Shall We Have A Bin Laden List?

I already wrote about the so-called Magnitsky list.  This list was composed by our two noble statesmen,  Sen. Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. McGovern (D-MA) as a response to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management.  Seriously ill at the time of his imprisonment at the Butyrka prison in Moscow, Magnitsky died in November 2009 as a result of negligence on the part of the prison administration.  Reacting to Magnitsky's death, President Medvedev fired 20 senior prison officials, including deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service.  This, however, didn't mollify Sen. Cardin and Rep.  McGovern.  Frustrated with the fact that no single individual was charged with Magnitsky's death,  they introduced a bill that froze  financial assets and blocked U.S. entry visas for 63 "responsible" Russian officials.   

Two things puzzle me in the whole story.  First,  the number of people (63!) allegedly responsible for the death of a single individual.  Even in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the number of culprits is usually smaller.  (For example, the historic Nuremberg Trial featured only 24 defendants.)  Second, what was so special about this particular death, however tragic as any death is?  People die every day in prisons around the world, including, unfortunately, in cases of criminal negligence by the prison administrations.  Why did Sen. Cardin and Rep. McGovern single out this particular case which even the Washington Post recently characterized as "an example of mid-level Russian corruption."  Don't Sen. Cardin and Rep. McGovern have anything else to do than to investigate every case of "mid-level Russian corruption"?

The second question sounds especially relevant given the facts coming out of last week's death of Osama bin Laden.  We learned that for the past 6 years, bin Laden wasn't hiding in a stone cave in the mountains at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as was widely believed, but rather was living a comfortable life in an upper-middle-class city of Abbottabad, Pakistan.  It's inconcievable to imagine that Osama's whereabouts were a secret for Pakistani authorities.  The only intrigue is whether they simply "knew" about his presence in Abbottabad or instead provided an active operational "cover."  It also remains to be seen whether this knowledge rested with a bunch of middle-level military and ISI officers or went all the way to the top of the Pakistani military and intelligence leadership.

If Sen. Cardin, Rep. McGovern and their colleagues in Congress are so attentive to what's happening in far-away countries, why didn't they create a "bin Laden list", a list of the top Pakistani military and intelligence officials who should be held responsible for harboring the al-Qaeda leader, whether willingly or by an outrageous dereliction of professional duty.  Those individuals must be denied entry into the United States — and their banks accounts frozen — until the Pakinstani government provides a comprehensive report on who, when and what knew about bin Laden's multiyear sojourn in the Abbottabad villa.  And mind you, we aren't talking here of "an example of mid-level Russian corruption;" we're talking about the world's most wanted terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.   

No chance.  No such list is going to be composed any time soon, if ever.  Our lawmakers even refuse considering to stop the lavish stream of military and economic aid (around $2.6 billion in 2010) that we shovel at Pakistan every single year.

A paradox?  Not quite.  As always, money talks in Washington.  As Huffington Post reported a few days ago:

"Pakistan's Washington lobbyists have launched an intense campaign on Capitol Hill to counter accusations that Islamabad was complicit in giving refuge to Osama bin Laden."

A representative of a lobbying firm Locke Lord Strategies – paid $900,000 a year by the Pakistani government – told the Post that:

"Since bin Laden's death…he has been on Capitol Hill every day to promote Pakistan's position on the bin Laden killing, talking to congressmen, senators and their aides." 

Apparently, they listen.

I have been saying this repeatedly: Russia must begin promoting its interests in Washington using professional lobbyists.  A functional pro-Russian lobby would ensure that the "Magnitsky list" shared the same fate with the "bin Laden list": it would have never appeared.    

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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19 Responses to Shall We Have A Bin Laden List?

  1. Hi Eugene,
    Very convenient to have OBL assassinated, as opposed to letting him yap about the convergence of some of his activity in the Balkans and Southwest Asia, with Western neolib to neocon leaning agendas.
    Along with some other countries, Pakistan remains a complex issue for the American foreign policy establishment. In a strategically important position, that country has a mix of views.
    Appreciate your recent takedown of Krauthammer – one of the Fox News “all stars.”
    On another recent piece of yours: from a distance, Rogozin comes across as someone with loose cannon attributes, prone to getting periodically kicked downstairs and upstairs.
    In the process of working on something right now that goes against the grain of the anti-Russian slanting out there. Concerns little known material, supplemented by valid opinions, downplayed at the more high profile of venues.
    Getting a team together in the form of alternative media and PR, must (for quality sake) also utilize the best available sources.
    A blessed Victory Day.

