Paul Greenberg

Just as Americans are learning how to spell the name of Chen Guangcheng, the heroic Chinese dissident who is now safe in this country, we have a new hero's name to learn, repeat, and shout if necessary:

Shakil Afridi.

He's the Pakistani doctor who carried out a fake immunization program in the neighborhood around the compound in Abbottabad where the world's most wanted mass killer was hiding in plain sight. And maybe with the complicity of local authorities, since it's hard to believe he could have taken up residence -- for years -- in a crowded resort city full of military installations without the protection of our treacherous "friends" in that country.

The good doctor worked with our own spooks to confirm that one of the occupants of the sealed-off estate that had attracted the CIA's attention was none other than one Osama bin Ladin, now happily the late Osama bin Laden.

Before those Navy SEALs interrupted Mr. bin Ladin in his comfortable surroundings and homicidal diversions, the CIA had to be sure they had the right place and the right object of their swift, sure attentions. That's where Dr. Afridi came in with his ostensible vaccination program, whose real object was to vaccinate against terror. The good doctor managed to collect DNA samples from those within the mysterious house to confirm that this was our long-sought man.

It's still not clear what exact role the doctor's ruse played in identifying the world-infamous suspect, if any, but this much is clear: He did his ingenious best. At what turned out to be considerable risk. For now his heroism has been rewarded -- with a 33-year prison sentence for treason.

The verdict was handed down last Wednesday by the usual, errant Pakistani authorities, and Dr. Afridi was trundled off to one of their notorious prisons with indecent haste. Naturally he was denied legal counsel at his trial. Which completes the outrage.

The moral of this story: No heroic deed goes unpunished, especially in that treacherous country.

This kind of outrageous thing calls for more than the usual diplomatic protest and another pro forma speech from our secretary of state. It calls for outrage. Outrage made tangible.

Congress, which may prove the last redoubt of American pride and integrity in these matters, is already responding. The House is restive and the U.S. Senate, with a touch of poetic justice, is moving to cut $33 million in aid to Pakistan -- one for each year of Dr. Afridi's outrageous sentence. Good.

. .

Remember how Congress threatened to cut off all aid to Egypt's bloated military -- billions a year -- unless the innocent Americans being held hostage in that country were allowed to leave? They'd come to teach Egyptians how to conduct free and fair elections. They were rewarded by having their passports expropriated and told they would be tried for espionage.

The threat to the Egyptian establishment's lifeline to American tax dollars did the trick. Our people were allowed to leave, and Egypt now has had its first free presidential election ever. There's a lesson to be drawn from that succession of events, and it isn't to let vicious little bullies off with just a show of protest.

. .

Why hasn't the president of the United States and commander-in-chief of its armed forces been heard from?

Why hasn't our ambassador in Karachi been called home for consultations, and Pakistan's ambassador here been sent packing till this, uh, slight misunderstanding has been cleared up -- and Dr. Afridi breathes free.

While we're at it, let's keep those drones flying. Just to send a message, to wit: No enemy of the United States of America is beyond the reach of American justice. And no friend is beyond the reach of our help -- immediate, forceful and unrelenting.

Dr. Afridi, we're not about to forget you, or let your captors forget about you. Help is on the way. And should be.

. .

Chen Guangcheng is now out of the clutches of Communist/fascist China's bullies, and is settling in at New York University. There are a lot of good Pakistani doctors in this country, Western-trained and British-accented and mannered, who have proven a great asset to American medicine. Isn't there room for another? Especially one whose dedication to ridding the planet of at least one dangerous scourge has already been demonstrated in his native land.

Surely there's an understaffed and overburdened public health agency in this country that could use another well-trained physician who's shown he knows how to conduct an immunization program with the best of results. Like justice. What is this one doing locked up in Pakistan? Until he's out, all that generous American aid should be, too.

. .

How to say this as diplomatically as possible? Let's just say it should be made unmistakably clear to the high contracting parties in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that we the people of the United States have had enough of this crap.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.