Diplomat-speak and the love of Obama

Trump, in contrast, does not need a translator


Paying attention to US foreign policy, one eventually realizes there are gradations in openness. These gradations go from bald plain speaking to the opaque boilerplate of diplomatspeak. Sampling the pronouncements of Trump, Pompeo, Jeffrey, and Obama, we find that Obama holds sway in the art of confessing without anyone noticing. Now of course, we could include many another US spokesperson, Samantha Power, or Jen Psaki, for example, but this is only an essay, not a three-volume set.

We begin with Pompeo.

Translating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is no challenge at all. Just write the opposite. A sample:

“The world must continue to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore their democracy and put an end to Maduro’s tyranny which harms millions of Venezuelans.” A translation into truth, I repeat, is no challenge at all. But why not?
The world must continue to support: “our lackeys mustn’t falter.”
Venezuelan people’s effort: “The US State Department’s effort”

to restore their democracy: “to disenfranchise the people.”

put an end to Maduro’s tyranny: “oust the people’s choice”

which harms millions of Venezuelans: well, they are being harmed all right, but by us.

Too easy, and nothing at all to the smoothiness of Obama, who could admit to war crimes without anyone noticing.

There could be a large list of times Obama told the truth — in a way that no one picks up on. I’ll start with this from his presser after a G7 meeting: “And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there.  Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting.  Their economy has collapsed.  Their lives are disordered.  Many of them are displaced.  Their homes may have been destroyed. 

We need an Obama dictionary! Here is a start.
Russian speakers: inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Bearing the brunt of the fighting: the people of Lugansk and Donetsk are getting bombed.

Their economy has collapsed. Blockaded.

Their homes may have been destroyed. Our putschist government in Kiev is bombing civilian residential areas.

Many of them are displaced: the natural consequence of the bombing of civilian residential areas. No home anymore, therefore, displaced.

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He knows what he has done to the Russian speakers, and confesses, but in diplomatspeak.

Here’s another Obama text “On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.”

This presumes that Russia has obligations under Minsk. No. The terms of Minsk and Minsk II make no mention of Russia. “Push Russia, encourage Ukraine.” Well, Ukraine actually did have obligations, and has never met any of them. The US encouragement has been to supply military advisors and military equipment.

One confession is still on line, the transcript of  Obama’s February 1, 2015 CNN interview “And since Mr. Putin made this decision around Crimea and Ukraine — not because of some grand strategy, but essentially because he was caught off-balance by the protests in the Maidan and Yanukovych then fleeing after we had brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine.” What does it mean? Frankly it means this: Putin made the decision as a consequence of our coup in Kiev. First, the Maidan riots, the flight of Yanukovich, the “brokered” coup, and then, the acceptance of Crimea into Russia.
Of course, had Crimea not been allowed back home, and was still “Ukraine” the US could have leased the navy base at Sevastopol from its new puppets in Kiev. Kiev did give them Ochakov. See my earlier essay The Crimea: American or Russian.

“We occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do.”
This seems so innocuous, but experience shows it means economic strangulation, coups, regime change proxy war.

And then again some confessions have passed as mere jesting: “turns out I’m really good at killing people.” Ha ha.

Trump, at least, has no knowledge of diplomatspeak, nor any skill in it:

Compare “We’re keeping the oil.”


“A second possible reason is to keep the oil fields out of the hands of Assad, and possibly the Russians, and maintain as a bargaining chip for the opposition in the course of working out some kind of settlement with the Assad regime.” [NPR, Oct. 31, 2019]

On this same heading, contrast the words of US “ambassador” to Syria, James Jeffrey, pure diplomatspeak. “The collapse of the Syrian pound proves that Russia and Iran are no longer able to sustain Assad’s government, while the regime itself is no longer able to manage an effective economic policy,” Jeffrey says. “And, if he agrees to our terms, and has any regard for his people…”  Oh my! “the Collapse of the Syrian pound” —  Now how on earth did that happen?
In the TIME news item of June 10, “United States Special Envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, announced on Sunday that Washington had offered to lift Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad out of his crisis.”  Well, we ask, if it is really Assad’s crisis, how can the US help? Simply, the US could stop causing it.

Just as Lavrov can translate Obama, the Syrian foreign ministry has no problem translating Mr Jeffrey: Here, From Stephen Sahiounie’s account in Mideast Discourse:
United States Special Envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, announced on Sunday that Washington had offered Syria a proposal to end the US sanctions. The Foreign and Expatriates Ministry in Damascus said that the statements by James Jeffrey constitute a clear admission by the Trump administration of it being directly responsible for the suffering of Syrians.

Again and again, confessions in diplomatspeak can fly right over the heads of the inattentive. Should we, for that reason, be grateful to Trump and his accomplice Pompeo?

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