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How a Single Spy Turned Pakistan Against the United States
April 9, 2013 10:07 AM   Subscribe

More than two years later, the Raymond Davis episode has been largely forgotten in the United States. It was immediately overshadowed by the dramatic raid months later that killed Osama bin Laden — consigned to a footnote in the doleful narrative of America’s relationship with Pakistan. But dozens of interviews conducted over several months, with government officials and intelligence officers in Pakistan and in the United States, tell a different story: that the real unraveling of the relationship was set off by the flurry of bullets Davis unleashed on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2011, and exacerbated by a series of misguided decisions in the days and weeks that followed. In Pakistan, it is the Davis affair, more than the Bin Laden raid, that is still discussed in the country’s crowded bazaars and corridors of power. - The Spy Who Lost Pakistan (SL NYTIMES Magazine)
posted by beisny (53 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously: 1, 2, 3; you ought to add some more specific tags.
posted by XMLicious at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the June 2011 meeting, Munter, who participated via secure video link, began making his case that he should have veto power over specific drone strikes.

Panetta cut Munter off, telling him that the C.I.A. had the authority to do what it wanted in Pakistan. It didn’t need to get the ambassador’s approval for anything.

“I don’t work for you,” Panetta told Munter, according to several people at the meeting.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Munter’s defense. She turned to Panetta and told him that he was wrong to assume he could steamroll the ambassador and launch strikes against his approval.

“No, Hillary,” Panetta said, “it’s you who are flat wrong.”
And then they made this creep secretary of defense a month later. Really inspires confidence, doesn't it?
posted by enn at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


On Feb. 6, the grieving widow of one of Davis’s victims swallowed a lethal amount of rat poison and was rushed to the hospital in Faisalabad, where doctors pumped her stomach.

I object to the characterization of somebody who concededly caught a bullet in the neck only because he approached another person in a menacing fashion with his gun drawn as a "victim" of his intended target.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:23 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if they had been harboring Bin Laden for the better part of a decade, Pakistan was already long, long lost. I don't believe Raymond Davis had a lick of real influence on the relationship between the US and Pakistan. If they were our ally, we would not still be mired in Afghanistan. We're a cash-cow, nothing more. Not a one of the civilian casualties means anything to the ISI.

After the US's war in Afghanistan finally ends, I expect they'll join North Korea in the blackmail-foreign-donors-with-Nukes game to make up for lost revenue.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:23 AM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]




I don't believe Raymond Davis had a lick of real influence on the relationship between the US and Pakistan.

Suppose that a Pakistani national, employed as a contractor at their embassy, shot and killed two kids on motorbikes in DC who tried to carjack him, was apprehended by local citizens and turned over to police, but not before an embassy SUV ran over a bystander trying to get away from the crowd. When the police search the car they find a flag from the *Islamic* Republic of Pakistan, bullets and photos of American military bases:

a) this sounds like he might be an armed enemy combatant, yes?
b) how would this affair effect US/Pakistani relations?

Also, this whole thing should be deeply embarrassing if you think US foreign policy is being run by competent professionals.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can agree that Pakistan was long lost as any sort of devoted U.S. ally for years already but I am persuaded by the OP article's premise that the Raymond Davis incident was more shocking to them than the OBL thing; it makes sense to me because Obama had said he was going to do exactly that, carry out an unauthorized attack on Pakistani soil to get Bin Ladin, back in 2008 before he'd even been elected.
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2013


how would this affair effect US/Pakistani relations?

It wouldn't. In the slightest. They were harboring Bin Laden, they were never our allies. They didn't care what we did our why we did it, so long as they got their cut of the action.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:56 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I disagree with the entire premise of the article. Pakistan was never our friend. This isn't a one guy deal. It didn't help.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


>Davis struck Maes in the face, knocking him to the pavement. Maes said in court that when he stood up from the fall, Davis continued to hit him. The minister’s wife, later recalling the episode, said she had never in her life seen a man so full of rage. Just last month, after protracted legal proceedings, Davis pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to two years of probation. A judge ordered him to pay restitution and attend anger-management classes.


This is the most powerful paragraph in the whole piece. Macho doofus comes back home to basically demonstrate the same sociopathy. The Blackwater-Mercenary types need to prosecuted with extreme prejudice. We cannot win any international conflict while men like Davis run rampant. I look forward to the implementation of Chuck Hagel's suggested changes in the UCMJ. The leniency afforded to jingoist jocks certainly exacerbates the American issues with international terrorism
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2013


MisplaceDisgrace:

I noticed that episode too, but it's hard to know whether he was like that before, or if he came back with a nasty case of PTSD. The whole thing must have been terrifying.

Given the kind of person who would sign up to be a contract spy, my guess is it's at least some of the former, but it's hard to say how much.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2013


I disagree with the entire premise of the article. Pakistan was never our friend. This isn't a one guy deal. It didn't help.

Isn't there a famous war criminal who said the US doesn't have friends? Anyway, it's not as if Pakistan asked us to invade Afghanistan. And if Pakistan shut down the resupply routes, we would start leaving tomorrow, post-haste.

There's no reason why US/Pakistani relations, whatever they are, should in any way depend on pissant US soldiers with anger management issues. Stop getting distracted by the headline. The story illustrates that the show is being run by cowboys in the CIA and defense department using contractors under minimal supervision: they weren't even confident about how many US operatives were in Pakistan. The way they ignore the advice of the Ambassador and then come crawling back to get their guy out (and keep the execution of a US citizen/soldier from really changing US/Pakistani relations) illustrates just how badly our foreign policy is being run.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Poor Cameron Munter. I'm sure his hands are far from clean in this whole mess, but Jesus wept, it sounds like he spent a lot of time and frustrated effort to prevent even the tiniest part of a complete CIA fuckup, and just got shat on left and right. Whatever he's getting paid, it probably isn't enough.

(Upon further research it looks like he might be making >$150,000, which is quite enough. But the sentiment still stands.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2013


Beating a minister over a parking space in front of his family- PTSD does not justify this behavior, even then he should be institutionalized with inpatient treatment for at least several years.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 11:19 AM on April 9, 2013


Well, obviously it doesn't. I was merely suggesting that we cannot generalize his personality before the incident from his behavior after it, since it would be the sort of thing capable of warping a person.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:26 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, we can generalize, because he thought himself too tough for treatment, if it really was PTSD. It looks a lot more like he is just a violent miscreant.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2013


I bet that minister thinks twice about pinching someone's parking space again though.
posted by biffa at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


That sarcasm is in extremely poor taste. I hope the justice system thinks twice before letting guys like this off easy again.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


That sarcasm is in extremely poor taste.

So is speculating in bad faith about another person's psychiatric condition or lack thereof on the internet in order to scratch a personal ass-thorn about military contractors.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, this Davis is a violent criminal. Joking about his victims is fucking evil.

If he was in psychiatric distress, he should have sought help before committing assault. Therefore the PTSD claims are a cop-out at best
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 11:48 AM on April 9, 2013


[Heya, MisplaceDisgrace, I feel like we're sort of at a position-clearly-stated place at this point; you and everyone else want to just let that alone now, please?]
posted by cortex at 11:53 AM on April 9, 2013


The people claiming that "Davis didn't matter" are missing something important. The government of Pakistan may never have been our friends, but Davis did a great deal to make the people on the street into our enemies. And it's the people on the street we need help from as much as the government, maybe more. They're the ones we really need to convince, and we're doing an impossibly dismal job of that.

Perhaps worth pointing out: an angered Pakistani populace is job security.
posted by Malor at 12:05 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


but Davis did a great deal to make the people on the street into our enemies.

I haven't seen evidence for that point, and other evidence suggests generally that such is not the case:

America’s overall image remains negative in Pakistan. Along with Turks and Egyptians, Pakistanis give the U.S. its lowest ratings among the 22 nations included in the spring 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey – in all three countries, only 17% have a favorable view of the U.S. Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner. And President Barack Obama is unpopular – only 8% of Pakistanis express confidence that he will do the right thing in world affairs, his lowest rating among the 22 nations. Source

Followed by no change in opinions as of June 2011.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, let's blame it on one guy.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Davis episode didn't change the U.S. - Pakistan relationship. It exposed it.
posted by Xoebe at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, let's blame it on one guy.

Yes and his name isn't Davis. It's Voter.
posted by srboisvert at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


This seems like grossly irresponsible journalism to me. Sounds like public opinion in Pakistan scapegoated this guy for general anti-American sentiment and the NYT continued the favor. Davis reacted fairly predictably to being approached by men brandishing firearms. The real problem here is that the CIA appears to have no strategy for managing their agents and contractors in such a way that this doesn't happen. If you have to arm your agents, why are they travelling alone?

If there is a villain in this piece it's American policy in general, the station chief, or whoever ran down a pedestrian.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2013


If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame. It would have been win-win for all concerned.
posted by Renoroc at 1:23 PM on April 9, 2013


If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame.

I assume you're referring to Abdul Ghani Baradar here.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame

Or rather, the credit. The ISI would have become heroes at home, and would perhaps feel that killing US field agents was a no-risk strategy – the US wouldn't care, and they could reap local political benefit.

So, perhaps not a fabulous long-term strategy for the US.
posted by zippy at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2013


If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame. It would have been win-win for all concerned.

Seems a suboptimal outcome for Davis.
posted by Jahaza at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2013


Renoroc: If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame.

It speaks well of our intelligence services that they did not do that, and in fact went to a great deal of effort to save one of their own, even though he'd apparently screwed up.

I'm very uncomfortable with this kind of covert operation, very uncomfortable. But if we've got guys with their asses in the fire on our behalf, we owe them at least that much. We probably shouldn't have sent him there at all, but since we did, rescuing him was the right thing to do.
posted by Malor at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2013


Renoroc: If he had any brains we should have had him liquidated in the Pakistani jail itself and let the Pakistanis take the blame. It would have been win-win for all concerned.

That might not have increased Pakistani hostility to the US, but it sure would have increased the hostility of the average American to Pakistan. It's actually somewhat comforting they didn't do that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone "lost" Pakistan, because we never had it. Pakistan has been trying to play on both sides of the fence ever since 2001. To the extent that they have at various times appeared to be on our side it's mostly been playacting or the result of intolerable pressure.

If Pakistan had ever really been wholeheartedly on "our side", they'd have cleaned out the ISI.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:21 PM on April 9, 2013


Well, the average American probably already hates Pakistan [even though he/she probably doesn't know where it is] anyway, if not due to the fact they hid Bin Laden for a decade, then for the default Islamophobia/anti-Brown people racism that is now nicely entrenched in the populace.
posted by Renoroc at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2013


The real problem here is that the CIA appears to have no strategy for managing their agents and contractors in such a way that this doesn't happen.

The real problem is that the CIA is using *contractors* at all.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2013


Is it a fact that "Pakistan hid bin laden"? I see this sentiment a lot in the comments here.
The government was aware and actively hid his presence in their country? Or was he just hiding out anonymously?
posted by mulligan at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2013


mulligan, Wikipedia actually has a pretty good article covering the allegations that elements of the Pakistani government had a hand in hiding Osama bin Laden: Allegations of support system in Pakistan for Osama bin Laden.
posted by RichardP at 3:34 PM on April 9, 2013


Ennui.bz I'm against contractors in the military, but given the cowboy culture of some CIA field agents, contractors with combat experience might actually be a step up, if only because they aren't fantasizing about living in a Bond flick.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:38 PM on April 9, 2013


The two guys he shot were widely identified as ISI agents at the time, even in the Pakistani press. It's weird revisionism to cast them as the victims here, rather than incompetent killers who got a taste of their own medicine when they tried to take out Davis.
posted by w0mbat at 3:43 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pakistan illustrates something that's pretty generally true about all states: There's not just one will or narrative or influence. The ISI is its own thing, and has domestic interests that are only tangentially related to those of the CIA, and the CIA's are only tangentially related to America's interests. Pakistan just throws the general truth into higher relief.
posted by klangklangston at 5:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


w0mbat: "The two guys he shot were widely identified as ISI agents at the time, even in the Pakistani press. "

Cite?
posted by stratastar at 5:18 PM on April 9, 2013


Oh man, it's the traffic. It's always the traffic that gets you. Had Davis just walked off discreetly from the place, this mess wouldn't have happened (assuming a quasi-anonymous killing of the initial two as not being a "mess"). Indeed, apparently the Pakistanis agree:
“If you’re going to send a Jason Bourne character to Pakistan, he should have the skills of a Jason Bourne to get away,” Haqqani shot back, according to one person who attended the meeting.
Word. :|

Now, in all fairness, the article itself points out that the relationship was frayed even before Davis. From the piece:
That the C.I.A. director would be overseeing a large clandestine network of American spies in Pakistan and then lie to the I.S.I. director about the extent of America’s secret war in the country showed just how much the relationship had unraveled since the days in 2002, when the I.S.I. teamed with the C.I.A. in Peshawar to hunt for Osama bin Laden in western Pakistan
I'll also point out another interesting, if ironic, fallout from this fraying. Many (granted, left-of-center) Indian analysts warn of a closer relationship with the US by pointing to how the Pakistanis are being treated.

