Amy Davidson Sorkin
Raymond Davis: Guns, Cars, and Bagels
October 5, 2011
Raymond Davis, a former C.I.A. contractor, was in a courtroom in Denver on Tuesday, where he was formally charged with second-degree assault. How different was that from his appearance, just a few months ago, before a court in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was charged with murder? That question came up when the district attorney suggested that it might be a good idea if Davis wasn’t allowed to carry a gun while the charges were pending. According to the Associated Press
, his lawyer, William Frankfurt, replied that Davis needed a gun, since he is now working as, of all things, a firearms instructor, and that anyway the incidents were “miles and worlds apart.” Miles, yes, but worlds? Pakistan is not in another world, behind some dimensional door; everything that happens there can’t, and shouldn’t, be left behind. And beyond that, there are some common elements to both stories: cars, rage, questions of privilege.
Davis shot two men dead on a crowded street in Lahore after they approached his car on a motorbike; he said he thought they were trying to rob him. A Land Cruiser our consulate sent to help him drove so recklessly that it hit and killed a bystander on the way. When he was arrested, he claimed diplomatic immunity; the State Department backed him up. He was let go after the payment of about $2.3 million in compensation to the dead men’s families. The identity of the payer was left vague, but one can assume that, washed through our substantial aid to Pakistan or not, it was ultimately American money. By any measure, the Davis case made a dangerously bad relationship worse. (I wrote about Davis in February.
In Denver, Davis allegedly assaulted a man named Jeff Maes in front of an Einstein Bros. Bagels shop in Highlands Ranch, Colorado; he said that he thought Maes was trying to steal his parking spot. This apparently wasn’t some frivolous-lawsuit push, but a sustained fight, in which Maes believes he was briefly knocked unconscious. “I thought to myself, he’s a pretty tough guy. I guess I’m somewhat grateful there’s five men that broke it up,” Maes told the local ABC station
. After the arrest, Davis was let go after paying $1,750; that has been raised to $10,000. The minimum sentence for the sort of assault he’s charged with is five years in jail. Davis hasn’t entered a plea yet (the next hearing is December 15th). Meanwhile, the judge said that he could keep a gun for his job, which is in the D.C. area, but couldn’t carry it in Colorado.
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Maes told ABC that his daughters, who are six and eight years old, began crying as they watched Davis hit him. That is bad enough. In Lahore, the teen-age widow of one of the dead men killed herself by swallowing rat poison. We send people on missions, without really knowing why; we understand even less well the anger left behind in the places they have been and, perhaps, inside themselves. Davis may well have always been the sort of person who lashed out—perhaps his work for the C.I.A., and before that in the Army, didn’t alter him at all. Plenty of people come back from war more inclined to break up fights than start them. But we must know that we have not done enough to help even our soldiers, who have all the connections the military provides, understand how what they have seen and done has changed them. What about private contractors, of which there are more and more? And what, less self-centeredly, of those nearer to the actual shooting? Were there children sitting in cars in that Lahore traffic, and what did they see?
William Frankfurt, Davis’s lawyer, also said, “It’s important to recognize where the incident took place. It was a war zone.” Is the middle of a Pakistani city a war zone? Pakistan, at least nominally, is still our ally. Or is the war zone now wherever we think we see our enemies, if only out of the corner of our eye? Is the battlefield now not just Kandahar but Lahore, or Yemen, where we carried out the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki last week? Why not Hamburg, then, or London, or a bagel store in Colorado?
Raymond Davis, right, with his attorney William Frankfurt. Photograph by Ed Andrieski/AP Photo.
Amy Davidson Sorkin
has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2014. She has been at the magazine since 1995, and, as a senior editor for many years, focussed on national security, international reporting, and features.
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