Sunday, September 4

Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth refers to the policy of burning even the land and crops in the face of an advancing enemy so that nothing of use is left behind. This is a measure of desperation and brutality native to total warfare that Ethiopians are familiar with in their routine dealings with their government.

It also defines the government's relations with the imperialist camp (donor community) that is getting hotter every day. What is being burned, however, is not land but is the lives and future of Ethiopians.

A series of letters was written by the Ethiopian Prime Minister in response to the European Union's preliminary observer report that the Ethiopian elections 'did not meet international standards.' Basically the EU said in diplomatic dialect that the whole business was a fraud.

Here are links to the PM's letters:
--Easy to remove the garbage that has covered lumps of truth
--Guilty until proven innocent
--The grapes are sour

One must read them to appreciate the nature of contemporary government and engagement of reality ... or not, there are really few surprises there. We agree with Dagmawi that most of the content of the letters does not matter. They try to parse the and measure every word of the EU report as though a blessing can be found in such an indictment. The letters fail to do so and the sheer volume of words does not serve to convince either.

The letters are most fascinating because they actually were written. The PM is reported to have said the following when informed that Ethiopians abroad were critical of his rule, "let's hope they don't overthrow me with their (TV) remote controls." Well, here is the PM vigourously debating such critics via remote (remember, back in the early 90s the internet did not really exist). The words also serve as talking points for government cadres and agents everywhere.

You see, even though the words appeared first in the government English language newspaper it is clear that the audience is out there on the internet and particularly among the imperialist camp (donor nations) who are being reminded of the government's refusal to back down.

Let us check out some of the interesting aspects in these remarkable and historical letters. We get to see a national ruler (probably a first in human history) quote an 1980s pop star (Tina Turner). Perhaps she is being invoked because that was her big comeback from prior superstardom. Far more revealing is this paragraph
One last point, while we are at it. The EU-EOM alleges that the government refused to agree on a code of conduct on the utilization of the media. That is a lie. The government was not and could not be part of the negotiations on the code of conduct. The negotiations were between the parties. As such, the government was in no position to accept or reject the code of conduct.
In Ethiopia the ruling party politburo controls that party in a disciplined vanguard party manner familiar to any casual student of parties from Lenin's Bolsheviks to Kim Il Sung's Communists.

The party in turn is indistinguishable from any aspect of government while both together dominate the legislature, judiciary, election apparatus, media, own all the land, dominate or outright own the economy at every level and control and maintain an even greater hold on all agents of coercion such as the secret police and security services.

The suspension of disbelief that would have us accept a government role of non-interference in the election is like the suspension of disbelief that allows us to believe Superman can fly or that revolutionary democracy is the way to political and economic freedom ... Or the idea that this government could have participated in an election with any degree of sincerity at all.

Reality has left all of the constant barrage of machinations and threats and strong words and aggressive utterances of the government far far behind. None of it is any longer passable even to the most willingly willfully acceptable observer. All of the politburo's cadres and all of the politburo's guns will never put it all together again.

In the meantime the PM has reportedly threatened 'not to patronize' the EU anymore. The most interesting passage of all is at the end of the third letter in the conclusion to the whole series. In the usual fashion the PM speaks with total confidence exactly about what the Ethiopian peasant wants
So once again what would your average Ethiopian peasant do? Having lived with him/her for some 17 years I think I know.

The peasant hates injustice like no other abomination. You can therefore bet your life that plan A of the peasant in such circumstances would be to fight the injustice tooth and nail, with no holds barred, with the view to correcting the injustices.

But your average peasant would not be the sage of facing existential challenges if he/she only had one plan. Again you can bet your life that there would at least be a plan B just in case the perpetrator of the injustice was able to get away with murder.

Plan B would start with strengthening the peasants fortress, his/her homestead, so that it can withstand the possible temper tantrums of the spurned perpetrator of the injustice. Having done that, the peasant would plan to treat his/her tormentor with the disdain and contempt he/she deserves and move on with his/her eternal struggle to keep body and soul together.

I believe we can do no less or no better than that. As our brothers the Southern African freedom fighters used to say, in Portuguese, La Lutta Continua! the struggle for a prosperous and democratic Ethiopia must and will go on despite the challenges.
You see, by definition the party and the politburo and the PM speak for the people and the peasants. That is why any accusation that they did not win an election is necessarily a lie according to that definition of reality ... even though not a single election district was won by the government where foreign observers were present.