Anyway, it's not as if Pakistan asked us to invade Afghanistan. And if Pakistan shut down the resupply routes, we would start leaving tomorrow, post-haste.

Thought they shut them supply routes for months, because of which US had to re-route its stuff via Central Asia. In fact, it's been a constant joke in the region that America's chase of Al Qaeda was less about strategic relationship, and more about al-faeda ("benefit", hence "profit") for the Pakistani army. That was about USD 290 million in 2009. (All links here to Indian security blogs, some more right-of-center than the others)
posted by the cydonian at 8:14 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Pakistan: A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood
posted by homunculus at 11:49 PM on April 9, 2013


Yes and his name isn't Davis. It's Voter.

We vote for people we can't hold accountable. The result is predictable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:30 AM on April 10, 2013


agreeing that the Pakistanis couldn't hate the US more than they already did, I'm curious as to why there ever was a "US-Pakistani friendship"? The Pakistanis have been dragging the US around by the nose for ages, and even conceding that there might have been a purpose during the cold war*, that ended in 1989. Nearly 25 years ago.

*not really, very often US foreign policy seems like it's based on close readings of unpublished Tintin cartoons.
posted by mumimor at 7:09 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm curious as to why there ever was a "US-Pakistani friendship?

Whatever country controls the high ground of the Himalayas will have an awesome strategic advantage in a South Asian land war. Also, Pakistan borders Iran and we have an enormous strategic interest there.

Short version: The US decided to ally itself with Pakistan after India's Nehru joined the non-aligned nations movement and the US thought that meant he had Soviet sympathies due to Cold-war paranoia. Once the US started arming Pakistan, the Russians drew closer to India. The communists already admired India's overthrow of English colonialism, after all.

The Chinese, being historical rivals of Russia and India, began to also back Pakistan militarily [the enemy of your enemy is your friend], and their involvement amplified after Nixon's overtures. Example: The Pakistani Karakorum highway was built by the Chinese and effectively links the two countries. It's one of the best mountainous roads on Earth.

It's all a modern day version of "The Great Game"
posted by Renoroc at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]




Short version: The US decided to ally itself with Pakistan after India's Nehru joined the non-aligned nations movement and the US thought that meant he had Soviet sympathies due to Cold-war paranoia. Once the US started arming Pakistan, the Russians drew closer to India. The communists already admired India's overthrow of English colonialism, after all.

The Chinese, being historical rivals of Russia and India, began to also back Pakistan militarily [the enemy of your enemy is your friend], and their involvement amplified after Nixon's overtures. Example: The Pakistani Karakorum highway was built by the Chinese and effectively links the two countries. It's one of the best mountainous roads on Earth.

It's all a modern day version of "The Great Game"


This is exactly what I mean when I suggest unpublished Tintin cartoons. How ignorant can the State Department of the greatest nation on earth afford to be. Well, very very ignorant. The waste of lives and money hardly registers on the budget, so reasonable people have no chance of an audience. Among all possible allies in that area - including China - Pakistan is the least reliable. But each to his own.

India is in many ways an amazing country, but after India's Nehru joined the non-aligned nations movement and the US thought that meant he had Soviet sympathies There is some of the same dynamic in the US/Vietnam relation, and in the US/Iran relation. Sometimes US foreign-policy seems like a very concerted attempt to create the worst possible situation.
posted by mumimor at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


US was a major supporter of Indian independence (as part of their pressure on UK to end colonialism). When the British partitioned India, they decided to keep Pakistan as a closer ally for strategic reasons (location, location, location) and also because India's Prime Minister Nehru (and other Indian political leaders) wanted India to chart its own independent course in international affairs and not play second fiddle to any major power. Pakistan's early democratic leaders had their own reasons for not minding being allied to the West.

