Jacob Heilbrunn

Our Man In Lahore

President Obama lied during his press conference last week. He called Raymond A. Davis "our diplomat." He isn't a diplomat, though he was posted to Pakistan under diplomatic cover in January 2010. He's a CIA agent who is being held in a Pakistani jail for killing--Muslim radicals say murdering--two Pakistan men who allegedly tried to rob him.

The case is murky. It's possible that the Pakistan's intelligence services set Davis up. It's also possible that Davis was deliberately pursuing the two men. And it's possible that Davis' explanation is true. They tried to rob him and he responded by blowing them away with his Glock pistol. Meanwhile, an unmarked car belonging to the American embassy that was rushing to Davis' aid ran over an innocent Pakistani riding a bicyle. And one of the widows of the two men has committed suicide by ingesting rat poison.

As the Washington Post reports, Davis, along with five other CIA contractors, has been monitoring "militant groups in large cities, including Lahore." Davis may have also been looking at the ISI's pet terrorist organization Lashkar-i-Taiba. America is claiming diplomatic immunity for Davis. But widespread anger in Pakistan has militants demanding a trial of Davis and his subsequent hanging.

Davis' cover is now blown. But so is America's. Each time a case like Davis' goes public, it feeds conspiracy theories about America, some of which happen to be true. The ISI was surely aware of Davis' true identity, but now that it has been revealed, the regime has to pretend as though it's outraged.

What the Davis epsiode explains, in miniature, is why much of the Muslim world hates America. Washington has been propping up dictatorships across the region. It has invested hundreds of billions in regimes that are collapsing overnight. It's hardly surprising that the local populations despise America for preaching democracy, on the one hand, and maintaining close relations with authoritarian rulers, on the other. The idea that an American diplomat, let alone a CIA agent, can operate with impunity on Pakistani soil, executing whomever he pleases is not exactly calculated to endear America to Pakistanis, either.

Presumably, Davis will, in a few months, be smuggled out of Pakistan. The car driver who was trying to reach Davis is apparently no longer in Pakistan. But the epsiode is further testimony to the acrimonious relations between Islamabad and Washington on the terror front. If Pakistan really wanted to confront terrorism, it would end up confronting a good chunk of its own population.

Image by André Koehne