Undoubtedly, you have heard of a Pakistani physician named Shakeel Afridi. The good doctor recently was sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison, ostensibly for providing medical assistance to a rebel fighting group. In truth, he was being punished for helping the United States find Osama bin Laden, although the court denies this is true.
Needless to say, there is much anger in the United States over the sentence meted out to Afridi. “The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. Afridi,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “We regret the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence.”
Said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One, “We continue to see no basis for Dr. Afridi to be held. I think it’s an important point that any assistance rendered by anyone in the effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice was assistance not against Pakistan, but against al Qaida and against Osama bin Laden.”
We agree that Afridi’s arrest and conviction are an outrage. We also agree that Afridi was not spying on Pakistan for the United States. He was spying on Bin Laden.
We are perplexed, however, at the double standard at work here. To be sure, Jonathan Jay Pollard, at the time a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, violated federal law when he sold secret intelligence reports to Israel. He was not spying on the United States, however. Rather, he was spying in the United States on Arab governments, and specifically on their military secrets.
What he did was wrong, but it did allow Israel to prepare, for example, against Iraq’s use of chemical warheads on its Scud missiles in the first Gulf War. Iraq did not use such warheads, but it had them and could have used them. Pollard’s information helped Israel get ready.
There is no excuse for what Pollard did. He was convicted for it and he has served 25 years in prison for it. In a real sense, Afridi did what Pollard did, yet the United States thinks he should go free.
There must be no double standard here. If the United States believes Afridi should be freed without serving any part of his sentence, Pollard should be freed after serving 25 years of his life term.