This Ambassador Is A Sore For US-Pakistani RelationshipFebruary 8, 2010
By AHMED QURAISHI | WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM
“I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth … America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.”
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—US Ambassador to Pakistan Ms. Anne W. Patterson is becoming quite controversial. She has overseen the worst spell in the relationship between Washington and Islamabad in sixty years and many say she is responsible for at least some of it. Ties weren’t this bad even when the United States unfairly sanctioned Pakistan in 1990 over its nuclear program.
Mr. Thomas Houlahan, a Washington DC-based expert on Pakistani military issues, accused her in 2008 of conducting ‘bunker diplomacy’—that is, conducting United States diplomacy with Pakistan from the barricaded and isolated confines of her office inside a heavily fortified embassy building which in turn is located inside the isolated Diplomatic Enclave in an outer tip of Pakistan’s federal capital.
Her reports back to Washington are misleading, explained Mr. Houlahan, because she doesn’t really know what Pakistanis are thinking.
For information, Washington’s diplomats in Pakistan have been relying on two things: a pro-US government whose principals owe their power to a deal brokered and guaranteed by the US, and a list of proverbial ‘good guys’ that Ms. Patterson’s Embassy recruited from the media, including retired diplomats, military officers and academia, who could take America’s case to the Pakistani public opinion.
This strategy backfired. Big time.
Failing to see that Pakistanis were asking for respect and not confrontation, she shot alarming reports back to Washington warning of an organized campaign in Pakistani media to assail US reputation.
Getting their cue from Ms. Patterson’s reporting, US government’s spin masters countered by launching an organized campaign within the US media and worldwide, accusing Pakistan of ‘anti-Americanism’. The accusation was expanded to include harassment of US diplomats and non-issuance of visas to them. Obviously, Ms. Patterson failed to tell people back in Washington that CIA and other intelligence-related personnel where using diplomatic cover under her guidance to spy on Pakistan.
She also might have overlooked another small detail: the US ambassador in Pakistan is a potential suspect in a case of bribing a senior Interior Ministry official in order to get a cache of banned weapons into Pakistan without the knowledge of the country’s intelligence.
The alarm generated by Ms. Patterson and her team led US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to rush to Pakistan in order to counter the Pakistani media, with carefully-orchestrated interviews and public appearances where Ms. Patterson did her best to keep Mrs. Clinton away from the ‘bad guys’. She ensured that her boss never met those commentators and media people who could provide the harsh, but legitimate, viewpoint.
This misrepresentation on the part of Ms. Patterson led someone no less than US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to land in Pakistan making a highly inappropriate statement, where he accused legitimate critics of US policy toward Pakistan of orchestrating an ‘an organized propaganda campaign’. He probably had no idea that legitimate criticism of policy by Pakistanis claiming they want US not to ignore Pakistani interests did not qualify to be described as ‘an organized propaganda campaign’.
[There are indications that some Pakistanis in Mr. Zardari’s government, and not just Ms. Patterson, helped create this misperception in Washington. Topping the list of Pakistani suspects is Mr. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, a key aide to Mr. Zardari and recently the wizard behind Mr. Zardari’s media outreach campaign. Mr. Haqqani has been quite active behind the scenes in mounting a counterattack on the critics of Mr. Zardari and the critics of US in Pakistan. Recently, large numbers of Pakistani legislators have publicly accused Mr. Haqqani of misusing his official position to poison American perceptions of Pakistan’s military and intelligence.]
So, in essence, Ms. Patterson squandered two great opportunities – the visits of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates – to address the concerns of the harshest critics in the Pakistani media. Due to Ms. Patterson’s failure, it fell to the Pakistani military to discuss those concerns with counterparts in the US military and use that channel to convey Pakistan’s legitimate concerns about how the US was ignoring Pakistani strategic interests in the region.
