Sunday, December 4
Washington's Lethal Delusions of Stability
Sniper training courtesy of the US Army in September, 2003 & Sniper from the Prime Minister's private special forces deploying against civilians in June 2005. A Dragunov sniper rifle is in both photos.
Ethiopian special forces armed with heavy machine guns and sniper rifles patrolled Addis Ababa in Humvees and armored personnel carriers."This year the Ethiopian regime put on an election show for the benefit of Western donors who were to give their applause in the form of extra billions of dollars in aid. The ruling party's show failed with bad reviews when all voting districts with observers present voted for the opposition.
Subsequently a massive effort to rig the results was only matched by mass repression of which we only know a fraction of the resulting suffering and bloodshed in urban areas. All the illusory human rights have ended and tens of thousands are subject to disappearance, immprisonment, torture and further destitution for their refusal to accept the eternal rule of the politburo.
The opposition has resorted to only peaceful means of defiance. Western nations seeing a general interest in the status quo have pressured the opposition to 'obey the constitution' and to pray for better next time when all will likely be far worse.
While the opposition would have been killed in its entirety years before without Western interest, the response of the West this time has been one of espousing an infamous moral equivalence between a bloody dictatorship and a victorious democratic opposition. From Le Monde (English translation)
Despite this situation, international donors have accepted that their aid, amounting to a quarter of gross domestic product and with Ethiopia being the primary recipient in Africa, is not under their control. They also chose to ignore that the regime’s authoritarianism neutralizes their development assistance and brought emergency aid under political control.
The diplomatic community has supported the power play of Ethiopia’s “strong man” without any sharp question. It has acknowledged the “unprecedented openness” of the electoral campaign which signified “an important step” towards democracy. It has endorsed the official electoral verdict, while accepting that the process was tarnished with “irregularities”—as if judgment about expressions of democracy had double standards.
It has only been the observers in the mission of the European Union who considered that the ballot “failed to meet international standards”. Finally, the mediation led by the United States and the United Kingdom to defuse the crisis only played into Meles’ hands. On the pretext of the scrupulous respect of legality, it obliged the opposition to accept the one-sided arbitration of so-called “independent” institutions, such as the National Electoral Board.
The mediators then urged the opposition to take up their seats in parliament. At no stage have the mediators obtained the least concession on the part of the regime, nor played their master card: the volume of aid or at least the ways it is used. The G8 Summit in Gleneagles in July, to which Meles Zenawi had been invited alongside five other leaders from Black African countries, linked an increase in aid to respect for “good governance, democracy and transparency”.
Nevertheless, the donor countries immediately promised to double their aid to match the “democratization” of Ethiopia. In their eyes, nothing matters so much as the stability of Ethiopia in the turmoil taking place in the Horn of Africa. In reality, they consider the present leadership to be a better guarantor of stability, all the more so because Meles has firmly decided to stay in power at all costs and when his replacement by the opposition would be hazardous undertaking given the evident weakness of its leadership.
When foreign protests against the “excessive” repression, as well as the calls for “dialogue”, became more energetic, Meles responded to them by declaring that the leaders of the Coalition would be charged with “treason” and could face the death penalty for having called for an “insurrection”. Nothing can dissuade him from the conviction that he still has a green light from the international community. But, at the same time, the ultimate hope of the Ethiopian democrats lies on this same community.
Humvee and .50 Caliber Heavy Machine Gun
Hundreds of heavily armed police and troops deployed across the city as the sounds of heavy machine guns and loud explosions reverberated.Here is the initial craven State Department response to the massacres of early November. An American 'ally' is in the midst of a massacre of innocents and to its eternal shame the US government blames the victims in a manner that would make one nostalgic for simple moral equivalence instead of this outright support for the regime.
We call on all parties to immediately show restraint to step back from the current environment of heightened political tension and call on the Ethiopian Government to establish an independent commission to investigate today's public demonstration and those of June 8th, in which dozens of demonstrators were killed.The spin from Washington has it then that the long suffering government was PROVOKED into killing scores of innocent civilians by their wrong headed demands for democratic behavior from a government that ignores the very concept with a wink and a nod from Foggy Bottom.
We deplore the use of violence and deliberate attempts to provoke violence in a misguided attempt to resolve political differences. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives as a result of this senseless violence. We call on the Ethiopian Government to release all political detainees, including the many opposition supporters arrested in recent weeks. Senior opposition leaders arrested today should be treated humanely, and if charged, assured of a just and timely trial before an impartial court of law.
