America’s Not-So-Covert Drones

It is difficult to keep a CIA programme “covert” when it involves regularly destroying buildings and cars in Pakistan’s tribal areas. People tend to notice that kind of stuff. And the deaths. However, President Obama’s drones have been exactly that – unheralded and unconfirmed even though we all know what’s going on.

So it was with some surprise that I read in the weekend’s papers that the new US ambassador to Islamabad had embarked on a new policy of openness.

“Drone strikes are part of the war on terror and these are aimed at targeting common enemies,” Ambassador Cameron Munter told a news conference in Karachi.

Ambassador Munter is, I’m told, known for his slick dealings with the media. So it’s disappointing to now learn that he has no recollection of confirming the existence of the CIA’s not-so-secret drone programme. Whether or not his memory was helped or hindered by a subsequent telephone bollocking he received from Richard Holbrooke is anyone’s guess.

Anyway, if there is anything to learn from this episode, it is that Pakistani journalists take a hardline view of notions of what exactly the term “off the record” means. And, when it comes to hyprocrisy and the deliberate clouding of an issue that would be better off in the open – underlining just how closely the US and Pakistan are working together, and offering an alternative narrative to the “good”-Muslims-must-oppose-the-West view popular here – then I’m all for publishing and being damned.

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