Warren Weinstein, who was abducted in Pakistan in August, is the first private American citizen taken hostage by terrorists in Pakistan since Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in 2002. We all know how that turned out. Even with only one abduction of an American civilian every 10 years, Pakistan is a dangerous place for American civilians, especially Jewish ones. Weinstein was taken by force eight months ago from his guarded Lahore home, and his whereabouts have been unknown ever since.
The 70-year-old development expert was working on stabilization in the considerably unstable country as a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The work of the State Department agency emphasizes long-range economic and social development assistance to foreign countries with an eye to “extending a helping hand to people overseas struggling to make a better life.”
As wonky and well-intentioned as its mission might sound, the USAID has a pretty rocky record recently of consultants running afoul of local customs. In 2009, Alan Gross, an American consultant working on a USAID contract in Cuba was arrested at Jose Marti Airport while working under an $8.6 million USAID contract to “promote democracy” in the proudly Communist country. He is serving a 15-year sentence for undermining the island’s government. So far, the Obama administration has not been able to secure his release from a Cuban prison and not even the Pope can make headway with the Castro government.
But Gross’s situation is not nearly as perilous as that of Weinstein in Pakistan. From the looks of a stark video released over the weekend by Al-Sahab, al-Qaeda's media arm, “Jewish American Warren Weinstein“ is perilously close to being another bloody example of when the terrorists win.
“My life is in your hands, Mr. President. If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die,” the shaky looking prisoner told the camera. “I've done a lot of service for my country, and I would hope that my country will now look after me and take care of me and meet the demands of the mujaheddin.”
When Weinstein was abducted, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “The Pakistanis are leading a very vigorous investigation.” Given the current tenor of U.S.-Pakistani relations, I don't see our edgy allies being that helpful in tracking down and rescuing the kidnapped project chief from Rockville, Md.
As country chief for Pakistan since at least 2004, Weinstein's job for the USAID contractor JE Austin Associates was to oversee “grants to honey and dairy producers,” training “in Artificial Insemination” to Pakistan’s tribal area households, and particularly, strengthening “enterprises in the gems and marble sectors.”
The projects may be worthy, but hardly worth it for Weinstein and his loved ones.
Watch an Associated Press video on the Weinstein case below:
Bonnie Goldstein is on Twitter @KickedByAnAngel.