While I continue to respect Dr. Fair’s extensive work on Pakistan, I, however, believe her recent op-ed lacks impartiality and sound judgment. Her choice of expressions, willful omissions, and apathy toward the sufferings of millions of Pakistanis and Afghans makes her writing an exercise in hegemonic discourse.
Writing in the influential journal, Foreign Policy, Dr. Fair echoes the musings of undisclosed Washington insiders who confided that “we are ‘this close' to bombing them [Pakistan].” I wonder what she and others in Washington, DC, think of the drone attacks in Fata (still very much a part of Pakistan) that have killed, among others, hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children. Isn’t that bombing enough?
Given the fact that Professor Fair’s opinions are taken seriously by many, it therefore becomes increasingly necessary to review her latest piece in some detail and highlight the deficiencies in reasoning, which would otherwise remain latent in her rhetoric. I have organised my response under four key themes that I saw dominant in Professor Fair’s article.
The US versus THEM vocabulary
Even in the opening paragraph in her article, Professor Fair’s choice of expressions exposes her lack of objectivity. She mentions Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who was arrested and later released for murdering two young men in Lahore. She calls Mr. Davis a ‘CIA contractor’ and refers to the two dead Pakistanis as ‘ISI ruffians.’ While Mr. Davis was repeatedly described as a diplomat by the US administration, including Secretary Hillary Clinton, it was an open secret that he was a hired gun, an apocalyptic mercenary, who worked for the private militias retained by the CIA. Even the New York Times sheepishly admitted weeks later (after the British newspapers went public with Mr. Davis’ identity) that the Times’ editors knew all along that Mr. Davis was no diplomat.
By presenting Mr. Davis as a contractor, someone with a job and responsibility, and calling the two dead Pakistanis thugs and hooligans, Professor Fair has chosen to take sides following the ‘us versus them’ Bush doctrine. To date no evidence of association between the two dead young men and ISI has come to surface. Calling them thugs is insulting to them and their families. What is, however, known for certain is that Mr. Davis is indeed a thug and hooligan, or a ruffian, as Professor Fair refers to the dead Pakistanis. Only eight months after murdering two men in Lahore, Davis was arrested in Highland Ranch in Colorado where he assaulted another man in a dispute over a parking spot. “I’ve never seen a man so full of rage,” the victim’s terrified wife later told the police.
Conjuring an evil image of Pakistan and its people
Professor Fair holds no bar in painting a poor image of Pakistan by invoking catastrophic future scenarios involving Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. “Meanwhile, Pakistan's vast jihadi landscape further conjures the image of Islamist barbarians banging at the nuclear gate,” writes Professor Fair. And if that is not enough, she further accuses Pakistan of being a nuclear proliferator by “spreading nuclear technology to such states as Iran and North Korea.”
The US criticism of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program speaks volumes of American double standards. Consider first that the US has done its fair share of nuclear proliferation by supplying nuclear weapons technology to several countries, including Israel. While Abdul Qadeer Khan is routinely referred to as Pakistan’s “chief nuclear black marketer”, individuals such as Robert J. Stevens, CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin (a weapons exporting firm), are routinely eulogised for creating jobs and prosperity for Americans.
Furthermore, the US continues to be the world’s largest exporter of arms and ammunitions. In 2011 alone, the US Directorate of Defense Trade Controls issued licenses to private companies for exporting $44.3 billion worth of weapons and other defense equipment. If I were to borrow Professor Fair’s embellished style, I would say that the US is indeed the biggest merchant of death in the world.
Another example of maligning Pakistan is to refer to Abbottabad, where Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011, as the “cantonment town of Abbottabad, near Pakistan’s acclaimed military academy.” This is done to imply (because no hard evidence of collusion between Pakistanis and bin Laden was discovered) that somehow the Pakistani establishment was sheltering Mr. bin Laden in Abbottabad near an ‘elite’ military academy.