Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Story of Raymond Davis
The US Media, Lies, and Deception

Sunday, March 27, 2011, Jake Tapper filled in for Christian Amanpour on ABC’s Sunday show “This Week.”  He had an interesting panel discussion on the internationally enforced no fly zone in Libya with panelists with diverse viewpoints. He also did a concurrent interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the US intervention in Libya. Towards the end of the interview Tapper switched to other topics. This part of the interview was incredibly revealing about US foreign policy and ABC News. This section of the interview begins at 9 minutes 15 seconds. 

Speaking about the likely fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the 32-year dictator of Yemen and a US ally, Gates said,

It is a real concern because the most active and at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, operates out of Yemen and we have had a lot of counter-terrorism cooperation from president Saleh and the Yemeni security services so if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak then I think we will face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There is no question about it. It’s a real problem.

First of all, we really should stop referring to dictators, even ones that are allies, as “presidents.” At the very least let’s refer to them as “strongmen” so that we recognize that they weren’t democratically elected in free and fair elections. Second, this is one of the greatest ironies of all time. While we are helping the rebels in Libya over through their dictator we lavish unwavering support for Yemen’s dictator. It is true that Yemen has done a lot of important counter-terrorism work for the United States. But when a democratic uprising is about to over through him, our leaders should at least be calling for democratic reform. A more consistent foreign policy would use our leverage to call for his resignation, perhaps offering him asylum in the US.  

The most startling point in the show immediately followed Robert Gates’ response. Jake Tapper set up the next question this way,

Secretary Clinton, on Pakistan, Pakistan has been trying to block US counter-terrorism efforts in the Fatah region and continues to work with terrorists who attack India, it held a US diplomat in its prisons for several weeks as I don’t need to tell you, has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, US-Pakistan?

The “diplomat” that Tapper referred to was Raymond Davis, whose story in Pakistan is quite complex.

On January 27, 2011, CIA agent Raymond Davis shot and killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan. He claimed it was in self-defense; Pakistani officials charged him with murder. Since then, top US representatives have lobbied for his release. The story received very little coverage in the US press, and the sources that did cover it knowingly lied to their readers by telling them that Davis was a diplomat rather than a CIA agent. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press all did so at the request of the US State Department. Raymond’s real identity was first revealed in the Western press by the British newspaper “The Guardian” on February 20th, 2011. The NYT, WP, and AP admitted their deception to their readers and explained that they did so to try to protect Davis, even though his CIA affiliation was well known in Pakistan at the time.

US officials tried to get Davis released on diplomatic immunity, a status where diplomats are immune from prosecution. The reasoning behind diplomatic immunity is that if Country A does something Country B doesn’t like, Country B can’t retaliate by bringing false charges against diplomats from Country A. It is my opinion that genuine charges of murder should not be subject to diplomatic immunity. On top of that, it is quite a stretch to try to apply diplomatic immunity towards a CIA agent. Thus, the nature of Davis’ job is critically important to understanding the story, and claiming that Davis was a diplomat had the potential to dramatically change reader’s views on whether he should be released.

Raymond Davis was released from Pakistan on March 16th after the US gave the Pakistani government over 1 million dollars to reimburse the victim’s families.

I do not know if Raymond Davis committed murder in Pakistan or if he merely acted in self-defense. I also don't know if he was carrying out the orders of the CIA when he killed the two men. If he was acting without orders from the CIA and he murdered those men, then he deserves a life sentence. But if he was acting in self-defense or carrying out CIA orders then he was merely doing dangerous work for his country. Unfortunately, we won't know the truth of the matter until the government documents surrounding this event become declassified in the distant future. 

In many ways this case was the opposite of the Valarie Plame affair. Valarie Plame was a CIA agent who was outed by the Bush Administration because her husband publicly contradicted the administration’s line that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. This outing to the press endangered her life and ruined the career of a woman who risked her life for decades to serve her country.

In both the Raymond Davis and Valarie Plame incidents the press was pushed to report a story a certain way based on the persuasion of government officials. The difference between the Valarie Plame and Raymond Davis stories is that Davis was credibly charged with the most serious crime a person can commit. That changes the press’ requirement to keep an agent’s job secrete to requiring them to disclose it.

Jake Tapper cannot plead ignorance in this case. Any serious US journalist knows that Raymond Davis was a CIA operative and not a diplomat. 3 months after the shooting, 1 month and 1 week since the Guardian article, and 1 week and 4 days after Davis was released, ABC is still deceiving its viewers about the details of the Raymond Davis case. It goes without saying that noting Davis is a CIA operative no longer puts him in danger as he walks freely in the United States.

The US press has been much more skeptical about US intervention in Libya than it was about the war in Iraq. All US news outlets bought the falsehoods promoted by the Bush administration, that Saddam Hussein was perusing weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam was tied to Al Qaeda. MSNBC even canceled the only program which aired anti-war voices. The coverage of Libya has shown how far the US press has come since then. The rare and inaccurate coverage of the Raymond Davis incident shows how far we have to go. 

Originally posted March 27, 2011

UPDATE: The US has changed its position on Yemen and now supports Saleh leaving office. This is a small but important step toward a more consistent foreign policy of supporting democracy abroad.  Hopefully it will translate towards greater respect towards America in the Arab world as well. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article has been slightly changed from its original form. It originally called for Raymond Davis to stand trial in Pakistan in order to determine his guilt and to deliver justice. After more thought on the matter, I decided that the Pakistani public was so convinced of his guilt that he could never get a fair trial. An innocent man could have been sentenced to life or worse. The text was changed to reflect a more generic opinion of what I think would be the proper punishment under a variety of circumstances. The reason I wrote this article was the fact that various US news outlets lied to their viewers on the request of the government and in the process misinformed the public on the most basic facts surrounding the case. That is a criticism I still hold.

No comments:

Post a Comment