Tuesday, June 28
A Bodyguard of Lies
Yuri Andropov - Head of the KGB, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Jazz fan, habitue of Studio 54, secretly attended Woodstock music festival. Only the first two facts are true. Source.
Lies have always been a tool in politics for good and ill. For example, in the planning for the liberation of France in 1944, the disinformation efforts that the Allies used against the Germans as to when and where the invasion would occur were described thus,
“sometimes the truth is so precious that she requires a bodyguard of lies”.As we shall see below, some governments are so entirely defined by their lies that the only truth to be found within is a naked will to power at all costs. There are no noble purposes to be found or imagined.
ministry of truth
The hero of George Orwell’s novel of a totalitarian nightmare for mankind, 1984
Winston worked in the RECORDS DEPARTMENT (a single branch of the Ministry of Truth) editing and writing for The Times. He dictated into a machine called a speakwrite. Winston would receive articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, in Newspeak, rectify. If, for example, the Ministry of Plenty forecast a surplus, and in reality the result was grossly less,This process of everlasting organic "rectification" of the truth and reality is an essential element of dictatorship. The constant re-invention of the past and present is familiar to observers of the Ethiopian political scene created by the Dergue and the EPRDF and lies at the heart of the party ideology of revolutionary democracy that is constructed of cast off bits of Marx, Lenin and Mao that are somehow supposed to come together to creat a free market and democracy.
Winston's job was to change previous versions so the old version would agree with the new one. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs - to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
For example, this fascinating Meskel Square interview with the Information Minister is certainly worth reading in its entirety but the following excerpts from a section highlighted by the interviewer is for an understanding of the internal logic of the Ethiopian government.
Question: But do you not think that on Wednesday when police opened fire and 36 people were killed, that that damaged Ethiopia's reputation which has been very good internationally?The Information Minister is often criticized for the statements he makes and while this and other questions may have been anticipated, this interview makes us consider that there may be a method here that we missed. It has probably long been obvious to others that he is meant to be a lightning rod for critics so that he becomes the issue and not the policies he defends or his superiors who actually come up with those policies.
Answer: Well, I definitely believe that it will tarnish the image of the country. But, what was the alternative? Let's look at it. The alternative was strife between the different nationalities of Ethiopia which might have made the Rwandan genocide look like childsplay. This was the alternative.
So, I think we shouldn't look into a single picture and conclude. We need to look into the whole process – what this country is trying to do. We're moving forward but unfortunately, in this very short period of time, some mishaps have occurred in this country. We definitely are ready to investigate it and we are definitely sure that we will come up with the legal measures based on the results of the investigation.
Nevertheless I don’t think that Ethiopia deserves to be judged by this isolated event. People need to look into the larger picture and I think we need to get the understanding of the developed world and the Ethiopian people as well.
The interview is interesting for what is said but even more so for what is not said ... and how. Actually it is best read while lying down, the peaks of reason represented by the questions clash with the troughs of suspended disbelief required to get through the answers so incongruently that dizziness or nausea may result. The ultimate result of the divorce of language from reality is familiar to readers of 1984, where 'Newspeak', the official language has as its sole purpose
the specific needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism, while making all other methods of thought impossible. When Oldspeak has become obsolete, the last link with the past will have been destroyed. The vocabulary of Newspeak has been built by inventing new words, eliminating old words, and stripping existing words of their finer shades of meaning.Ethiopian 'Newspeak' is certainly Orwellian in intent and result. A further refinement of the perversion of language and truth is Doublethink which means
the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. “... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.Weichegud does a fine job of deconstructing the interview while this essay from Ethiomedia shows how the recent ethnic justifications played by the government came to their bloody conclusion during the ‘election’ season. Attempts to manipulate Tigrayans in the bloody aftermath of the ‘election’ are also evident and they were simply the first victims of the TPLF /EPRDF/ Dergue. The abuse of Oromos in the recent past is well documented and “one aspect of the ethnic federalism of the FDRE is but a thinly disguised license to encourage hatred of the Amharas“.
Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
if it wasn't for those pesky kids
Ethiopia’s ruling revolutionary party has a Byzantine structure that can not be separated from its wholly owned subsidiaries of national government, media, tribal bantustans, an all encompassing secret police apparatus, massive business empires at every level of society and a fake parliament and judiciary. It is a bloody brutal dictatorship whose reality became clear to even the most forgiving observer during an election faked for the sake of foreign aid.
The whole rotten business is founded on the most rabid and primitive form of Leninist ethnic divide and rule and fomenting rancor and bloodshed to stoke the party will to power. The armed thugs who machine gunned innocent civilians on the streets of Addis Ababa were the ones who were part of a government sponsored ethnic militia - just like in Rwanda.
The interview above would have us believe that the innocents gunned down and the thousands arrested committed some elaborate form of suicide and masochistic behavior. Supposedly at the behest of the opposition they forced unwilling and blameless tribal militias to shoot them lest they make Rwanda‘s genocide look like ‘childsplay‘.
That is about as believable as the release of thousands of prisoners when only the government’s word is proof that ten thousand weren’t really taken prisoner to begin with or that thousands weren’t killed in distant camps. Can anyone really believe numbers from this government? Without a doubt the numbers of dead and abused in the countryside are orders of magnitude higher and since the only folks the EPRDF respects, ferenjis, are not around to see or hear - no one will ever know.
The official death toll is another bit of nonsense. How can a death toll in the low dozens be believable for the results of direct AK-47 and sniper fire directed into crowds of civilians? Are people now so hungry for news from a secretive government that they are willing to believe party figures on how many died? For all anyone knows there may be mass pits in the countryside full of innocents from urban and rural areas - just as in the days of Mengistu's Red Terror.
Remember, there is no crime to foul that it won't be committed to keep this government in power for even an extra day.
Another example of official absurdities is the recent claim to have captured some eighteen Ertirean spies for causing trouble or being about to do so. We don’t believe this at all and it fits in with the constant barrage of ashattir - trickery from the government. Listeners are supposed to divine a national security imperative for the government murder of innocents or the alternative is seeing Ertitrean hordes come across the border.
It is a wonder that ancien regime feudals, neftegnas, hooligans, anarchists, roving gangs of kulaks, bands of counter-revolutionaries, mensheviks, capitalist running dogs, imperialist paper tigers, dergue remnants, genocidal veterans from Rwanda, anti-Enver Hoxha bad elements, tribalist anti-revolutionary democracy forces, Trotskyites, those pesky kids of Scooby Doo fame, El Nino and Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter books were not among those making common cause with the Eritrean spies - all arrayed against the essential goodness and virtue of revolutionary democracy.
Well ... give them time, the government and its cadres will make it all the way through the whole list of blame eventually.
you can fool all of the people some of the time
The whole business of the Axum obelisk and the fake suspense surrounding the timing of its return was certainly connected to the equally fake ‘election’ season. It is amazing that after decades of hostility, barely matched by that of the Dergue, to the traditions and history, ancient and modern, of all Ethiopians, that the EPRDF suddenly discovered a new found appreciation for the history that they so passionately decried and called illegitimate.
Embassies are supposed to go openly into the business of organizing rallies in favor of the shooting of unarmed civilians while the Embassy in Washington is to host Ethiopian Americans for the same purpose. During cocktails, the illegal espionage network run out of Ethiopian embassies and consulates to intimidate and harass Americans (based on their lives in the US as well as those of their families in Ethiopia) should be discussed.
Dinner conversation may include choice subjects such as how Ethiopians don’t feel as much pain as other humans when they are shot, how they aren’t able to have a real democracy anyway and how they really need the firm hand of the EPRDF to keep them in line for their own good. Over coffee the officials will try to see how the combination of threats and appeals have worked and may move on to see how “filling the pockets and bellies” of all concerned may help to achieve the aims of revolutionary democracy.
“Filling the pockets and bellies” of certain elements of the bourgeoisie and intelligensia (especially those abroad who may have reporters and Congressman who listen to them) is an essential aim of the revolutionary democratic program according to a secret internal document of the vanguard party. “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Steps“ is the title and its English translation was published as "TPLF/EPRDF Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony & Perpetuating its Rule" in the Ethiopian Register, June 1996. (From Vestal)
Geldof put it best when he said this about the street massacres in Ethiopia - "No doubt, I'll get a briefing from the Ethiopian embassy: 'it wasn't like this, it was like that'. Grow up, they make me puke“. We have a sense that seduction laced with promises of favored crony status, position or property will do little to change minds hardened by the death of real people and of a nation's dreams.
We are amazed every time an announcement from the various rubber stamp courts, councils or most comically, the election board, it is reported as though it has some meaning. Seriously, folks ... the whole edifice of Ethiopian government is a Potemkin Village for the opening of ferenji wallets and at its very best a Cargo Cult setup for ferenjis who imagine themselves to be discerning about where they send their money.
or you can fool some of the people all of the time
There is absolutely no chance that a decision is ever made by Ethiopian government that is not based upon the expressed will or base desires of the politburo and the Prime Minister. It is a bit like the old Soviet military budget - where the state was everything what did it possibly mean that a nuclear submarine was expensive? One ministry simply wrote a check to another, if they even bothered.
The problem with the accounting methods of the EPRDF’s communist forefathers and the EPRDF’s own loose relation with facts and the truth is that the pyramid of deceit can never be sustained. When rulers, expecially dictators look at a structure that is a mirror of their own psyches and is supported by sycophants and brutality alone ... for example, they may get confident enough to think they can win elections with just minimal cheating.
How about the invocation of the martyrs of the war against the Dergue? Remembering them should not be abused by a few to form a holy shield that is used to defend every crime committed by a few decades later. Those martyrs did not die in their tens of thousands and others did not suffer by their millions so that the Revolutionary Feudal Aristocracy of today could rule forever atop a pyramid of suffering as policy.
On June 22, 1988 the Dergue criminally bombed a market place in Hawzen claiming great numbers of dead and wounded. The Dergue met its just fate for that horror and countless others. However, we firmly believe that all of the jealously guarded villas and Range Rovers, the hoards of hard currency in foreign banks and all of the party businesses and monopolies held by a few atop a pyramid of suffering and despair are not the appropriate legacy for those or any martyrs.
They did not die for anyone's board chairmanship nor for their executive office suite. They certainly did not die to one day justify the killing of fellow Ethiopians.
Never forget that Tigrayans are Ethiopians first and that the forces united against the current government and its stolen election represent a unity unseen since the wars against Italian fascism or colonialism. The very idea that Tigray is so united behind the party is by necessity a lie. No group of humans, certainly millions of them so passionately believe in any cause or person to the exclusion of all else.
One might ask the people of Tigray if an opportunity were ever given
In March [of 2004], the residents of Aby Adi, a town in Tigray region, conducted a peaceful demonstration, protesting the lack of electricity, usable roads, and running water. Three members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) Central Committee reportedly threatened to arrest the organizers of the demonstration if they did not apologize. According to reports, the Government also sent security agents to prevent any further protests. The Government rejected requests to hold similar protests in the Tigrayan towns of Maichew and Samre.We know the Prime Minister ran unopposed in the 'election' where he voted with a bunch of reporters and THREE EU election observers on hand. What don't we know about the 'election' in Tigray and the aftermath? The party approached the Tigrayan people with the lie that they were not communists until it was too late to do anything about that fact. This was done because Tigray is where rights of private property have been traditionally strongest in Ethiopian history. In addition the ethnic agenda of TPLF rule was kept from Tigrayans who historically have most consistently held the banner of Ethiopian unity aloft.
The brutality used to try and divorce Tigrayans from their identity, history and traditions so that they could not make common cause with other Ethiopians can not be forgotten. One anecdote from an international bureaucrat looking to set up a pilot development program is revealing.
In every region of Ethiopia, the group had around them government officials or friendly 'minders' who they suspected were there to prevent them from hearing anything directly. When they got to Tigray, they met groups of peasants and farmers without interference.
Later, their embassies in Addis explained to them, "that is the one place where no one even dreams of dissenting or complaining - the fear is set so deep that it looks like agreement and that makes the government confident." This is certainly a more likely explanation than believing all residents of Tigray love the government. Any group of humans is too complex for that to be true.
but you can't fool all of the people all of the time
The Indian Ocean Newsletter reports via Ethiomedia that a future government is under discussion for Ethiopia among Western diplomats. The source cautions there may be elements of disinformation originating from the politburo in it and we agree. For example we are expected to believe that there are divisions within the EPRDF with "Prime Minister Meles Zenawi [a] moderate in the government camp in this debate and that he did not exclude the formation of a coalition government to come out of the crisis. "
Arrayed against him are the 'hardliners' against compromise and a coalition government. Yeah, right, this is all a classic intelligence agency 'maskirova' or concealment and deception operation. It sounds just like the Soviet effort to convince the world, with some success, that Yuri Andropov, the hardline head of the KGB was
a pro-Western person. Andropov was known for his perfect English. He was a fan of jazz, American mystery books and whiskey; A patron of arts as he was presented by the KGB propaganda machine; An intellectual and a poet as he remained in the memories of his employees.Marxist - Leninist - Maoist guerrilla fronts don't seize power after years of bitter warfare and rule for more years of constantly gathering in more and more power only to openly allow internal divisions or to advocate power sharing. If any of this is true it could mean a purge was about to happen as in 2000 when the out group was banished and imprisoned on trumped up corruption charges.
But he was also a suppressor of the 1956 Budapest uprising, a persecutor of dissidents and an inventor of punitive psychiatry as he has recently been described.
Without question, Andropov was the toughest, most clever and shrewd Soviet politician since Stalin, and possibly of all Soviet leaders. He was not likely to be easily fooled, and only a fool would fool with him. His could only be a one-man dictatorship.
More likely this is an effort to give the party and Meles its unquestioned leader a new lease on power by appealing to the West as the reasonable man amidst hardliners when in fact he is exactly the same as the others. This same excuse was used for years to explain why Ethiopia was not obeying the terms of binding arbitration on the Eritrean border. Allegedly, rogue army generals wouldn't accept it. As if.
Consider also the whole issue of the destruction of Ethiopian nationalism and the history of unity, then its use in the Eritrean war when it was convenient - after which it was conveniently forgotten until occasional sports victories or the return of the obelisk. Arbitration was accepted despite an expensive victory but it went bad.
Victory was again declared anyway ... but the arbitration was said to be unfair ... it would be respected but it wouldn't be ... on and on until Western monetary pressure force a whole new set of equivocations and evasions. Dagmawi neatly summarizes this issue in What are the Real Reasons Why Meles Decided to Accept the Border Ruling? while but the Constitution says ... oh, nevermind exposes another layer of lies behind justifications for avoiding reality.
This game of the reasonable man 'we can deal with' and the radicals waiting in the wings has been tried so many times over so many decades that it is a wonder people still believe it. If the Prime Minister was a secret liberal or moderate he would not be at the head of a revolutionary vanguard party . no way no how.
Also notice that the debate over fake hardliners and moderates totally ignores the fact that the EPRDF lost the election and that state violence and the potential for chaos that they created somehow makes their refusal to abide by the election understandable. The vagaries of human intelligence, gullibility and reason are indeed both tragic and profound.
We could go on and on ...
The sum of the Big Tribal Lie at the root of current Ethiopian government and all the other myriad lies and distortions that govern the simplest exchange of information is the enduring Big Lie of all dictatorship whether it is ‘Fascism of the Left‘ in the past three decades of Ethiopian government or ‘Socialism of the Right‘ as it existed in Mussolini's Italy
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.The bodyguard of lies and the era of trickery around Ethiopia's dictatorship shield nothing noble but cover only bigger lies wrapped in successive layers of secrecy, vicious reactions to criticism, eternal intrigue, manipulation, unrelenting brutality, suspicion and an utter lack of transparency - all in the service of power for a few.
Don't believe any of the lies - even the smallest ones try to paper over the litany of crimes being committed against 70 million victims. They are suffering all the more because given a chance they showed they believed in none of them.