Nehru's rationale for "Non Alignment" was to get aid from both blocks for India's development (if you think India is poor now, you should look at our economic/social indicators from 1947). This did indeed happen. Both blocks sponsored major development projects in India. So far, so good.

The rift between India and the West started when the West showed a clear bias towards Pakistan when it came to selling weapons - weapons that the Pakistan would use against India. The rift widened during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan (which led to the independence of Bangladesh). In the events surrounding this war, despite all the right reasons to not support Pakistan (read the Blood Telegram), the West decided to throw its weight behind Pakistan to the extent of threatening a Nuke strike on India. This threw India firmly in the arms of USSR. India and USSR signed a treaty stopping short of a military alliance in name, but effectively being precisely that.

The alliance with USSR wasn't enough to comfort India against future developments, knowing that Pakistan will continue to be antagonistic and now also seemed to have a nuclear deterrent by proxy. India then decided to weaponize its nuclear research. A parallel development was the adoption of highly discriminatory CTBT which divided the world into Nuclear "haves" and "have-nots". India's so-called Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974 was obviously anything but. Sanctions followed.

This state of affairs continued till the end of the cold war, and was made somewhat worse by the 1998 Nuclear tests by India, following which India declared a "No First Use" nuclear weapons policy. India also continued to keep a clean record of non-proliferation because India had nothing to gain by proliferating.

During all these years, the West continued to support Pakistan despite the brutal suppression of democracy in Pakistan and Pakistan's support for terrorism against India.

The West took notice of Pakistan's support for terrorism on only one occasion in all those years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Flight_182).

It was 9/11 that finally led to a partial modification of how the West looked at Pakistan. Almost every terror attack around the world had links to Pakistan. The Mumbai attack and then the discovery of OBL right next to the centre of Pakistan's army further consolidated the antagonistic nature of Pakistan's relationship with, well, the rest of the world by this point.

In a parallel development, India's clean record of non-proliferation, economic development and embrace of economic globalization led to a gradual easing of sanctions and the about turn on the nuclear apartheid against India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Australia was the last holdout on this and only changed its posture in 2011-12.

This is roughly where we stand today. India is still not a military ally of any country. Given India's neighbourhood, India obviously simply can't do that. However, the West's relationship with India continues to improve steadily. India also seems to have learned to live with terrorism. When you have 1.2 billion people and a rapidly developing economy, you can come to terms to losing a few lives to terrorism (considering how many more are lost to malnutrition, road accidents and such) every year.

But overall, there is no single incident or individual that can be "credited" with turning Pakistan against the West or the West against Pakistan. If the blame must be laid at someone's door, it must be the Pakistan Army and their intelligence agency ISI. Their double crosses through the years at the expense of their own citizens have led to this state of affairs where they can't control the radical genie of Islamic terrorism that they helped create. The potential that Pakistan had at the time of its independence - of being a moderate Islamic state and an example of synthesis of modern democratic norms and an Islamic way of life has been completely wasted by the Army and ISI.

Apologies for the length and the over-simplifications.
posted by vidur at 5:16 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was asked for a cite that the men killed were widely known to be ISI agents and that this was reported in the press at the time.

The Wikipedia entry for the incident leads to a few, here's one from Time Magazine which says "Equally misleading, say Pakistani officials, is the claim in Pakistani media that Davis' victims had been "ordinary men", or even as "robbers," as the State Department has suggested. "They were from the ISI," says a government official, referring to Pakistan's military intelligence agency. "
or if you want another, here is one from the Pakistani Express Tribune (affiliated with the International Herald Tribune) with the headline "Raymond Davis case: Men killed in Lahore were intelligence operatives, says official".
posted by w0mbat at 5:58 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks. One american source, off the record, during a FUBAR politically sensitive crisis doesn't sell it for me especially given the information in the OP.

Were they tailing him or trying to intimidate him (they flashed a gun at Davis which caused him to attack).

In any case, here's how it read to the city's public: common motorcycle stick-up men (a regular enough occurrence in Lahore especially for those driving a fancy SUV : they flash a gun, pull you over take your money, you keep your car) got killed in a disproportionate use of force (shooting the second guy in the back seemed especially egregious).

Hearts, minds, unqualified spies and drones, no?
posted by stratastar at 2:32 PM on April 11, 2013


Ah sorry, source NOT American!
posted by stratastar at 2:44 PM on April 11, 2013


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