Gates worries Pakistan Violence blocks Polio Eradication, But is CIA Partly to Blame?

(By Juan Cole)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done an amazing job in targeting diseases for eradication, and the world is very close to getting rid of polio altogether, in part because the Gates in recent years have given their support to the effort, which began in 1988. Cases have fallen 99% since then.

Bill Gates worried yesterday in an interview with AFP, however, that violence in Pakistan and Nigeria would interfere with the goal of wiping the disease out by 2018.

“Nigeria and Pakistan are going to be tough. The Pakistan violence is evil,” he said, according to AFP.

Unfortunately, as the Scientific American explains, the problem of Taliban violence against vaccination workers in Pakistan was exacerbated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, which in its search for Usama Bin Laden in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad used agents falsely pretending to be vaccinating against Hepatitis B. The ploy failed, but news of it reached the Taliban.

There are only a few dozen cases a year of polio in each of Nigeria and Pakistan now, and these two along with Afghanistan are the last places on earth there are still regular reports of polio cases. The last case in India was reported in 2011. There are occasional cases in other countries because of international travel, but these have been quickly and successfully contained in recent years.

On Tuesday, three polio vaccination workers were gunned down by extremists in eastern Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. The vaccination drive has been halted by the Sindh provincial government carrying it out, as a result.

Also yesterday, the World Health Organization warned that the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar is now the largest reservoir of polio in the world, with 91 infections last year, up from 58 the year before. Polio can paralyze or kill its victims only hours after it is contracted.

There were 30 attacks on polio vaccination workers in 2013.

Intelligence work involves what is called tradecraft, i.e. various forms of trickery. In the murky world of such information gathering, ethics are often sacrificed (indeed, trickery is itself in most ways unethical). The only argument for some forms of tradecraft is that the trickery is being carried out to protect people.

But where operatives deploy tradecraft that interferes with the eradication of a major scourge of humankind, they clearly have stepped over a line. It should be US government policy that the CIA will never again be allowed to impersonate vaccination workers. Otherwise the 3000 who died on September 11, 2001, will be overshadowed by those dead in preventable epidemics of the future.

At a time when the US is grappling with all the dirty tricks played by the National Security Agency with regard to electronic surveillance, it is important to remember that unethical operatives have sometimes acted in rash and foolhardy ways that have produced more harm than good.

Bill Gates is perfectly correct that Taliban violence in Pakistan, which often targets non-combatants, is evil. But the evil has been compounded by unwise false flag tradecraft on the part of out of control operatives who were working for the executive branch of the US government.

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Related video

BBC reports, “PAKISTAN’S ONGOING BATTLE WITH POLIO – BBC NEWS ”

13 Responses

  1. And while we are talking about the CIA in Pakistan, how about its role in setting up and training their ISI, an amoral, destructive organization that has helped make Pakistan a threat to it neighbors and a threat to world peace?

    • Although the CIA supported the ISI with money and weaponary during the Soviet Afghan War, it wasn’t the CIA that set it up. It was set up in 1948 by Major-General Robert Cawthome, a British army officer.

      Given Pakistan’s malignant influence on it’s neigbors, the Pakistan Army’s Sandhurst-trained officer corps (who oversee the ISI) learned well from its colonial masters.

    • “And while we are talking about the CIA in Pakistan, how about its role in setting up and training their ISI”

      The CIA had nothing to do with “setting up” the Pakistani Directorate of InterServices Intelligence. The ISI was established in 1948 and was the brainchild of Australian-born British Army officer, Major General Robert Cawthome, then Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pakistan Army. In those days, the British provided much of the support and training for the Pakistani military. The CIA only got heavily involved under President Zia Ul-Hak when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

      • “The CIA had nothing to do with “setting up” the Pakistani Directorate of InterServices Intelligence.”

        The CIA just ran the post-graduate courses and raised the ISI’s “professionalism.

        • If you can’t get the most rudimentary facts straight, why should anyone believe the observations that follow?

  2. Here we see just one more case of blowback stemming from US exceptionalism, the belief that the rules just don’t apply to us, and consequences be damned.

  3. As the Scottish bard, Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley” and as Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  4. Since the news of the “trick” reached the Taliban because of the Wikileaks documents, and would have otherwise never have set off the spate of – I can’t believe I have to come up with a term for this – vaccine-provider-murders, does that mean Wikileaks bears responsibility for these deaths as well?

  5. Wikileaks responsible “as well?” Diffusing responsibility for how this ops was planned and conducted?

    link to scientificamerican.com

    link to nytimes.com

    ” Local anger was at its height last July, when The Guardian exposed the C.I.A. connection. It was confirmed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in January. Public outrage flared again in May after Dr. Afridi was sentenced. A coalition of aid groups protested to David Petraeus, the director of Central Intelligence.

    “There could hardly have been a more stupid venture, and there was bound to be a backlash, especially for polio,” said Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, a vaccine specialist at Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

    Dr. Bhutta, who also heads the government’s research ethics committee, said both Dr. Afridi and the C.I.A. could be “sued or worse.” To establish their credibility, Dr. Afridi’s teams vaccinated whole neighborhoods in Abbottabad without permission.

    The setback was just one more in the endless war on polio, which was supposed to have been over by 2000. The fight is against the last 1 percent of cases. Paralysis cases worldwide have shrunk from 350,000 in the 1980s to about 600 now. ”
    link to nytimes.com

    Yeah, gotta get those plumbers to work plugging those leaks. forget about stupid POLIO, we got a terrorist to get! One has to grimace at the “more stupid” epithet for the CIA and its operatives. Pursuing “the national interest,” with all subtlety and guile…

  6. In a fantasy world the CIA would feel guilty and send all the people involved to Pakistan to work as un-armed helpers in the Polio eradication effort.

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