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Augusto Pinochet; Barak Obama; democracy; Egypt; ethics; Foreign Policy; G L Peiris; Hillary Rodham Clinton; Hosni Mubarak; human rights; International Politics; Jimmy Carter; Margaret Thatcher; Political Accountability; Realpolitik; Shah Of Iran; Sri Lanka; Torture; United States


This working paper (3000 words, including 19 footnotes) was written on January 29-31, 2011, as events unfolded in Egypt. It was published in the present version as an article on January 31, 2011, by OpenDemocracy, and may be republished with attribution for non-commercial purposes following the Creative Commons guidelines. The article’s sub-title is “From the Shah of Iran to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister to Egypt’s Mubarak, cozy relationships in US foreign policy need to be questioned.” Its point of departure is the Thatcher-Pinochet friendship, which is related to Hillary Clinton's interview in Egypt in 2009 when she downplayed the US Department of State's own report of serious human rights violations in Egypt (including a torture apparatus) while emphasizing, "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family." The article then shows how a version of family-ties coziness has plausibly played a role in how Sri Lanka has managed to mute, to the point of near-silence, US criticism. I take the reader through the first joint press conference held by Secretary of State Clinton and the just-appointed Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka G L Peiris, who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar alongside former US President Bill Clinton. Amongst the notable omissions and elisions in Hillary Clinton’s remarks during that press conference was the complete failure to address her own Department of State’s report on approximately 300 incidents of possible war crimes in Sri Lanka that needed investigating. I return to Egypt in its present crisis by comparing the 30 years of support for Mubarak to the decades of US support for the Shah of Iran, which support then merged with President Jimmy Carter's inability to disentangle a personal rapport with the Shah from Carter's supposed human rights-friendly foreign policy. The piece ends with consideration of the implications for US foreign policy of cozy personal relationships with key politicians in repressive regimes – implications that go beyond adding a layer of complexity, extending to questions of ethical accountability.