On Tuesday, the New York Times reported a difficult development in Pakistan: Visas were not being reissued to many members of the U.S. Embassy, leaving them short staffed. Also, mechanics needed to service helicopters were given the same treatment, which will eventually render the vehicles inoperable. The cause of this is a strong wave of anti-American sentiments, growing from complaints that the U.S. intelligence agencies act ‘arrogant’ and ‘think of themselves as omnipotent’. Two specific quotes from this New York Times article struck me as peculiar.
“(A Pakistani security official) cited a recent report in some Pakistani newspapers that an American diplomat had been taking photographs in a military area of the city of Lahore.” The New York Times, 12/15/2009
That quote was preceded by this:
“Pakistani officials acknowledged the situation but said the menacing atmosphere resulted from American arrogance and provocations, like taking photographs in sensitive areas, and a lack of understanding of how divided Pakistanis were about the alliance with the United States.”
Ed has just returned from Pakistan, and was in Lahore, but was there as a member of the press, hardly accountable for official diplomatic affairs or to be confused with a ranking government official. Though I find it amusing to imagine him being the cause of an international misunderstanding, I sincerely doubt that these two quotes have anything to do with Ed directly. They do shine a light on what will happen to a country’s government when it is enduring a time of distress.
The power structure of Pakistan is in the middle of a historic sea change with a mutinous military and subordinate Supreme Court in respect to President Zardari. That they have restricted access from an outside nation, one with the public intention to collect intelligence, is unfortunate, but understandable.
I expect that when Ed’s work from his recent trip is public, the sentiment of the ambassador of Syria will be echoed. But to that, I’d like to repeat what was said in our reply to the Syrian Ambassador.
“In the US we come from a tradition, protected by our constitution, of free speech and the right to ask tough questions and draw conclusions that might not agree with the powers that be. That is the point of the media, as a protector and safeguard against the abuses of power by political authority, corporations, the military, etc.”