Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Case of Dr. Shakil Afridi

Occasionally a story illustrates the deeper problems underneath our international policies. The case in point is the arrest and trial of one Dr. Shakil Afridi in Pakistan followed by his sentence to 33 years in prison. Afridi aided the CIA in obtaining DNA samples that later helped us pinpoint Osama bin Laden’s location in that country.

How one characterizes such phenomena all depends on the words used. Supposing we say that Pakistan is “an ally in the war on terror.” Or supposing that we say that Pakistan is “an imperfect U.S. colony.” “Colony” in that latter phrase would acknowledge that our money has deformed Pakistan by funding its military (here some data on LaMarotte); “imperfect” would acknowledge that that Muslim culture remains resistant, whenever possible, to U.S. dictates. It would also acknowledge that we are, too, a neo-colonial power. Our free-wheeling ways have gradually forced the inner conflict in Pakistan to rise into clear view, witness Pakistan’s blocking shipments through its territory as it demands an ever higher price. And while Pakistan cannot find the will to expel us outright, they can and do act energetically against individuals who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Afridi did that by facilitating an altogether illegal U.S. military raid inside their country; drone attacks in the border region do not, evidently, cause the same sharp pain. That Pakistan is selling pieces of its sovereignty for money is, of course, obvious. Therefore I speak of an “inner conflict” in that realm.

Rule of law? No. We do not follow it. The interesting thing is that the wedges we drive into foreign cultures magically appear within our own. “Hi, kids. What did you do in school today?” — “Never mind that, Daddy. What did you do at work today?” — “Well…” chuckles endearingly, “I managed to make a big score in the market using some insider dope. Hey. We’re going to Hawaii to celebrate—as soon as school is out.”


  1. The doctor was sentenced to 33 years for doing what his country was required to do by the "rule of law." His crime was not working covertly with a foreign country as much as it was violating the network of often conflicting loyalties which is the real basis of Pakistani society, the reason the ISI and much of the military ally themselves with the Taliban, Ai-Qaeda and the various petty warlords than they do their own country. The doctor did know what he was getting into, but I'm sure he did not realize he would be outed by the very government he was helping.

    But I don't think our relations with other countries affects our national moral decay, as much as our moral decay affects the way we treat other countries. John Adams said that the Constitution can apply only to a moral society; he may have been right.

  2. Didn't know we'd fingered the good doctor... Your last point was also made by a modern, Irving Kristol, in Two Cheers for Capitalism — although that important point is not much stressed by people in the movement he more or less launched.