What should be done to help Dr. Shakil Afridi?
When I was a young lad I had a book which contained some of the famous speeches and writings from US History, with excerpts from Martin Luther King, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Paine and others. My favorite was always JFK’s inaugural address, but not as much the “ask not” section as much as the section that was his defense of liberty….
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Later I would get some of the backstory on this speech, mostly his anger when China was lost to the Maoists….
Mr. Speaker, over this weekend we have learned the extent of the disaster that has befallen China and the United States. The responsibility for the failure of our foreign policy in the Far East rests squarely with the White House and the Department of State. The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming, unless a coalition of government with the Communists were formed, was a crippling blow to the National Government.…This is a tragic story of China, whose freedom we once fought to preserve. What our young men had saved, our diplomats and our President have frittered away.
I was thinking about this quote the other day as I read numerous reports about the sad case of Pakistani Doctor Shakil Afridi who has been charged and convicted of Treason, with a sentence imposed of 33 years. A reminder from The Washington Post:
The ISI [Pakistani Inteligence] detained Afridi, a government surgeon, three weeks after U.S. commandos killed bin Laden. Afridi, 48, ran a fake hepatitis vaccination drive to collect bin Laden’s DNA as a way to verify the al-Qaeda leader’s presence in Abbottabad, the garrison town in Pakistan where he hid for six years until his death.
Senior U.S. officials and several members of Congress have expressed outrage at Pakistan’s punishment of Afridi, while lauding him as a hero and patriot. But Pakistani leaders call him a traitor who spied for a foreign power that launched an illegal unilateral operation.
Within the context of JFKs world view, is Pakistan a friend or foe? And what can be done about Doctor Afridi?
Now, I am certain that there are things going on at the State Department on this issue, but I’m not entirely certain I have any idea what they are. The trial itself is in question, as the Washington Post piece made clear…
On Monday, relatives and supporters of Afridi said at a news conference in the northwestern city of Peshawar that they will seek to overturn his conviction, handed down last week in a tribal court. Under that system, Afridi did not have the right to present evidence or have an attorney.
“The United States should help us,” Jamil Afridi, 50, brother of the doctor, said in an interview.
Peshawar prison authorities have barred him and the family’s attorneys from communicating with Shakil Afridi, saying a no-visitors policy had been imposed for his safety. The doctor’s wife and three children have not seen him for a year, according to Jamil Afridi.
Shakil Afridi has a right to an appeal under rules that govern the tribal areas, but lawyers seeking to represent him said they have been unable to obtain a copy of the court’s verdict, which they need to file an appeal. They also said they have been barred from getting the doctor’s signature, which they need to establish power of attorney so they can represent him.
An article in The Guardian even disputes that that is what he was convicted of:
The Pakistani doctor who assisted the CIA in its hunt for Osama bin Laden was given a 33-year jail sentence not for aiding the US intelligence service but for providing medical care to banned terror groups, according to leaked legal documents.
According to a five-page verdict seen by Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the administrator from the country's tribal areas that tried and convicted Shakil Afridi did not even consider evidence that the doctor had conspired with the CIA on a fake vaccination programme.
So, what can be done? There are a few efforts ongoing in the House and Senate. In the House, Congressman Dana Rohrbacher of California has introduced two separate bills on Afridi’s behalf, one to grant him US Citizenship, and another to bestow on him the US’s highest civilian medal.
He also introduced an Amendment (which failed) to cut Pakistani Aid, saying in defense of his efforts that:
How can we forget this same Pakistani Government gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden after he led the conspiracy that slaughtered 3,000 Americans on 9/11? After our SEALs went in to get him, the Pakistani Government took the wreckage of our downed stealth helicopter and gave it for study to Communist China, whom they refer to as their ‘‘all-weather friend.’’ The Pakistani Government has gone so far as to arrest and imprison, without trial, Dr. Afridi, the doctor who helped us gather the intelligence that located Osama bin Laden in the nest that the Pakistani Government had provided him right there in Pakistan. The Pakistani Government threw him in jail and is talking about trying him for treason for the good deed that he helped us in bringing to justice the man who slaughtered 3,000 of our citizens.
And we can continue to give money to these people, even as we ignore the suffering of Dr. Afridi, who is in prison now, languishing in prison?
And all of us are forgetting this hero?
In the Senate, Lindsey Graham is leading a similar effort:
If the Senate Appropriations Committee has its way, Pakistan’s military assistance package will be docked $33 million— $1 million for every year the doctor who assisted the U.S. in tracking down Osama bin Laden sits in a Pakistani jail.
The amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was adopted during the full Appropriations committee markup of the State and Foreign Operations bill on Thursday with a unanimous 30-0 vote. A Pakistani court this week sentenced Shakil Afridi, a doctor from the Khyber tribal area, to 33 years in prison for helping the CIA collect DNA for a vaccination program, which eventually confirmed the al-Qaida leader’s presence in Abbottabad where he was killed last May.
“We need Pakistan. Pakistan needs us. But we don’t need a Pakistan that is this double dealing,” said Graham, ranking member of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee.
Today’s Big Q asks what your opinion is on how the US should address this issue:
What should the US do to aide in trying to free the jailed Pakistani Doctor who helped locate Osama Bin Ladin?
- Cut off all foreign aid funds to Pakistan until this man is released.
- Cut off $1 million for each year that this Doctor is supposed to be imprisoned, for a total of $33 million.
- We must exert as much diplomatic pressure as possible, while being aware that we need Pakistani support to continue our efforts against Al Qaeda.
- Nothing. The man was convicted of aiding terrorists, and we shouldn’t second-guess foreign courts.
The US has a mixed track record on supporting our friends when they aren’t a state unto themselves. For instance we clearly were of great aid to Kuwait during the 1990’s. And we’ve supported many friends through the years with covert aid and military support. But then there is the disgraceful lack of effort by the US Government in the early 70’s to aid our Vietnamese allies, the Montagnards. As I said in my previous post about the “Yards”
The U.S. betrayal of the Montagnard people is a national disgrace, made no less ignominious by the fact that almost no one knows about it. In 1975 the U.S. Gov’t met with the Montagnards and promised them help if they continued the fight against the Communist Government. They did, we didn’t. And thousands of Montagnards have been killed since.
Our track record with Afghan and Iraqi interpreters is only slightly better…
To come to the United States, Dash must negotiate a dizzying course of bureaucratic hurdles. He has to fill out an I-360 petition for special immigrant status form and pay the $375 filing fee, locate a certified English translation of his Iraqi birth certificate, present proof that he has served as an Iraqi interpreter, provide a letter of recommendation by a U.S. Army general or chief of mission and forward these documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Nebraska service center for processing.
If approved, the documents are sent to the National Visa Center, where U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services collects the filing fees and the visa application, form DS-230, parts one and two. The entire package is then shipped back from the United States to the American consulate in Jordan. If and when an immigrant visa becomes available, Dash will go to the consulate in Amman to be interviewed, fingerprinted, photographed and given a mandatory medical examination. Finally, he will be admitted into the United States as a green card holder, a status he must apply to renew after 10 years.
So, what can be done about Doctor Shakil Afridi? I would like your thoughts on the matter if you could share them in the comments section.
Will be support our friends and oppose our foes? And which is Pakistan?
Added: After writing this, I found out that Bill O’Reilly discussed this on his show last night: