Cowboys and Indians in Lahore

As the Guardian notes, the story sounds like something out of a Hollywood action-adventure movie:

On 27 January, Raymond Davis, a bulky 36-year-old CIA agent with a shock of grey hair, was winding through the chaotic Lahore traffic when he stopped at a red light. A motorbike carrying two men, coming from the opposite direction, swerved in front of his Honda Civic. The pillion passenger was carrying a gun. Davis, a former special forces soldier, whipped out his 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and, still behind the wheel, opened fire. Five shots sliced through the windscreen. Muhammad Faheem, a 19-year-old street criminal, fell dead.

Davis got out of the car and took aim at the motorbike driver, Faizan Haider, who had started running. Another five shots rang out and Haider fell to the ground, having run 30ft; a postmortem indicated he was hit three times in the front and twice in the back.

Davis walked back to his car, called for help on a military-style radio, then started to photograph the dead men. Anwar Khan watched from his restaurant across the street, amazed at the American’s sang-froid. “He was very peaceful and confident. I was wondering how he could be like that after killing two people,” he said.

The American rescue squad consisted of a Toyota Land Cruiser, probably manned by fellow CIA agents, that careened through the streets towards Davis. Nearing Mozang Chowk, where the shooting took place, the driver saw the road jammed with onlookers and traffic so he ramped the vehicle over the central reservation and continued at speed against the flow of vehicles. He hit and killed a cosmetics trader riding his motorcycle, Ibad ur Rehman, then pressed on. But Davis was gone.

Apparently panicked by a crowd, the CIA agent had already taken off towards central Lahore, ignoring police who tried to wave him down. At Mozang Chowk, a warden tried to stop the Land Cruiser. Witnesses later told police that one American swung open his door, brandished a rifle and threatened to fire on anyone who got in his way. The Toyota retreated to the US consulate, jettisoning a number of items along the way including 100 bullets, knives, gloves, a blindfold and, oddly, a piece of cloth with an American flag.

About the same time, police caught up with Davis in the crowded bazaar of Old Anarkali, about two miles away, where he was arrested.[1]

But the trouble with action-adventure movies is that they paint human beings in a good-evil dichotomy. It is a corrosive mentality, and though Davis’ victims apparently were indeed petty criminals, Pakistanis seem to have had enough of a Cowboys-and-Indians mentality enacted with modern weapons by the most powerful military in the world in their cities, in their towns, and in their neighborhoods. “He has committed a murder as he shot at the fleeing boys,” said Lahore’s chief of police.[2] “All Pakistanis agree: Davis should be tried and hanged,” said a taxi driver.[3]

Revelations that Davis worked for the CIA are apparently not helping matters. Though the United States claims Davis is eligible for diplomatic immunity, Pakistan’s political elite find themselves in a precarious position among their own population which counts the cost of the so-called war on terror in the bodies of loved ones.[4]

While threats have been made to cut off aid to Pakistan unless Davis is released, Pakistan’s government is—by all accounts—a crucial ally in the war being fought in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Acquiescing to the U.S. position would unmask Pakistan’s government as being at war with its own people. Such wars are unproblematic from a U.S. perspective—the government here has been at war with its own people for decades, treating them as a resource to be exploited for the benefit of the very rich[5]—but if there is any message in the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, it is that not all humans everywhere are passive subjects to oppression, the machinations of capitalism, and its persistent incursions into the physical violence the U.S. and its stooges wage around the world.[6] In much of the Muslim world, we are indeed seeing a different story.

It is a different story that is unfriendly to U.S. war policy, a different story that is unfriendly to Israel’s expansionism, a different story that has historically been the same in many cases of imperial overreach and the disproportionate use of force in asymmetric warfare, and a different story the U.S., its elite, its military, and its intelligence agencies are going to have to get used to.

  1. [1]Declan Walsh, “A CIA spy, a hail of bullets, three killed and a US-Pakistan diplomatic row,” Guardian, February 20, 2011
  2. [2]Asif Chaudhry and Khalid Hasnain, “US demands ‘full immunity’ Davis’s self-defence claim rejected,” Dawn, February 12, 2011
  3. [3]Walsh.
  4. [4]Alex Rodriguez, “Pakistan says shooter Raymond Davis is CIA agent,” Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2011,0,7234338.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fnews%2Fnationworld%2Fworld+%28L.A.+Times+-+World+News%29
  5. [5]Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).
  6. [6]Jeremy Scahill, “Obama’s Expanding Covert Wars,” Nation, June 4, 2010

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