We call on the opposition to refrain from inciting civil disobedience during this time of heightened tension, while the ability to protest peacefully is a legitimate right in a democracy, violent demonstrations pose a substantial threat to public safety and do nothing to advance democracy. The United States believes that the best way forward for Ethiopia is through full participation of all political groups in the democratic process, including for elected members of the opposition to take their seats in parliament and to assume the administration of the city of Addis Ababa.
They know quite well that the very idea of an independent investigation of events is like waiting for O.J. to find the real killers. Human Rights Watch breaks down the essentials of American foreign policy in Ethiopia as they were in 2002 - little has change since.
The newly designated U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia told Human Rights Watch that human rights and the "war on terror" are both important objectives for the United States.The following passage is from a 2005 Human Rights Watch Report on human rights abuses by the revolutionary government against the Oromo people, it also reflects the status of all Ethiopians.
But a senior State Department official told Human Rights Watch that Ethiopia's cooperation in gathering intelligence from Sudan and Somalia and in other matters he was not at liberty to discuss is so important to U.S. interests that the U.S. effectively wields little if any leverage over the Ethiopian government.
He said that, although the U.S. is aware that Ethiopia's interests do not always coincide with its own and listens to its partner "with a jaundiced ear," the country's human rights record is "not a factor" in the bilateral relationship "as a point of fact.
Despite its dependence on outside assistance, the Ethiopian government has loudly rejected even measured criticism of its human rights record with sweeping, contemptuous denials. When the U.S. State Department released its annual Human Rights Report on Ethiopia in February 2005, for example, the Ethiopian government denounced the entire report as “baseless,” “frivolous,” and based entirely on “rumors” and “lies.”The War on Terror must be fought with vigor and determination but Ethiopia seems to have slipped through the cracks. The Ethiopian government slickly uses the threat of terror to manipulate Washington in particular, and its policies of aid dependent economic stagnation and tribal divide and rule will ultimately lead to another failed state.
Despite the donor community’s enormous investments of aid, donor governments have generally appeared reluctant to challenge the Ethiopian government’s near-total refusal to engage in constructive dialogue about the government’s many human rights-related failings. Western governments have generally appeared too timid to challenge the government publicly.
Western diplomatic sources have told Human Rights Watch that precisely because the Ethiopian government reacts so angrily to criticism, the only option is to engage the government on human rights issues quietly and behind the scenes. United States policy is also influenced by Ethiopia’s perceived status as the most stable country in the Horn of Africa and by its cooperation in Washington’s “global war on terror.”
This “quiet” approach does not appear to be bringing about any change in the Ethiopian government’s refusal to engage in constructive dialogue about human rights issues. Recent events seem to indicate that the Ethiopian government may be becoming bolder in its willingness to ignore international criticism of its human rights record.
No one in the West wants to be called upon to intervene in and take care of that problem when sensible policies today can nip such tragedy in the bud. Gladly, American interests also involve doing the right thing for all concerned.
President Bush welcomes the Prime Minister to the Oval Office in December 2002 & the Black Lion Hospital morgue in Addis in November 2005.
It is to France and Le Monde (English translation) that we must turn again for a rational Western view of events leading up to the most recent massacre and of the heavy handed Anglo-American demands on the opposition to just shut up and know its place.
To every concession agreed by the Coalition, even including its tacit acceptance of the official results, to every request to launch a true dialogue, to its calls simply for “civil disobedience” as the only way of protesting, the regime’s only reaction was to blacken and repress the opposition.Indeed, the violence by the victims referred to by the State Department as the starting point of the massacre they only brought on themselves, was an opposition call to beep car horns in the morning during sessions of the African Union. No other responsible party has come forward to even allege that civilians used any type of deadly force during any protests at all.
Meles Zenawi could not have done otherwise if he wanted that the outcome of his rejection in the ballot boxes to be a popular explosion that the opposition parties would be unable to contain—but for which they were made responsible—and which could be crushed in the name of maintaining public order.
Le Monde either understands the obvious or is obviously more honest than the State Department. In the interests of illusory stability Washington is propping up and making excuses for a corrupt tyrant whose policies by every bit of logic and historical memory will lead to nothing but disaster for all concerned.
Perhaps it is all meant to be a problem for another administration down the line to deal with. It is exactly that opportunistic and short sighted approach to foreign policy by administrations of decades past that has caused 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq and thousands more in Afghanistan to be placed in harm's way today.
The horrors of September 11, 2001 made Washington wake up and face the fact that a new World War was on against terror and its natural allies in tyranny everywhere. Thousands of Americans died that day and thousands more have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq to secure American interests.
Surely, a natural American response to its new international challenges and responsibilities can not be to repeat mistakes of coddling and humouring despots of any stripe that only harm American interests in the end. From the very words of President Bush such a notion would seem to be an impossibility.
