reported analysis of Yasmeen Ali does not apply here. I would go on and say that it is a shoddy piece of work.
Having read the actual text of the convention, Article 38 applies only to diplomatic staff, in this case, who are citizens of or permanently resident in Pakistan.
Article 37 does not waive criminal immunity, only civil and administrative immunity. If you will read Article 31, it provides both criminal and civil/admin immunity

Finally, an issue that I am passionate about.

This is why I feel as if I live on The Wrong Side Of The Mirror: Musharraf laughed at our inquires as to how he spent our money; the Pakistani Goverment fairly openly supports al Taiba and other Militias,* including the Haquani network fighting our own troops; and most certainly the ISI had prior knowledge of the Mumbai attacks; and recently, the Pakistanis closed the Khyber Pass to American Supply Convoys for some days, resulting in, as I recall, four or five trucks burned and some casualties; all of which is to say, you needed Davis to know that these are not Allies, but Enemies from their perspective dancing with a Clumsy Bear? Meanwhile, the Pakistani Governing Elite has done nothing to cure the fundamental causes of the Islamic Fundamentalist movement by, oh, you know, addressing Grevious Economic Inequity and an Endemic, Eighty Five Percent illiteracy rate. And with all of this you needed the Pakis' handling of Davis to clue you in?

This entire South Asian adventure has only brought endless war, suffering and poverty to the region, and it benefits only the world's allied oligarchs; as George Carlin said before he died, this is a class war, and the rich are killing us.

Let's examine further the Absurdity: the entire value from a Geopolitical Standpoint (beyond Regional Influence for Its Own Sake, just because we like it) is the now Completely Idiotic Trans-Afghani Pipeline, a Pipe Dream conceived to go the Long Way to avoid Russian territory in transporting Caspian Sea Oil and Gas to the World in the Eighties; and on this side of the mirror, Alice, in 2011, with GAZPROM supplying forty percent of Europe's Gas, what sense is the Long Way anymore? Unless of course, you get a cut in the Idiotic Project and, most importantly, the New Great Game's wondrous Military Contracting Opportunities.

Obviously, our own Oligarchal Oligopolists running the American Foreign Policy know that this entire South Asian Policy is only Comprehensible in the Context of Their Profits; and so they and the Oligarchal, Crony Capitalists of the Pakistani Military, the Corrupt Karzai clan, are all nicely allied with each other;** and the real loser, of course, are the Suffering Peoples Of The World.

So, in Chalmers Johnson's exquisite phrase, The Sorrows Of Empire; but things could change: who are The New World Musketeers?

The Detective In The Mirror

*"No, no," Musharraf commented way back some three years ago, "we have contact as to get information and influence these groups - we do not control them." Lovely, as if he didn't know we'd prefer them arrested, rather than influenced.

**Black Water's Ric Prince having absconded to Dubai to avoid prosecution at home -while his company still collects goverment contracts- is now actually Neighbors, perhaps, with Karzai's brother, recently purchased of a mansion in the area with more funds stolen from the US citizenry; but who cares? The Markets are Up!

On whether Davis is consular or embassy staff and whether he clearly has diplomatic immunity here is PJ Crowley on January 27th. As an added bonus for the "clear-cut" debate Crowley says that the guy's name is not really Raymond Davis.

QUESTION: A new topic. What can you tell us about this Raymond Davis, the – who works at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore and who apparently shot and killed two would-be robbers? What’s his position there? Does he have diplomatic immunity?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me say three things. First, I can confirm that an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore was involved in an incident today. It is under investigation. We have not released the identity of our employee at this point. And reports of a particular identity that are circulating through the media are incorrect.

QUESTION: What does that mean? You mean the name?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean the name’s wrong.

QUESTION: The name that – the name that Michele --

MR. CROWLEY: The name that’s out there is wrong.

QUESTION: The name that was just mentioned?

MR. CROWLEY: Including that one.

QUESTION: The one that I just used --


QUESTION: -- is wrong?

QUESTION: Is wrong?

MR. CROWLEY: Not correct.

QUESTION: But what – this – the incident involved, you say, an employee of the consulate. But is this someone who has diplomatic immunity? Is this a diplomat?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m going to leave it there for the moment. As we are able to share greater details with you, we will.

Mr Cohen, I think you are not fully aware of ground realities in Pakistan and that is the reasons that many highly educated persons in US jump into wrong conclusions. Of course this leads to policy which puts Pakistan on the other side though it does not need to be. To understand the ground realities, persons like you should come here a live for a while, preferably with some Pakistani friends. The way 'Time Square' bombing was done, itself indicates that there are no sophisticated terror trainings going on. Majority of Pakistanis are very moderate and have no hatred for any US or EU persons. You just have to understand these people. British did it very well and you might like to read how they did it.

Cohen - well, its obvious that you are biased... every Jew is a ne0-con against all Muslim countries, so much so that you lie about every fact in this case.

Please start reading non-American media. Plenty of newspapers in Pakistan publish in English and have websites.

Get the truth - Raymond Davis was actively committing terrorist attacks before the two murders in Lahore.

"Raymond Davis" had already been expelled from Pakistan and declared Persona Non Grata for terrorist activities in the Khyber province.

I think our real foreign policy pathology is self-absorption. We just need to be more self-aware and, more important, do better at cuing into the perspectives of others. It's not that complicated, just a matter of rolling up our sleeves and getting down to dilligent diplomatic work. And oh by the way, if that sounds like an argument against gutting the State Department budget, it is.

This so called Strategic Partnership would only lead to something negative in the future. We should learn to let go.

The US reacted badly to the first news of this probable spy-securi­ty guard-cont­ractor being caught killing a couple of Pakistanis­.

What if he is charged as a spy for all the spying-typ­e of equipment found in his car? If spies are caught, forget diplomatic immunity.

Pakistan is tired of being used by the US in it's operations to control terrorists and to occupy
Afghanista­n. The entire situation gets murkier.

On the more specifics, Davis seems to have behaved very "unstealth­ily" and not much of an operative in a country that is already on edge.

The only way out of this mess is maybe very slowly and to investigat­e it as a bunch of crimes punishable in both countries.

The President also said that there was a need to proceed with caution and showing respect for sensitivities and sensibilities of all concerned. He said it was important for the two countries for the sake of mutual trust. I'm not getting any of these.

This jack-ass can apologize from now until hell freezes over but it doesn’t excuse what he said and what he did. The very thought that he could have done this as a “joke” among his friends says more then he’d care to reveal about him AND his friends if he thought they’d find it humorous. He’s also, or should be, well aware of the power of tweets and the Internet and that his absolutely thoughtless and un-civilized comments would be picked up, so I don’t buy his “few seconds” defense of his actions. This is part of who he really is and as always these expressions of deep personal feelings come to the surface in most unexpected circumstances.

se seems to represent a fairly clear cut violation of international law. Pakistan is one of America's largest foreign aid recipients and one of our supposedly most important allies in the region; just this week the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry traveled to Islamabad to try and resolve the issue - and was rebuffed; and the Obama Administration has steadily escalated the issue eve

You are a very intelligent individual!

You are a very intelligent individual!

Finally, an issue that I am passionate about.

He said it was important for the two countries for the sake of mutual trust. I'm not getting any of these.

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