Commentary: With friends like Pakistan, does the U.S. need enemies?

The Kansas City StarJune 17, 2012 

To speak of Pakistan as America’s partner in the war against global terrorism is both an abuse of fact and an insult to the public’s intelligence.

The better description of that chaotic and incompetently governed nation is as a haven for Islamist radicals and a deliberate obstructer of the attempt by the U.S. and its coalition allies to establish a safe and civil society in neighboring Afghanistan.

No surer proof of that can be found than the recent fate of the Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. discover the location of Osama bin Laden’s hideaway, enabling Navy SEALs to end the life of the world’s most notorious terrorist leader.

What was the good doctor’s reward for aiding his country’s “partner”? He was turned over by the Islamabad regime to a tribal court, sentenced to 33 years and incarcerated in a jail holding many militants. His life is thought to be in serious jeopardy.

With a partner like Pakistan, who needs enemies?

Many years ago, before the violent ascendancy of Islamist radicalism and before the U.S. engagement in that benighted corner of the Middle East, my wife and I were invited by a Pakistani doctor practicing in our city to share a meal in his home with his family and several of their friends.

We were treated to a dinner of traditional fare, which we much enjoyed. But what followed the meal turned the evening irredeemably ugly.

The professed reason for the invitation was to promote understanding by acquainting us with the manners and traditions of the doctor’s native country.

But his real motive, it became clear, was to have a captive audience for an extended, vitriolic anti-American rant.

Never mind that he was living here by choice, practicing his lucrative profession here and benefiting from all the opportunities and comforts that this country affords.

None of that mattered.

Above all, it was U.S. foreign policy that enraged him — most particularly our long-term, unyielding support for the state of Israel and our friendship with his despised bête noire, India.

Until that encounter, Pakistan had been for me only a place on the map. I had traveled much of the world. But that was a country I’d neither visited nor written about. And in the years since, I’ve repeatedly reminded myself how unfair it would be to suggest that all Pakistanis could be judged by the conduct of one rude and ill-tempered individual.

I have to confess, though, that when I hear or read Pakistan described as our partner for peace — even as it persecutes a courageous man who helped us find and eliminate the author of the murderous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — the memory of that distasteful evening does come to mind.

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