At least an FBI unit will investigate the shootings by Davis, right?
It’s been difficult focusing on the back-and-forth over the President’s use of force in Libya — yet another Muslim country our armed forces have been asked to provide political or humanitarian support to. (The use of our armed services in humanitarian operations goes back to GHWB’s extraordinarily inept intervention in Somalia, the very first of our “humanitarian interventions”; politically motivated interventions in Muslim countries go back to 1953 when the Eisenhower Administration overthrew the elected head of state of Iran and installed the Shah.)
It’s not just that the Republican criticisms have been politically motivated and inflammatory or patently self-contradictory or puerile even by National Review standards. The reason is that it’s hard to move on from the Raymond Davis affair. It can’t possibly be true, can it, that this is another seedy, underhanded, immoral scenario engineered by our born again National Security President?
It sure looked that way for a while. Davis, you may recall, was the American arrested in Lahore after using his 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol to kill two Pakistanis, who had swerved in front of his car in a motorbike. The one on the passenger pillion had a gun. Davis fired through his windshield and killed the passenger. Then he got out of his car and shot the driver five times, three shots in the front and two in the back. He returned to his car to retrieve a camera in order to photograph the bodies. Another vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser (later discovered to be from the American embassy), rushed onto the scene to whisk Davis away. It was too late for Davis, who was surrounded by a crowd, but it was not too late to collide with Ibad ur Rehman, who unfortunately happened to be riding his motocycle when the Land Cruiser’s driver decided to drive in the wrong lane against the flow of traffic.
Of course even viewers of the Fox network recognized this as something that Jack Bauer would do, so there was not much question from the beginning that Raymond Davis was a CIA operative and not a diplomatic functionary. Nevertheless, all of the grown-ups of the Democratic National Security State — Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, John Kerry, Mike Mullen — all went into hyper-drive to assert diplomatic immunity on behalf of Davis. (The grown up wing of the Democratic Party include the ones who warmed us about the missile gap, who supported a rag-tag “invasion” of Cuba, who explained that if Vietnam “fell” so would all of Southeast Asia, maybe India, encouraged us with body counts and light at the end of the tunnel, flew helicopters into a sand storm to rescue hostages, continued GHWB”s humanitarian intervention in Somalia, maintains the President can assassinate American citizens if he finds them dangerous, plans a private security army for the bloated embassy in Iraq. launches drones into Pakistan and explains how we are making progress in Afganistan.) Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even travelled to Lahore to call on Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani about the situation. Although everyone had a pleasant chat, and all agreed that the loss of life was regrettable and that the affair must not affect US-Pakistan relations, Senator Kerry was not able to bring back Mr. Davis, possibly because he lacked the charisma of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson, all of whom were able to bring back a detained American from hostile governments. How much easier would it have been for them if their job was to bring back an American from a governments we gave $3.1 billion per year to?
While the course of the proceedings in Pakistan ground on, and the masses in Pakistan calling for the head of Davis became larger, the volume of the protests by Administration defenders became louder. The President, however, remained calm. Like James Bond on the golden table in Goldfinger the President was able to act calm and collected and assert:
“With respect to Mr Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future.
“Obviously, we’re concerned about the loss of life. We’re not callous about that. But there’s a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold.” (Feb. 15, 2011, press conference.)
And like Bond, the President was bluffing. Davis wasn’t a “diplomat.” He was a contract security agent. He worked for Xe, the successor to Blackwater. His job was to protect CIA agents who met with sources for leads in tracking militants. Davis was not only not a part of the American diplomatic mission, he was not even an actual employee of the United States. So it turns out that the “broader principle” — the principle “broader” than “loss of life” — is that the Vienna Convention’s immunity provisions apply not only to diplomats but also to spies and their private security forces. This will undoubtedly become a source of great comfort to the spies attached to embassies in Washington, D.C.
And the President was also bluffing that we hoped Pakistan would hand over Davis on the basis of the Vienna Convention. Instead, the US agreed to pay $2.34 million in blood money to the heirs of the two shooting victims. Davis was then released and allowed to leave the country.
There has since been speculation about what exactly Davis was doing in Pakistan. Published reports have speculations ranging from picking drone targets to working with Taliban groups to destabilize the Pakistan regime. There’s even some suspicion that the US coerced family members to take the money to end the prosecution, since several relatives are now missing. Whatever Davis was doing for the “benefit” of the US, there remains the question of the circumstances of shooting from a moving vehicle and the killing of two people (one with two bullets in the back). The interest that such actions would draw from an ordinary prosecutor in the US would be enough to convene a grand jury. Will that happen in this case? (John Kerry refused to say whether he talked about prosecuting Davis with Prime Minister Gilani.) What makes this particularly disturbing is that during a two year period between 2005 and 2007 there were at least 200 shootings attributable to Blackwater employees in Iraq, most from a moving vehicle. Is there anyone interested in reigning in what appears to be a cowboy operation constantly veering outside the law and jeopardizing American interests by showing themselves professional “ugly Americans”?
At the time there was a junior Senator from Illinois who took an interest. He said that Blackwater was acting “with reckless disregard to Iraqi life” and proposed a plan to stem the lawlessness. “Most contractors act as if the law doesn’t apply to them,” he said. “Under my plan, if contractors break the law, they will be prosecuted.” (Emphasis added.) In his presidential campaign he promised “he would create an entire FBI unit that would be charged with investigating such incidents.” He warned us: “Given the attention these scandals have generated we can no longer plead ignorance.”
If only we had elected that guy, we could be assured that the FBI, not some compromised intelligence agency hoping to bury the affair, was investigating Davis’s conduct right now, and we would have a Justice Department that was authorized to and capable of prosecuting lawlessness like this.