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Raymond Davis, Moscow Attacks, Rule of Law

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, February 11, 2010

The American attempts to invoke diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention for Raymond Davis underscore an extremely partisan and selective approach. For the United States, every single citizen counts at the cost of rule of law and democratic principles, even if that citizen is a killer. Asking for protection of citizens is legitimate, but doing so at the cost of universally accepted principles of justice and democratic norms runs contrary to the very values that the United States claims to support and promote across the world. 

Does the US-led West value lives in Pakistan or somewhere else in the same manner as it does in case of its citizens, like Davis, caught after killing two locals? 

This tendency, unfortunately, is not new. If we look at what happened at Ab Ghraib, or at Guantanamo Bay, or Bagram and Sheen Dand (near Her’at), it becomes quite evident that Americans apply the universal rules of law and democracy selectively – as it suits them. The drone campaign over FATA, for instance, makes a telling case of duality, if weighed against the principles of sovereignty of a particular country. The presence of hundreds of sleuths and trigger-happy assassins like Raymond Davis (presumably part of the special 3,000 force that Bob Woodward mentioned in his book Obama’s Wars) all over Pakistan represents another issue. It simply tramples the sovereignty of Pakistan in all respects. What sort of room do we leave for advocacy on fundamental rights, democratic principles and rule of law, when we attempt to either fudge facts, or apply a selective yardstick or look at things through a different prism to the same thing, but in a different country? Will a high-handed approach for getting Raymond Davis, a Pengatgon contractor, off the hook endear the United States to Pakistani nation and improve its already fledgling image in the country? 

Look at how the western media, for instance, responds to acts of terrorism in Pakistan, or for that matter even in Russia. For the Americans, the Iraqis or the Afghans opposing the US hegemony are global terrorists, led and inspired by Al-Qaeda. They, according to Robert Gates and his generals, require a militant response. But for same people, the Chechen rebels, which are primarily acting out of their religious beliefs, are a reaction to the “Russian brutality.” 

Noted American-Indian writer, Fareed Zakaria, for example resonates the typical American classifications of jihad, terrorism and freedom struggles.

Soon after the terrorist attack at the Moscow airport on Jan. 24, which killed about three dozen Russian nationals and injured dozens others, Zakaria wrote a lopsided analysis of the Russian war against Chechens (Time Magazine, Jan 27th, 2011). 

“It's now conventional wisdom that Moscow faces a brutal Islamic terrorist movement, bent on jihad, unwilling to compromise and determined to inflict pain on Russians almost as an end in itself. That's the view presented by Russian officials and accepted by Western leaders. (But) a little history provides a different perspective. Chechnya's struggle against Russia, at root, has nothing to do with Islam. …... Russia has been the site of the largest number of serious terrorist attacks over the past decade (excluding Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, which are really war zones). Why? The answer to this question sheds a sorry light on Russia's counterterrorism strategy. In fact it is a case study in how not to fight Islamic terrorism.” 

One wonders as to how Zakaria would characterize the US-led questionable war on terrorism. Is the strategy that is based on brute force the right response at all? If this is right, how can then the Pakistani or Russian response be characterized as “brutal suppression, and how are the Chechen rebels different from the Afghan or Pakistani rebels. How would Zakaria or his countrymen describe the Afghan , Iraqi and Pakistani armed resistance to the American and NATO presence? Terrorism or nationalist struggle against foreign occupation or interference.

In this context Zakaria makes a pretty naïve and outrageous generalization. 

“One could argue that the Russian government, far more than Osama bin Laden, has managed through its actions over the past two decades to create the largest and most active new center of Islamic terrorism in the world today.” 

This is something that most Muslims across the board take exception to; it is not only Zakaria but the dominate majority of western scholars and officials who call al Qaeda-linked or inspired militants as jihadists or neo-jihadists.

By doing so, they conveniently condone and gloss over something that secretary of State Hilary Clinton conceded first before a committee of the Senate on April 24rd, 2009, and then in a November 13th, 2010 interview with ABC News. 

On both occasions, Clinton accepted that the US had created certain radical outfits and supported terrorists like Osama bin Laden to fight against the erstwhile Soviet Union, but that backing has boomeranged.

“Part of what we are fighting against right now, the United States created. We created the Mujahidin force against the Soviet Union (in Afghanistan). We trained them, we equipped them, we funded them, including somebody named Osama bin Laden. And it didn’t work out so well for us,” she said. 

The CIA-ISI-Saudia sponsored jihad against the Soviets threw up the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and today, the post 9/11 militant response by the United States and NATO has resulted in the transformation of the anti-Soviet jihad into a trans-nationalist extremist movement that uses Islam as its raison detre and vows to defend it against the US-led infidels. And mind you, there are as many as 40 transnational organizations – spread from Asia to Africa to the American continent, with tentacles based also in Europe. 
Zakaria and other American writers like Mark Sageman, a former CIA operative, Bruce Reidel, another CIA stalwart, and Michael Krepon or Ed Korcon are all but in unison when they talk of the “global extremist threat to the United States i.e. al-Qaeda inspired transnationalist outfits.” They also advocate and justify the use of force against these networks. But ironically, they denounce the Russian militant response against Chechen radicals and would have you believe that these rebels have no religious basis for their anti-Moscow activities. 

It amounts to a mockery of principles and values that the US stands for. It also exposes the self-serving polemics of the Americans. It is, so it seems, the exclusive right of the Americans to determine as to who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter. 

It is this American attitude that evoked laughter at a recent conference in Riyadh. The dislike for the American “narrative on extremism” was evident from the fact that nobody clapped after the presentation by Daniel Benajamin, the US counter-terrorism coordinator. Also, most Arab and Muslim scholars present on the occasion took strong exception when Mark Sageman presented “al Qaeda” as neo-jihadist outfit. Most Muslims insisted it was inappropriate to declare “terrorists as jihadis.” They are killing innocent Muslims, how can we call them Muslims,” was how a Yemeni minister and a Saudi scholar responded to Sageman’s chrarcterisation of al Qaeda and its affiliates. 

Also, it’s right for the United States to apply brute force to crush what it considers as “terrorists threatening it”, but it’s wrong for the Russians or the Pakistanis to militarily deal with outfits that are threatening the very existence and peace of these countries. Might is right, seems to be the overriding principle.

The writer heads the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk