Saturday, July 8, 2017
The Contractor: So Quick to Shoot, So Slow to Get Away
“If you’re going to send a Jason Bourne character to Pakistan, he should have the skills of a Jason Bourne to get away,” Pakistan's Ambassador Haqqani told CIA Director Leon Panetta, according to the New York Times. Touché, Ambassador Haqqani. You put your finger on the first and biggest problem with the Raymond Davis incident: it wouldn't have happened at all if Davis had simply shot the two Lahore street thugs who had pointed pistols at him, and then driven off. But he didn't. He hung around the scene until a crowd formed and he couldn't drive away, and then he surrendered himself to Lahore police officers. He stayed in prison while the CIA, it's Pakistani counterpart, and our respective Ambassadors eventually cut a deal for his release.
In his book, Davis boasts about how quickly he can draw a pistol and hit a target, only 1.1 seconds on average. So the shooting part didn't take much time, but, then he spent the next seven weeks in prison while his fate was decided by others. Davis doesn't seem the reflective type, but should he reflect on it, he would probably agree with me that he ought to have done a little more training on putting a car into reverse and departing at high speed.
The NYT's video embedded above of an interview with Davis is short - just six minutes - and superficial. Back in 2014, the NYT had a very good article about the Davis incident and how it was finally resolved after doing a great deal of damage to U.S.-Pakistani relations: How a Single Spy Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States. I'd read that for context before reading Davis' own, more limited, account.
The damage Davis caused to our relations with a necessary ally isn't over yet, by the way, since Davis' book is currently feeding Pakistan's appetite for conspiracy theories. Did you know his book was secretly cooked up by India's intelligence agency as a means to slander Pakistan's Army and democratic institutions? Yeah, it's true, according to today's Pakistani press, to take just one random example of Pakistani media reaction.
On a personal level I have to feel sorry for Davis. He was a personal services contractor who by all accounts provided useful service for a long time in Pakistan, not just in Lahore but also in the far more dangerous city of Peshawar. I've heard it suggested that a career employee in his same situation would have had the good sense to get away after the shooting, because he'd know that his career would be over if he caused a public spectacle, whereas a short-term contractor like Davis didn't have the same long-term interest. That could be. Another part of the problem may be that Davis believed he was operating under wartime rules - during the interview he repeatedly refers to Lahore, or Pakistan, as "a war zone" - but of course, we are not at war with Pakistan. If Davis came to confuse discreet personal protection work in Pakistan with military service across the border in Afghanistan, then that was the fault of his employer and supervisors.
One last thought: why has everyone on the U.S. side of the incident forgotten the innocent victim, the third Pakistani killed that day, a bicyclist who was run over and killed by some of Davis's fellow contractors who were driving against traffic in an attempt to extract him from the scene of the shooting? Unlike the two armed criminals Davis shot, that guy was just a plain victim. Yet, the U.S. never even expressed regret for his death, so far as I recall.
All in all, not a good showing by our side.