Clinton, butterflies and Bin Laden

Published: January 2, 2013

The writer is a Canada-based editorial cartoonist and his work has appeared in several international publications

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was admitted to a hospital in December 2012 after doctors found a blood clot linked to a recent concussion. Only a couple of days ago, it was publicised that the blood clot was located in a vein between her brain and skull. Concussion symptoms may not be noticed for weeks after injury and are usually difficult to see. Family and friends may miss the telltale signs, as often people look fine — even though they are acting or feeling differently.

Clinton’s concussion, like the butterfly effect, has everything to do with the interconnectedness of life. A seemingly harmless blow to the head may cause memory lapses or blood clots. The butterfly effect describes how a small, deterministic action somewhere on our planet can have broad-ranging consequences somewhere else. The effect is all about the small things — how a tiny butterfly in a tropical rainforest can flap its wings, causing a huge storm to ravage continental Europe. It is said, nothing exists in isolation — the laws of cause and effect control everything.

Dr Shakeel Afridi was accused of carrying out a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to acquire blood samples from Osama bin Laden (OBL) — helping the United States confirm whether the terrorist was living in a nearby house. Pakistani authorities caught Afridi as he was trying to flee the country and he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for abetting a foreign intelligence agency. The sentencing enraged many, who accuse Pakistan of punishing a man who helped track a wanted terrorist rather than investigating suspicious Pakistani networks that may have facilitated OBL to move and live in Abbottabad. The US Senate, as a result, slashed $33 million in foreign aid to Pakistan over Afridi’s conviction — $1 million for each of the 33 years of his sentence.

Afridi used World Health Organisation (WHO) cooler boxes for his clandestine operation even though no official immunisation drives were underway in Abbottabad. Humanitarian organisations protested, at the time of Afridi’s conviction, that intelligence operations under the guise of medical charities would endanger future projects — threatening immunisation efforts in Pakistan. Aid workers have unequivocally specified that they must operate independently from military forces in Pakistan or risk being perceived by locals — and militants — as being partisan and part of a counter-insurgency campaign.

The killing of OBL did not mark the end of extremism. Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the US, once said, “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost; For the want of a shoe the horse was lost; For the want of a horse the rider was lost; For the want of a rider the battle was lost; For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost; And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail”. A few days ago, seven Pakistani charity workers were shot dead by militants. It was only last month that gunmen killed nine healthcare workers who were helping in a national polio vaccination drive in northwest Pakistan. Religious groups defying these immunisation programmes pontificate that health workers are being used by foreign powers to spy on locals. The killings prompted the United Nations and the WHO to stop polio eradication campaigns in Pakistan. Authorities were hoping to vaccinate 250,000 children in the area.

For this “want of the horseshoe nail”, there is no hope for us in 2013.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • John B
    Jan 2, 2013 - 11:20PM

    “if only Afridi did not cooperate with US, all would have been well and good is an illogical logic.

    There is an open propaganda in Muslim countries that vaccination is a western attempt to sterilize the Muslim children because the west fears that Muslim population would overtake and destroy the west and so on. What the Mulahs don’t tell is that polio will leave a crippling population, and measles and rubella will leave behind a sterile population. So, if the West wants to sterilize the Muslim population, they should stop vaccination of children and the mullah’s are doing an effective job it.

    Killing of vaccination workers has been going on before Afridi and US visit to Abottabad.

    If the same illogical logic is applied, if only the PAK blacksmith had made the nail on time, then there would been no terrorism in PAK and around the world. Or as an extreme logic, if only Kadija did not marry Mohammad ….

    Making a collage of unrelated events of history does not make a good history lesson. If only Hillary Clinton had become president, she would not have fainted and suffered concussion.

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  • Parvez
    Jan 3, 2013 - 12:19AM

    Whoever thought up the title did a great job, it aptly describes the write up…………neither here, nor there.

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  • Foolitics
    Jan 3, 2013 - 12:30AM

    There is an attempt to rationalize the killing of health workers by pointing out the Dr. Afridi episode. People who come up with that argument should know that Taliban was against polio vaccination and have killed health workers much before the Afridi episode. But I agree that intelligence agencies should not be using NGO’s but I know that they will never stop doing that. An ethical intelligence agency is an oxymoron.

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  • Ricky
    Jan 3, 2013 - 12:39AM

    If only the writer were a medical professional and not trying to be funny it would be better. Afridi did not just use vaccination. He also used cars, cell phone, Internet and other moderen facilites to trace out OBL. Why don’t we ban them all? Why only target the vaccination programs? Or the terrorists have some more people to hide?

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  • MSS
    Jan 3, 2013 - 1:18AM

    What is the point of this piece? Is the author suggesting that by using Dr Afridi the US has inadvertantly caused problems for Pakistan’s polio campaign or it is his assertion that Pakistani security agencies have done well by catching Dr Afridi and putting him in prison for 33 years? Remebre Radi Mullah Fazlullah who was threatening people with dire consequences for having their children given antipolio drops? The anti-polio programme in Pakistan has been under severe pressure for much longer than the killing of OBL. His analogy of Clinton’s blood clot does not sound a connecting ring. This is an example of poor journalism.

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  • Ricky
    Jan 3, 2013 - 2:05AM

    @John B:
    I agree with you in general. Whether vaccinated or not intermarriages to our first cousins and double/triple cousins are already taking its toll both mentally and physically. I am afraid it is not going to get better in the near future.

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  • Halal Pork
    Jan 3, 2013 - 10:55AM

    The vehemence with which aid workers are being attacked in the tribal areas only proves that the warlords, tribals, deep state that run amok in these areas do not want the identity of their hidden strategic assets to be uncovered.

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  • Jan 3, 2013 - 11:10AM

    One of the early signs of an extremist takeover in Swat was when Radio Mullah started attacking Polio health workers among other crimes. This was way before OBL. And as usual Pakistanis didn’t take it seriously and only seem to make a big deal out of it now because of US involvement.

    While the knowledge on how OBL was outed has made things worse, claiming that these increase in deranged extremist attacks against health workers were due to Afridi is disingenuous, the same way some Pakistanis delude themselves believing there was no terrorism before the war on terror, when there always was. There was extremism then, there’s extremism now, who’ll use any kind of excuse to motivate themselves and ramp up their violence. The butterfly effect in regards to Pak was decades earlier, when it justified terrorist militants and extremists throughout its land.

    In the case of the NGO workers in Swabi, there was a commentator on another article who was more interested in wanting to know what ‘propaganda’ they were spreading than actually condemning the crime or extremists. I suspect this paranoid and condoning of violence mindset prevails.

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  • kaalchakra
    Jan 4, 2013 - 4:53PM

    Absolutely brilliant! The so-called do-gooder Afridi did not realize he was throwing his own nation Pakistan into chaos.

    By the way, Sir, if you don’t mind a personal compliment from this admiring brother, you have a most lovely smile. It must immediately win you your audience’s trust. Congratulations. :)

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