Drone hypocrisy

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Where does the political hypocrisy end?  Right now, there’s so much hypocrisy we don’t even know where it began.

Of late, Secretary of State John Kerry has been globetrotting and opining about so many issues that yesterday his own State Department devoted most of its time walking back his statements.  Ever since Kerry became Secretary, the department he leads has been on damage control full-time.

Kerry’s latest tale was related to the timeline for ending drone strikes in Pakistan and other areas of the world – “very, very, soon.”  The State Department distanced itself from that immediately in a “no plans to set a timetable” press briefing.  This morning’s New York Times goes even further: 

There were more drone strikes in Pakistan last month than any month since January. Three missile strikes were carried out in Yemen in the last week alone. And after Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistanis on Thursday that the United States was winding down the drone wars there, officials back in Washington quickly contradicted him.

More than two months after President Obama signaled a sharp shift in America’s targeted-killing operations, there is little public evidence of change in a strategy that has come to define the administration’s approach to combating terrorism.

Most elements of the drone program remain in place, including a base in the southern desert of Saudi Arabia that the Central Intelligence Agency continues to use to carry out drone strikes in Yemen. In late May, administration officials said that the bulk of drone operations would shift to the Pentagon from the C.I.A

Let’s see if I have it right.  Drone attacks are increasing, the announced transfer of drone operations to the Pentagon – begging the question of how that would improve the situation – hasn’t occurred. The not-so-secret American drone base in duplicitous Saudi Arabia is as busy as ever, but not too busy for the Saudis to publicly support the Egyptian military’s martial law regime.  I shouldn’t leave out the administration’s threatened withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that apparently won’t really be full withdrawal after all – though no doubt President Obama will address the nationas our troops “leave” Afghanistan.  Or will he leave the announcement to John Kerry?

Is it any wonder, then, that skepticism surrounds the suddenly silent peace process in Israel/Palestine?  Though Kerry might not have time for skepticism, it’s difficult to blame skeptics considering the facts on the ground and the political double-talk that he and others in the Obama administration engage in.

Imagine now for a moment if against the obvious odds the Israelis and Palestinians did come to an agreement.  Since that agreement would have to be so unbalanced and so limited another, deeper, skepticism would set in.   When the bluff called is worse than the bluff itself you’re in real trouble. 

Meanwhile, the proposed referendums on any agreement are gaining ground on both side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.   If we can imagine an agreement and the skepticism that would engender, imagine the skepticism surrounding Israelis and Palestinians voting on their future.  The entire peace process is fundamentally flawed and inundated with half-truths and lies.  How could either people trust the agreement they were voting on?

Though you have to respect political gamesmanship at times, when it becomes a way of life there is less and less room for real political action.  Everyone knows that what is supposedly happening isn’t. 

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, tried to bail Kerry out the drone mess he created:  “Pakistan’s leaders often say things for public consumption which they don’t mean.  It seems that this was one of those moments where Secretary Kerry got influenced by his Pakistani hosts.”

One of those moments – John Kerry couldn’t help himself.  That’s a generous take on America’s Secretary of State.  But what if Kerry and other American officials, including President Obama, actually mean what they say and what they don’t say?  What if double-talk isn’t about pleasing this host or that host but the policy itself, thinly cloaked?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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