The Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Ladin has been convicted in Pakistan of “providing support and medical treatment to members of the militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam… [T]here is also evidence that he was involved with foreign intelligence agencies, and this should now be considered by other courts” according to papers released Wednesday. (source)
However, many still believe (as the judgment somewhat implies), Dr. Afridi was tried and convicted for helping the United States. The CIA hired him to create a fake vaccine program to get DNA from Bin Ladin to confirm his whereabouts before SEAL Team 6 went into the compound to capture or kill him.
In response to the verdict, Congress removed 33 million from U.S. aid to Pakistan — 1 million for every year he was sentenced. And my first thought was: Exactly! He helped us catch the man who planned the 9-11 attacked that killed thousands of Americans. What’s wrong with Pakistan?
But when I thought of this happening on U.S. soil, I wondered. What if say Israel conspired with an American doctor to create a false vaccine program to catch a Nazi war criminal without the consent of the US government? Would we just be happy the criminal was caught? What if Israel sent in operatives to take him out?
Everyone can agree that the Nazi needed to be caught. But would we, as a sovereign nation, accept HOW he was caught? Foreign governments using American citizens and sending troops to sneak into the U.S. to do good still feels wrong. Or if not wrong, at least uncomfortable. A slippery slope? A judgment on our ability to do the right thing?
Even without the hypotheticals, our relationship with Pakistan has been strained, and the drone attacks only worsened it. What did the CIA think was going to happen to Shakil Afridi? Why didn’t we protect him? What is going to happen to his family? We paid someone to risk his life for our country and leave him in the aftermath. (Note: There are rumors the US offered to resettle his family a year ago and he refused for unclear reasons. The White House has not confirmed this.)
I’ll admit that I’ve never been a CIA operative and don’t know the ins-and-outs of secretly working for a foreign government to do good, but our decisions around Bin Ladin seem to be based on the idea that American plans and designs are always right, and our willingness to go to any length to make them happen regardless of individuals and nations, ideals and autonomy, leaves me feeling unsettled.
I cannot abide by the sentiment — the U.S.A. is always right — even though I love my country and am glad Bin Ladin is no longer a threat. Perhaps, if Bin Ladin had been our only divergences from upholding Pakistani government autonomy, there wouldn’t be a fallout, but it was not. Too often we twist our ideals around popular sentiment, and many suffer the consequences of our national hubris. I do not know if America decided Pakistan wouldn’t help or wouldn’t help quickly enough. If the former is true, would it better for Osama Bin Ladin to live and Pakistan’s sovereignty to be preserved? For most, it depends on which country they are from. For the doctor, it didn’t and he will be imprisoned for 33 years. We respond with outraged, but isn’t it America that paved his way?