The Diplomatic “(Non) Apology”
Something happened recently that forever destroyed the goodwill of an apology and set a new Gold Standard for ambiguous responses to future diplomatic screw-ups.
On July 3, 2012, US Secretary Hillary Clinton issued a statement over the Salala massacre in Pakistan last November – which had, inter alia, the words “regret”, “condolence”, “mistake” and “sorry” at strategic places with enough ambiguity to leave something for everyone. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/07/03/secretary-clinton-apology-to-pakistan-is-slap-in-face/
For the last seven months, the entire journalist-analyst-strategist universe was incessantly speculating on whether or not the US should apologise over the Salala massacre and its possible implications.
Why an apology? Here’s a small background. As it dawned on Obama that he is at heart a republican, and sovereignty is just a myth, he decided to have some fun with his drone toys and bomb away the bomber-friendly regions of North Waziristan in Pakistan. On November 26, 2011 US-led NATO troops also decided to join the fun and promptly attacked two border patrol check-posts in Salala killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. The troops were carrying just two Apaches, a gunship and were accompanied by a couple of fighter jets for good measure.
This led to a lot of bitching on both sides with claims of “you shot first” and “no, you shot first”, till everybody stopped caring. Pakistan immediately closed all routes of NATO supplies to Afghanistan and the US stopped dropping bags of cash on the roofs of the military and ISI headquarters.
Fearing a backlash from the world peace activists of Difa-e-Pakistan and the rising popularity of the messiah of the masses, Imran Khan, Pakistan started begging the US for an apology so that things could go back to the normalcy of the great old days of sovereignty, democracy and peace. And like an estranged couple with a love-child unable to bear the expenses in this neo-austere world, they decided to mend their relationship – but ONLY for the sake of their beloved Afghanistan. Which meant a cool billion dollars thrown at Pakistan by the US, and Pakistan throwing open the far cheaper GLOC supply routes.
Coming back to Hillary’s statement, the was-it-or-was-it-not apology sent journos, analysts, strategists and their half-brothers into a tizzy in their effort to make sense of the statement and spin it to support their version.
To understand what I am trying to say, let us see some of the tweets.
@nytimes: Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line as Clinton Apologizes
@pragmatic_d: Ha. NYT headline says Clinton Apologizes whereas the story actually explains why it is not an apology.
@dawn_com: Pakistan opens Nato routes after US apology
@OmarWaraich: Artfully diluted in 2 ways: mutual acknowledgment & passive voice in describing mistakes. Not: “We’re sorry for what we did.”
@CChristineFair: Pak Opens GLOCS as Clinton Apologizes
@dhume01: Obama non-apology: the president “personally express(ed) his condolences on the tragic loss of 24 Pakistani soldiers this past week.”
@India_Today: Pak to reopen NATO supply routes as Clinton says ‘sorry’ for air strikes
@seemasirohi: “Sorry”= apology (suppose) but Clinton didn’t admit attack as mistake. Clever drafting on display.
@dhume01: Sorry @Reuters but if @AP @WSJ & @NYTimes agree that it’s an apology, then it’s a US apology
@d_jaishankar: The US “apology” to Pakistan (http://goo.gl/6YUXU) actually reads more like an acknowledgment of Pakistani culpability.
@chellaney: U.S. and Pakistan kiss and make up after a 7-month standoff. All it took was a U.S. apology, with a mollified Pakistan waiving transit fee.
@MichaelKugelman: Hm…good post by @FiveRupees; seems Clinton didn’t really apologize after all. But apparently it sufficed…
@pragmatic_d: Yes, that’s why it is not an apology but a regret. US-Pak Bottomline: Not a penny more for NATO trucks, no apology for Salala attack, no end to drone strikes. But wait for Pak spin now.
@binaryfootprint: She is sorry for the loss of lives not the attack..
You get the point by now.
Anyway, the masterfully-drafted statement by Madame Hillary seems to make everyone happy, with enough material to justify saying “what they have always been saying” and to justify doing “what they have always been doing.”
It also had something for the Taliban. And the religious groups of Pakistan. And Difa-e-Pakistan. They have the NATO supply trucks to attack! And they promptly pledged to die for their cause by killing the drivers. And they have 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven.
All’s Well That Ends Well.
I, for one, can never trust an apology anymore. I am going to put my fingers in my ears and go “Salalalalalalalalalala” blocking out the apologies and feeling nostalgic about the good old days when “lalalalala” meant a young and gorgeous Preity Zinta frolicking under a waterfall and going “Ya Hoooooo!!!”.