Also another piece of the revolutionary catechism is that no one who opposes the aims of the party in any way can be a decent person or objective or deserving of any respectful treatment (of if they are Ethiopian of the right to live). Indeed, no honesty or objectivity can exist, by definition, that does not serve the interests of the three P's - namely the party, the politburo and the PM.

The appeal to the ongoing struggle is both tragic and amusing ... the 'struggle' is not being led by this government the struggle is against this government. Misusing the words of justice several decades late does not make them real. Are we to believe that this is all part of some eternal war against imperialism and colonialism? When it is clear that the issue is really one of tempermentally demanding that the imperialist camp (donor nations) give more money to paper over misrule.

So what of the dubious blessing that the Ethiopian peasant gets in the form of assurances that the three P's know what he wants? The invocation of 17 years of war and fortresses and the struggle continuing means that every manner of politics and elections is war to Ethiopia's rulers.

The EU is being warned here in no uncertain terms the rules of the game under which 70 million Ethiopians languish. Someone has to take care of the Ethiopian people and it sure as hell will not be the Ethiopian government ... neither will they ever have a political or economic system that allows them to take care of themselves.

They are all suffering because the three P's have chosen regime security over normal institutional and political development policies that have seen billions of others prosper worldwide.

Those 70 million effective hostages will suffer even more in fortress mode until the EU give their captors the respect they crave and the cash that keeps their state of absolute but impoverishing rule paramount over freedom and prosperity.

What is hoped is that the belligerent tone (including accusations that the EU chief observer was in a secret deal to pocket opposition donations) and a willingness to let Ethiopians suffer will turn the EU around and intimidate them into releasing a conciliatory final report that assures the continuing and growing flow of a surge of Euros.

Who knows? It might work ... but that might be an unfair prediction. We have been pleasantly wrong before in underestimating the resolve of the EU.

Ethiopia needs foreign aid, sure, even to survive but mainly because successive governments have done everything possible to weaken Ethiopia so that she can not get rid of the revolutionary democratic or scientific socialist vampire state suffocating all in its second generation.

It is like the fabled clans of beggars who mutilate each successive generation so that their livelihood, guaranteed by the pity of others, will be assure. Actually, more than anything else this whole election business is in rap speak, 'all about the benjamins'.

That is, the Benjamin Franklins on $100 dollar bills. Cash money serves to decouple Ethiopia's rulers from popular accountability and to allow them to follow policies such as the absence of private property rights that assure the absence of freedom and prosperity.

So unless the EU keeps the aid coming and more on top of that, 70 million Ethiopians are going to be put further into fortress mode against their will and suffer even more. It is all so absurd and inhuman. If there will be no 'patronizing' the EU anymore who will pay for Ethiopian government's pensions, pencils, bullets and bureacracy?

Be assured as you read this there is a mission from the government somewhere asking for more money right now - probably from disgusted EU officials. Who else will finance the Ethiopian dictatorship? Playing the China card is a joke. They are even more about the Benjamins and have little tolerance for abstract (to them) concepts like foreign aid to governments who are doing everything wrong to begin with.

What the Ethiopian government is saying now is that they don't care what happens to Ethiopians as long as they get to rule. To the death of the last Ethiopian peasant they are willing to defend the principles of revolutionary democracy.

In that end the rhetoric will get more fevered, more aggressive, louder so as to never show weakness and always be on the attack - never to give an inch before anyone, especially the imperialist camp of aid donors who have the nerve to think their aid should mean Ethiopians are treated with some minimal standard of decency.

After countless centuries of fighting foreign invasions to be free, Communism has reduced Ethiopia to this sorry state. Its government has to be begged and threatened to treat its own people well ... a government that accepts eternal beggar status in exchange for eternal rule.

To Ethiopia's government, Ethiopians are eternal beasts of burden and far less than human. They have been forced to carry unbearable burdens of despotic rule in the service of a few while their blood, sweat and tears are offered up by those rulers up to foreigners as motivation for continuing that rule forever.

Carrying its scorched earth brand of ad hominem politics abroad to ferenjis is a sign of absolute desperation. Ethiopians will pay the price with their blood unless the Western taxpayer pays it out in cash.

Cuba and North Korea pay for their totalitarian states with sexual tourism and nuclear blackmail respectively. The Ethiopian government has nothing to offer anyone or to threaten anyone with but the suffering of its people.

Ethiopians are better than this this evil calculus of dictatorship ... and as they have done before they will show it.


Having just written all of the above we insist you go and read the Dagmawi essay Meles Zenawi writes to the Ethiopian Herald. It gets to the main points far more succinctly than we ever do and far less dramatically as well. It is a must be read for a serious understanding of Ethiopian events.

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