What Ms. Patterson should have helped resolve in the civilian arena was actually tackled, and somewhat resolved, in the military arena. But the damage is done. United States’ combative ambassador in Islamabad has left a permanent scar in the media record of the two countries, with silly accusations of anti-Americanism and harassment of diplomats.
Last year she fired a secret letter to a newspaper to silence Dr. Shireen Mazari, a defense expert and Columbia graduate, leading to a public spat that gave the impression the US ambassador was out to force newspapers to fire critics of US.
AND NOW: YVONNE RIDLEY
In 2008, Ms. Patterson accused ‘irresponsible elements’ in the Pakistani media of spreading lies about Dr. Aafia Siddiqui being in US custody in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, the British journalist who uncovered Dr. Siddiqui’s presence inside US-controlled Bagram basewrote a damning piece showing that Ambassador Patterson basically lied to the Pakistani public in her 2008 letter, which she sent to Pakistani newspapers.
This is what Ms. Ridley has to say about Ms. Patterson:
“Everyone had something to say, everyone that is except the usually verbose US Ambassador Anne Patterson who has spent the last two years briefing against Dr Aafia and her supporters.
This is the same woman who claimed I was a fantasist when I gave a press conference with Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan back in July 2008 revealing the plight of a female prisoner in Bagram called the Grey Lady.
She said I was talking nonsense and stated categorically that the prisoner I referred to as “650” did not exist.
By the end of the month she changed her story and said there had been a female prisoner but that she was most definitely not Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
By that time Aafia had been gunned down at virtually point blank range in an Afghan prison cell jammed full of more than a dozen US soldiers, FBI agents and Afghan police.
Her Excellency briefed the media that the prisoner had wrested an M4 gun from one soldier and fired off two rounds and had to be subdued. The fact these bullets failed to hit a single person in the cell and simply disappeared did not resonate with the diplomat.
In a letter dripping in untruths on August 16 2008 she decried the “erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of MsAafia Siddiqui”. She went on to say: “Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism…”
When Jamaat Islami invited me on a national tour of Pakistan to address people about the continued abuse of Dr Aafia and the truth about her incarceration in Bagram, the US Ambassador continued to issue rebuttals.
She assured us all that Dr Aafia was being treated humanely had been given consular access as set out in international law … hmm. Well I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
As Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial got underway, the US Ambassador and some of her stooges from the intelligence world laid on a lavish party at the US Embassy in Islamabad for some hand-picked journalists where I’ve no doubt in between the dancing, drinks and music they were carefully briefed about the so-called facts of the case.
Interesting that some of the potentially incriminating pictures taken at the private party managed to find the Ambassador was probably hoping to minimize the impact the trial would have on the streets of Pakistan proving that, for the years she has been holed up and barricaded behind concrete bunkers and barbed wire, she has learned nothing about this great country of Pakistan or its people.
One astute Pakistani columnist wrote about her: “The respected lady seems to have forgotten the words of her own country’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”.
Well I, and many others across the world like me, can’t handle any more lies. America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.
The trust has gone, there is only a burning hatred and resentment towards a superpower which sends unmanned drones into villages to slaughter innocents.
It is fair to say that America’s goodwill and credibility is all but washed up with most honest, decent citizens of Pakistan.
And I think even Her Excellency Anne Patterson recognizes that fact which is why she is now keeping her mouth shut.
If she has any integrity and any self respect left she should stand before the Pakistan people and ask for their forgiveness for the drone murders, the extra judicial killings, the black operations, the kidnapping, torture and rendition of its citizens, the water-boarding, the bribery, the corruption and, not least of all, the injustice handed out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family.
She should then pick up the phone to the US President and tell him to release Aafia and return Pakistan’s most loved, respected and famous daughter and reunite her with the two children who are still missing.”
Far from the way Ms. Patterson portrayal of Pakistanis as a bunch of ‘anti-Americanists’, most Pakistanis believe in the goodness of the American people and that this American here [click to see the video and report] represents America much better than Ms. Patterson has unsuccessfully been trying so far in Pakistan, with all due respect.