  2. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Mike,
    Being a principle opponent of the death penalty, I can suspend this particular belief in this particular case of OBL. And, after having watched the KSM debacle, I can also live with one exceptional “extra-judicial” killing. I guess that for you, a New Yorker, and me, a Bostonian, the 9/11 has some peculiar meaning that I don’t expect some other people to understand. OK, I can live with this too…
    Sure, I don’t call to just strip Pakistan of all aid, but they get $1.4 billion in economic aid and $1.2 billion in military/intelligence aid. I’d love to make sure that none of this $1.2 billion was used to cover OSB.
    I agree with you on Rogozin — I personally don’t like him — but there is something in him that doesn’t let the Kremlin to just finish him up but instead forces to keep him “in shape” (albeit at a distance). I guess that a principled nationalist, as he is, with connections in military and secret services establishments will always have a value in Russia, especially in those murky pre-election times.
    Happy Victory Day to you too!

  3. Mark says:

    I’d submit that’s more or less what Anna Chapman and her “group” essentially were – lobbyists, using unclassfied networks to gather information that was freely available in the public domain. For their pains they were rounded up, branded a “spy ring” and ejected from the country to great and enthusiastic fanfare.
    Take a look at what Pakistani-government lobbyists and influence-peddlers do, in Washington, on behalf of their patron. I think you’ll find it not a great deal different, but the manner in which they’re treated is worlds away.

  4. Point well taken Mark.
    I respectfully submit that Anna Chapamn appeared to do little if anything, in terms of offering coherent replies to the kind of unfair stances taken against Russia in mass media, body politic and some influential academic circles.
    Getting other people on board with different and plausible thoughts to engage these particulars is a step in the right direction for pro-Russian advocacy.

  5. Eugene Ivanov says:

    There is a significant difference: the Pakistani lobbyists are registered under FARA, whereas Anna & CO. were not. Remember? The only official charge that they faced was being “unregistered foreign agents.” Money laundering was attempted but didn’t stick.
    The moral? Register under FARA and do whatever you want:)

  6. Виктор Кривчун says:

    “Я говорил об этом неоднократно: Россия должна начать сама продвигать свои интересы в Вашингтоне, используя профессиональных лоббистов.”
    Вряд ли это возможно, пока в США, особенно в Госдепе, сильны настроения типа “Русские идут!”.
    “I have been saying this repeatedly: Russia must begin promoting its interests in Washington using professional lobbyists.”
    It is possible scarcely, while in the USA, especially in Gosdep, the moods of type are strong “Russians go!”.

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Спасибо за Ваш комментарий.
    Ну, тут я с Вами не согласен. 100 стран лоббируют свои интересы в США, и среди них есть такие, которых здесь тоже сильно не любят. Чем Россия хуже или, скажем так, чем она отличается от других? Наймите зарегистрированных лоббистов с хорошей репутацией — а им до фени на кого работать, лишь бы платили — и поехали. Никакой Госдеп не может запретить лоббистам общаться с членами Конгресса.
    Конечно, все требует времени, и нельзя ждать результатов завтра. Так под лежачий камень…
    Приходите еще.

  8. I’m somewhat mixed on OBL’s assassination Eugene. I very much identify with your comments.
    While not viewing bin Laden’s death with the sympathy especially accorded to friends, relatives, friendly acquaintances and seemingly likeable people from a distance, part of me also wonders what additional info. could’ve been gained by his remaining alive in captivity, with a range of follow-up – inclusive of matters which might shed light on some of the negatives of the governments he opposed.
    On the matter of becoming more well versed by keeping someone alive, Lee Harvey Oswald suddenly comes to mind.
    Some thought provoking pieces that concern bin Laden’s death and Pakistan:
    The Ugly Reality Behind the Killing of bin Laden
    Assassinating bin Laden

  9. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    I like the Counterpunch crowd and generally sympathize with their arguments. But perhaps not this time.
    For DiMaggio, I’d make only one remark: since 9/11, the U.S. has given to Pakistan about $20 billion. Not the other way around. I see no reason to treat them as an “equal” partner.
    I’d love to live in an ideal world Cohn seems to be living in: with all terrorists neatly arrested, trialed and imprisoned. I just don’t feel that Cohn and me are living in the same world.

