Secretary of State John Kerry has an unfortunate affliction. He appears incapable of making public comments about the situation in Egypt without describing a transition to democracy that exists only in his imagination.
Kerry met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry at the State Department on February 9, 2016 and immediately started hallucinating. Egypt is going through a period of unprecedented state violence and mounting economic, political, and social instability. But according to Kerry, it's just "going through a political transition."
In fact, the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is intent on denying basic political freedoms to Egyptians and crushing political dissent. President Sisi's Egypt is markedly repressive and authoritarian, more severe than anything seen in Egypt for over 50 years. But according to Kerry, "there is a transformation that is currently being worked on."
In Secretary Kerry's world there are no human rights violations in Egypt -- at least none that he is prepared to speak about in public. Despite the mounting evidence of widespread torture, jailings of tens of thousands of political detainees, and "disappearing" (a.k.a. abducted by security forces and held incommunicado in secret prisons) non-violent government critics and human rights defenders, Kerry made no reference to human rights violations in his remarks welcoming Minister Shoukry to Washington.
Unfortunately, Secretary Kerry's omissions and delusions have consequences. Foreign Minister Shoukry asserted in his remarks that "Egypt... continues to play a positive and productive role in various efforts, international efforts, underway to eradicate the terrorist threat." In reality, the repressive policies of the Egyptian government undermine U.S. efforts to counter violent extremism.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly emphasized that repression and human rights violations fuel the grievances on which violent extremism feeds. Kerry has noted that counterterrorism policies that violate human rights might kill terrorists, but will produce more terrorism.
The United States undermines its credibility and weakens its own headline foreign policy initiatives, such as its CVE program, when it fails to raise human rights principles with key allies with poor human rights records like Egypt. Kerry needs to stop living in a dream world and admit the truth on Egypt.