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.It seems clear that the civilian protestors against the Meles regime where heeding the President's words in their actions. By the logic of American foreign policy in Ethiopia, African-Americans in 1960s Mississippi, Ukranians in 2000s Kiev, Chinese in 1980s Tianeman Square and Germans at the 1960s Berlin Wall were also just provoking authority and deserved what they got.
Speaking of other countries, the President closed off all of his own moral loopholes regarding Ethiopia in the following elaboration of the original commitment to liberty above.
Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress.The former American Ambassador to Ethiopia in her farewell speech made it clear that Ethiopians were not included in that or other calls for liberty in the world. Instead, on behalf of Washington, she made a call for the opposition to just go along with the government at all costs and for Ethiopians to just know their proper place at the feet of their politburo betters. If they gave up on their dreams, somehow, someday all would be well, you see. This vile sentiment was wrapped up in expressions of affection for Ethiopians but its intent is not in keeping with the interests and morals of the American people.
In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path….
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
The Prime Ministers in October 2004 & Ordinary Mortal beaten with rifle butt in June 2005
Statements like the Ambassador's and those of recent US / EU statements that include any element of calls for all parties to be peaceful and obey the constitution are absurd and contemptuous. The ruling party has always had an absolute monopoly on violence, just like it does in the business world, and it is offensive to ask Ethiopians to obey the laws and a constitutions that they did not consent to be ruled by and whose purpose is the eternal rule of their oppressors.
When bipartisan American election observers where expelled by the Ethiopian government as part of an alleged CIA plot to overthrow the Ethiopian regime, Washington was silent. A Congressional bill for free and fair elections in Ethiopia was scuttled beforehand as well.
CENTCOM has even helpfully put out press releases on Al Quaeda infiltration in Somalia to coincide with the election and outbreaks of government violence as though reminding folks to keep their eye on he stability ball and not to take Ethiopian democracy too seriously.
While the EU has been critical of the election and of abuses in Ethiopia, the US has generally avoided comment in all but extreme situations. Even then , the status quo is not to be touched - it is more like there are routine things that need saying that Washington does not expect to ever see through.
Ethiopians are not asking for the United States to make everything better for them. It is clear that is exactly what they want to do for themselves. At least the US must get out of their way. By supporting the current Ethiopian government and its doomed policies the US has accepted the long term guarantee of destitution, anarchy and bloodshed in exchange for having 'an African we can deal with' for a few years.
This is not the default or natural policy of the US or the American people. It is only the massive error of those who want others to face tomorrow what they do not want to deal with today. One must wonder how many Americans, Democratic or Republican or Independent know that billions of their tax dollars and their country's good name is spent on behalf of a government:
--that is a brutal, vengeful and highly disciplined Marxist-Lenininst-Maoist party masquerading all at once as a liberal democratic parliament, election board, supreme court and assorted tribal 'federal' divide and rule bantustans
--that it has held no real elections ever and denies its people every manner of basic human rights from assembly to press as though they were serfs and not citizens
--that directly owns massive government monopolies, party and crony owned businesses and the slavish devotion of all others who want to survive in a structurally corrupt web of enterprises subject to no other authority and that swallows the lion's share of foreign aid
--that the massive corporate empire controlled by those who own the government and and the economy at every level represents the greatest concentration of wealth in Africa under unitary control from Cairo to the Cape
--that no one has a right to own private property while land posession, sharecropper style indebtedness and the threat of ruin and starvation are instruments of essential government policy
--that has exchanged the consent and support of Western governments for that of its own people as the base of its power over 70 million destitute and disenfranchised people who only want the same chance of liberal democracy and capitalism their government has denied them but that made the West prosperous and free
--that mourns the Western victory in the Cold War because it created a political setting where they would have to depend only on the 'imperialist camp'
--that has vigorously endorsed the invasion of Taiwan
--that has despite billions in aid made Ethiopia get poorer every year, more aid dependent and less able to feed itself while the suffering of Ethiopians translates into cold hard cash for a tiny elite to play with and invest abroad
The kind of calculation that Washington has accepted in deaing with Ethiopia stems from the time Clinton crowned Meles a part of an 'African Renaissance' and then shut up quickly when Meles warned him "don't tell me how to govern my country" while swallowing billions in US aid.
Bush has been less effusive but just as supportive toward the author of Ethiopia's suffering and a 'poor, brutish, nasty and short life' for tens of millions. It is time for Americans to remember who they are, namely a nation that by calling and conviction is naturally opposed to regimes like Ethiopia's.
Then Ethiopians will have a better chance of fulfilling their potential that the blood, sweat and tears of the past bloody century has earned them. Surely Americans can not find an easy alliance with a despot whose main source of power and foreign exchange is the display of his own people suffering.