  10. I agree with you Eugene on the notion that the US is and (in real world terms) should be the kingfish in relations with Pakistan and not vice-versa.
    It has been suggested that the way OBL was assassinated might make Pakistan’s government more wary of a possible future scenario of covert action taken against its nuclear arsenal. I don’t quite buy the idea that OBL around and about made Pakistan a more valuable asset – since his living presence was often blamed on that country.
    Besides, the intell folks seem to generally laud the success in locating OBL, while realizing that his leaving the scene doesn’t eliminate the kind of baggage he peddled. Along with some other issues, the last point makes Pakistan a continued focus of attention.
    So far, the fallout in the “Muslim street” (not so comfortable with such a term) doesn’t appear to be so bad (with all things considered).
    Among many lawyers, there’s often a ramifications approach not as evident with others. There was a likely calculation that a trial followed by execution might produce unwanted disclosures, getting inconvenient attention.
    Regarding spin: last night, one of the guests on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC show un-hesitantly referred to Pakistan as a democracy with no raised eyebrows. Upon hearing that comment, I gather that you can surmise my immediate comparative thought.

  11. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Kleptocracy would be more appropriate term to describe Pakistan, IMHO.
    In a punchline, the problem I have with Pakistan is this: they take our money “to fight terrorism.” A part of this money — and would be nice toi understand which — went to creating Taliban, organizing the Mumbai terrorist act and, most likely, “covering” OBL. As a result, we have more terrorists to fight. And they are asking for more money.
    An opportunistic thought — just thought: could it be that the terrorist activity in Pakistan will actually go down should we stop funding the ISI?

  12. Eugene,
    How appropriate your comments, after reading this one on different scenarios:
    If I’m not offhand mistaken, the author has written some erudite pieces on Russia related issues.

  13. Sergey says:

    Hi Eugene,
    I agree with you on a rhetorical level. Seriously, though, there are two disagreements I have with the post.
    First, it’s probably not in Russian interests to lobby for those officials: some of them might very well be guilty, in which case they directly damaged Russian interests. Why spend money protecting them? In fact, I suspect there was a silent or not-so-silent agreement to the Magnitsky list for the Presidential administration. Russian lobby should work on something more noble, IMHO.
    Second, mid-level corruption is an easy target. Even if those guys were crystal clear public servants, Russia would have been OK by letting them slip into private life and advising to vacation in Crimea rather than Nice. USA won’t need to arrest them, and everyone would be happy. But the Pakistani guys who have covered for OBL are too important – they have too many contacts in Afghanistan and tribal areas, and too central to the Great Game with India. Pakistan just cannot throw them to the wolves or let them open ‘contractor’ security service, having as much trouble as they do with them being security service employees. USA knows that and cannot push too hard.

  14. Eugene says:

    Thanks Sergey,
    I didn’t suggest to “lobby” for these guys; I suggested to lobby for Russian interests. It’s not in Russia’s interest to let US congressmen to meddle in its purely domestic issue — without any serious understanding of what they are talking about. I don’t think you have any illusion that Cardin and MacGovern really looked in the matter. William Browder — surprise! — heavily lobbied the matter on Capitol Hill, and I suspect some money was spread around in the process. At the very least, Russia should respond with “anti-lobbying” activities to what amounts to lobbyibg activity. (“Подобное лечат подобным.”)
    I totally disagree with you on Pakistan. Pakistan is THE major sponsor of terrorism in the world, and the guys you suggest protecting as “important” are in the core of this vicious cycle: the military kills the terrorists that ISI is producing.
    The way our leader treat the Pakistanis amazes me. We wanted to talk to AQ Khan to know what exactly he sold to Iran and N Korea — they didn’t let us. We want to know who and what knew about OBL — they say no one had a clue. Fine. But why on earth are we paying them about $3 billion a year? What services exactly do they provide in return?
    OK, Pakistan is rather complicated topic; I stop here.

  15. Russian oligarchs aren’t by definition anti-Russian patriot.
    There’s money to support a solid counter-activism to a subject like the one discussed in this piece:
    Making the money available and effectively using it, will serve to improve the situation.

  16. eugene Goom says:

    At the heart of Cardin-McCaine’s bill is a corruption.It tells us nothing about Magnitsky’s case.Yet,it is a “tell”,to use a poker’term about the corrupt approch in high offices of the US Senate,for,only substantial contributions may explain the priority attached to this bill,while not a single US citizen is involved…I completely agree with your point on Russian government’s ignorant dismissal of american political culture of lobbying.
    Never mind the Hermitage(or Magnitsky’s?!) case:US is the world’s most important player and the only way to shape it’s policy’s is to “joint the club”.period!.

  17. eugene Goom says:

    ..Вряд ли это возможно, пока в США, особенно в Госдепе, сильны настроения типа “Русские идут!”.
    Russia is an entrenched sexy enemy in an American psyche. That is to say: the price of an an admission is that much higher.(Including tipping to a doormen…)There!

  18. I believe people die every day in prisons throughout the world, in cases of criminal negligence by prison administrations.

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