Health Workers Being Killed Thanks to CIA?
A Pakistani polio vaccination worker makes cross on a poster during a protest against the killing of their colleagues in Islamabad, on December 19, 2012.
Photo Credit: AFP
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with a look at the capture of Osama bin Laden, which is the focus of the controversial new movie, Zero Dark Thirty, released this week. Billed as "the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man," the film has come under harsh criticism from Republican Senator John McCain for its depiction of torture. McCain, a former POW who was tortured for years at the hands of Vietnamese captors, joined Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin in writing a letter to the chief executive of Sony Pictures, which backed the film, and they said, quote, "We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden. As you know, the film graphically depicts CIA officers repeatedly torturing detainees and then credits these detainees with providing critical lead information on the courier that led to Usama bin Laden." The letter goes on to say the film, quote, "clearly implies that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Usama bin Laden. We have reviewed CIArecords and know that [this] is incorrect."
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to face the fallout from the raid that led to the capture and killing of bin Laden in May 2011. Eight health workers have been killed this week during a nationwide anti-polio drive, as opposition to such immunization efforts in parts of the country has increased after the fake CIA hepatitis vaccination campaign that helped locate bin Laden last year. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic. Pakistani clerics said medical workers should not pay the price for those who collaborated with the CIA.
TAHIR ASHRAFI: [translated] Whatever Shakil Afridi did was treason against his country and against his profession, but that certainly does not mean that you can kill innocent people to avenge that or that you can say that we would much rather let our children become cripples.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined now by Matthieu Aikins, who has just returned from two months in Pakistan, where he examined what led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Matthieu Aikins is a journalist based in Kabul, written for Harper’s, GQ and The Atlantic. His most recent piece is for GQ, called "The Doctor, the CIA, and the Blood of Bin Laden."
Before we talk about your piece, well, let’s talk about something that relates to it: Pakistan continuing to face the fallout of the raid with eight health workers being killed this week during a nationwide anti-polio drive. Explain what’s going on and how that relates to your research, Matt.
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Sure. Well, the background for this is that, as part of the campaign to find bin Laden, the CIA employed this doctor, Dr. Shakil Afridi, to conduct a fake vaccination campaign in the Pakistani town where they believed that bin Laden was hidden. And they wanted to do that in order to get some of hisDNA, right? So, when that came out, obviously, it cast a great deal of suspicion on anyone who was, you know, conducting medical programs or humanitarian programs in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, particularly anyone who was, you know, associated with a Western NGO or taking money from Western programs. So, that’s essentially the background to this. Now, of course, the first responsibility for killing these aid workers lies with the people who did it, but there’s a lot of criticism in Pakistan that the CIA using humanitarian workers as a front for an assassination mission, you know, obviously does tremendous damage and puts the lives of these workers in jeopardy.