Patrick Henningsen
November 17, 2011

When the political elite reach for pop culture in order to appear ‘in touch’, it often turns into a political circus. So when Washington sends rappers to Pakistan on a diplomatic mission, you can expect the outcome to be nothing less than bizarre.

Hillary Clinton and her US State Department brain trust seem to have gaffed again this week, this time using Chicago hip-hop break dancing troupe, the FEW Collective, for a diplomatic mission to Pakistan – part of its “cultural diplomacy program”.

According to Reuters, the group “danced, rapped and recited poetry to a Westernized, educated elite audience of young Pakistanis”.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse, as the group were arrested by Pakistani security forces on Wednesday outside of Islamabad, whilst taking photographs of sensitive installations in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and for allegedly making video footage of the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, according to US Embassy sources.

US officials indicate that the hip-hop diplomats were unaware of any wrong doing, were not engaging in any spy activity, and had no idea that they were photographing sensitive installations.

Although the U.S. have attempted to buy Pakistani loyalty by paying them off to help in fight against terror, Americans still remain highly unpopular among the Pakistani public.

Over the last decade, the US have transferred billions of dollars in cash to Pakistan – during the rein of wealthy military dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Since the dictator’s exit from the Pakistani throne, US incursions into the country have been rife, with President Obama carrying out an ever-increasing operation of unmanned military drone attacks on Pakistani villages along the Afghan border.

Washington insists they are fight al-Qaida, but as a result of the already thousands of innocent Pakistani civilian deaths at the hands of the US military, America’s image in the country has gone from bad to worse.

Intelligence relations between the two countries are obviously tense. Recently, Pakistan and its ISI have cracked down on a number of CIA agents and informants within the country, most recently with the arrest of the CIA informant who allegedly monitored Osama bin Laden’s ‘compound’ in the run-up to Washington’s staged raid and alleged assassination of the terror icon on May 1, 2011.

Previous to that, CIA agent Raymond Davis was arrested in Pakistan for the double murder as Davis shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore who he claimed were trying to rob him, followed by a third Pakistani man who was killed in a hit and run by Americans apparently on their way to rescue Davis. To add insult to injury, it seems that Davis was working under the cloak of private security contractor Xe – formerly known as Blackwater. The incident is very likely to have damaged Xe’s ability to provide cover for CIA operations on the ground in Pakistan.

Either the US State Department are desperate to improve their public relations in Pakistan – or they are desperate to gather real intelligence in Pakistan due to a lack of agents on the ground.

This latest move looks to have back-fired on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, so look for Washington to find a way to re-spin this operation into something that passes as a good use of public money overseas.

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