The Dragunov is a symbol of sorts for us in the nasty calculus of American support for Meles Inc. Some bloody combination of inhuman tragedy and historical irony has it that Ethiopia's current Marxist-Leninist dictatorship is using a Soviet sniper rifle inherited from Mengistu's Dergue and American training to kill innocent civilians in the name of democracy and its alleged stability as an ally in the war on terror.
The Sniper Rifle Dragunov (SVD) is a gas-operated, semiautomatic weapon. It fires the Soviet 7.62 x 54R cartridge and uses a detachable 10-round box magazine.Clearly, this is a weapon of war and not one for use by any civilized government to quell civilian disturbances of any kind. Those who used this weapon against innocents drove arrived at their lairs in US dontated Humvees while he who gave the orders to kill is part of the new generation of "Africans we can talk to."
The SVD fires approximately 30 rounds per minute in the semiautomatic mode. It has a maximum effective range of 1,300 meters with the 4-power telescope or 800 meters without it. The PSO-1 optical sight has a 6-degree field of view. It contains an integral, infrared detection aid and an illuminated rangefinder recticle.
Thus, the SVD is effective in daylight against point targets or at night against active infrared emitters, such as night driving aids and weapon sights. It can fire light ball, heavy ball, steel core, tracer and anti-tank incendiary ammunition.
The Soviets developed the SVD in 1965. It entered service in 1967 and is the standard Soviet sniper weapon. One squad in each motorized rifle platoon has an SVD; selected riflemen receive regular, centralized sniper training on it.
The other weapons carried on the Humvees, the heavy or .50 caliber machine guns, were designed during World War I as anti-aircraft weapons that were found to be able to penetrate light armoured vehicles. They continue in service today with little to no changes in design as do Soviet versions which the Ethiopian government owns as well and which it also uses against civilians.
The bullet fired by the .50 caliber machine gun at 600 per minute is so large and travels so fast it has been said that there is little on the average city block that could stop it besides the engine block of a heavy truck. Your average wall, particularly one in Addis Ababa would not hinder this bullet at all.
This includes its ability to remain lethal at distances well over two kilometers. Now imagine what a .50 caliber machine gun could do to a single human being or a crowd. Do you still believe the official reports that only a few dozen people died? What kind of a government would fire these weapons in a crowded city as the BBC describes?
The American people simply do not know what is being done by the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship that their foreign policy has embraced in their good name over two administrations - if they knew they could not tolerate such infamy being carried out with their aid and tax dollars.
Meles Inc. is as much a creation of short sighted American diplomacy under Clinton and Bush as Mengistu was a creation of the defunct Soviet Union. This issue has nothing to do with Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican. This alliance is harming the interests of the United States by supporting a government that rules by terror and that will generate only more instability and the certainty of chaos in the future.
Above all Americans should know that while their sons and daughters are thousands of miles away dealing with the aftermath of old dictatorships and the threat of new ones, that their tax dollars and moral authority is being used to defend a bloody Ethiopian dictatorship that will eventually destabilize the whole Horn of Africa.
Ethiopians only ask that the US stop supporting the despotism over them - they will take care of the rest peacefully.
Some sound advice from Dagmawi for Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia on this subject is below.
Ethiopians should try not to react emotionally and with anger. Try not to lash out at the US State Dept. and any others who may be mistaken in their assessment of the situation. We just need to calmly lobby them (and not insult them) and point out how far the ideology of the Meles regime differs from the principles of the USA/EU.Washington clearly has other options beyond the immoral status quo. Mugabe's henchman in Zimbabwe have had their American assets frozen and there are a whole host of other EU / US sanctions in place against individuals responsible for corruption and violence. No More Appeasement lays out the history and reasoning for such policies as well as a blueprint for their implementation.
Every nation has a foreign policy based on the national interest. It would be ridiculous to expect otherwise. While it is clear that nations like the US care more for Ethiopians than their own government does it is up to Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia to decouple the convenience of the status quo in Washington's eyes from the current dictatorship to the possibilities of an entirely democratic and stable ally.
There is no reason for the US to think that its own interests would be threatened, in any way, by the appearance of a democratic society in Ethiopia. The most sustained period of peace and relative prosperity in modern history was had by Ethiopia under the aegis of an American alliance and such should be welcomed in the future as well.
The US needs only to stop supporting the government which is the midwife of terror and instability and to let Ethiopian history take its natural course. Nothing more than that is being demanded.
The Prime Minister at the G-8 Summit in July 2005 & Ordinary Mortals mourn the dead of the June 2005 Massacre