Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blood Money and Protests

On January 27, 2011, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor for the United States, shot and killed two Pakistani men in Lahore. Davis claimed he shot the men in self-defense, which is contradictory to the police report from the scene of the crime in which police described the shooting as "cold-blooded murder." Nonetheless, the US held that Davis had diplomatic immunity. On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, Davis was acquitted of murder, when the family of both of the victims pardoned him. Under Islamic law, the family of the victim can simply forgive the accused in exchange for a monetary settlement. In this case, the settlement was reportedly around $2 million.

My feelings toward the ruling are divided. On the one hand, the concept of forgiveness to the murderer is one I wholeheartedly accept and promote. When I heard about this, I was stunned by how beautiful it was. In fact, it brought a tear to my eye to see how it is possible for people to forgive others despite the offense. On the other hand, my Western mindset is screaming, "YOU JUST LET A MURDERER GO FREE!" And, unless Davis has a change of heart from that experience, he will continue to kill under the protective cloak of the United States.

But many Pakistani citizens are not happy with the ruling, and protests are being initiated. They do not accept that an American can come into their country and kill their citizens and be acquitted, while a Pakistani can do the same in America and be sentenced to 86 years in prison, as was the case with Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who pulled a gun on a US military guard in February of 2010. Furthermore, family friends and neighbors are standing firm that the Pakistani government forced the families to sign documents of forgiveness in secret at the behest of the United States, while the US denies that they made any form of payment to the families of the victims, leaving everyone wondering who, if anyone, compensated the families. After the ruling, the families disappeared, so the events surrounding the entire case is still a mystery.

To make matters worse, US forces carried out an airstrike in the village of Datta Khel that killed 40 people only one day after the ruling that freed Davis. Pakistani army chief said that the attack against civilians who had gathered to discuss local land issues was "carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard for human life."

The longer I live and the more I discover about the barbarous actions of the United States, the more ashamed I am to be called American. When will the citizens of this country rise up in protest like so many of these oppressed Middle Eastern countries? Or have we become so lazy and indifferent that, as a whole, we no longer care?