Muddled PR on Raymond Davis

The strange case of Raymond Davis poses some desperately difficult questions for Pakistani and American officials who would all rather like the whole thing to disappear pretty fast. Who the hell is he? What was he doing in Lahore? Why did he have a gun? Did he have it legally? Who were the two men he shot dead? How many other Americans are “packing”, as I believe they call it? And, the sixty-four thousand dollar question (or whatever the families of the victim’s would settle for), does he have diplomatic immunity?

Any decent PR operation should stamp on these questions before the media has time to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. Even more so in Pakistan, where journalists cry conspiracy at the first sign of a difference of opinions and where the religious right has a large AK-47 to grind. So the shambolic American response has been something to behold.

First up, this one-line note from the US embassy…

Islamabad, January 28, 2011A staff member of the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore was involved in an incident yesterday that regrettably resulted in the loss of life. The U.S. Embassy is working with Pakistani authorities to determine the facts and work toward a resolution.

But wait a minute, what’s this…

Islamabad, January 29, 2011The United States Embassy in Pakistan calls for the immediate release of a U.S. diplomat unlawfully detained by authorities in Lahore.

The diplomat, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, has a U.S. diplomatic passport and Pakistani visa valid until June 2012.

So he’s not a “staff member of the US Consulate General in Lahore” but a “diplomat, assigned to the US Embassy in Islamabad”. Presumably someone, somewhere realised that limited Consular Immunity would not be enough to get Davis off a double murder rap.

But that wasn’t all. Is Davis even his real name? PJ Crowley, State Department spokesman, categorically denied the name “Raymond Davis” was correct:

QUESTION: A new topic. What can you tell us about this Raymond Davis, the – who works at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore and who apparently shot and killed two would-be robbers? What’s his position there? Does he have diplomatic immunity?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me say three things. First, I can confirm that an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore was involved in an incident today. It is under investigation. We have not released the identity of our employee at this point. And reports of a particular identity that are circulating through the media are incorrect.

QUESTION: What does that mean? You mean the name?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean the name’s wrong.

QUESTION: The name that – the name that Michele —

MR. CROWLEY: The name that’s out there is wrong.

QUESTION: The name that was just mentioned?

MR. CROWLEY: Including that one.

QUESTION: The one that I just used —


QUESTION: — is wrong?

QUESTION: Is wrong?

MR. CROWLEY: Not correct.

Only, ask the Islamabad embassy whether the name is incorrect and they will say they cannot comment, and then say that PJ Crowley did not deny the name was correct, merely that he said the names in the media are incorrect.

Which makes the identity card apparently obtained from the police by various news organisations, stating that Raymond Allen Davis is a Department of Defense contractor, as well as the passport, visa and so on somewhat problematic. Maybe PJ Crowley just got it wrong. Or he got it right and Davis is not his real name.

Anyway, the point of this is not to suggest that Davis was some sort of spy. Rather, it is to point out that such a ballsed-up public response leads an active and energetic local media to draw that conclusion from a confusing and contradictory fog of information. And that is bloody dangerous in Pakistan.

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