Monday, October 2
Chase Them Crazy
Here comes the conman
Coming with his con plan.
We won't take no bribe;
We've got [to] stay alive.
We gonna chase those crazy -
Chase those crazy baldheads -
Chase those crazy baldheads out of the town
Lyrics from 'Crazy Baldheads' by Bob Marley from the 1976 album Rastaman Vibration. A baldhead* can be anything from any non-Rasta all the way to those who direct and voluntarily participate in oppressive systems. The 'baldheads' in this case are the C.E.O. and corporate representative of Meles Inc.
Several opposition groups calledfor a demonstration (flyer PDF) at the at the United Nations in New York City on September 22nd to show their solidarity with the people of Ethiopia and denounce Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi, who was expected to attend the 61st UN General Assembly summit.
Meles didn't show although he was supposed to and although his Foreign Minister was supposed to be there that day or on the 25th, it seems that he didn't show either. This from Addis Voice, Ethiopians condemn tyrant Meles Zenawi at UN headquarters, tells the story:
A large group of Ethiopian protesters converged at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, Sept 22, to condemn the tyrannical regime of Meles Zenawi.At the time, there was some confusion as to the C.E.O. of Meles Inc.'s wherabouts. Nazret asked "Is Meles Zenawi to skip UN summit?". He was taken off the summit schedule list and then his Foreign Minister was too. It seems they couldn't handle the prospect of facing or even being in the same city with free Ethiopians who did not fear them.
The protesters attracted attention at the 61st General Assembly, where Meles Zenawi was expected to address the summit, by demanding the immediate release of jailed opposition leaders, journalists and human rights activists and condemning tyranny in Ethiopia.
Meles was, however, seen on ETV chairing a narrow ethnic 'conference' in Mekele.
Just a quick aside about how Ethiopians are made to be unfree: the 'narrow' ethnic conference reference in one of the quotes above is tongue in cheek. The whole basis of Ethiopia's dictatorship is tribal apartheied where the whole country as well as economic and political life (and increasingly religious life) are divided into very real and virtual bantustans.
Manipulation of ethnic politics and the manufacture of tribal divisions for political purposes are seen by the rulers as just part of the same overall monopoly that they justly hold over ownership, power and wealth. Those who use ethnicity in an unapproved manner are therefore 'narrow nationalists' without a larger 'revolutionary democratic' world view and more crucially without necessary 'democratic centralist' discipline regarding their betters.
Basically that means everyone is supposed to shut up and obey or they are subject to the usual vitriol and armed vengeance for daring to question the absolute prerogatives of Ethiopia's nobility. Oh and what happened at that 'narrow nationalist conference'?
The captive ruling party members all got together to tell the Prime Minister what a great man he is and how lucky humanity was each and every day to have a great intellectual leader like him, actually living and walking the earth in the company of unworthy mortals like themselves.
What did the PM have to say in response to such worship generated by sincere appreciation of his works amongst men? For that let us turn to the party / government ENA (imagine Pravda circa 1968) in the brillian article "Meles says good governance, democracy key to ensure sustainability of development, peace"
Efforts being exerted to realize good governance and democratic order in Ethiopia are key to ensure peace and stability as well as sustainability of the ongoing development activity, Chairman of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) said.Dear reader the depth of wisdom and the purity of vision doesn't stop there. The PM goes on to say that
both the federal and state governments have been implementing wide civil service reform programs with a view to ensuring sustainability of the development activity in a transparent and efficient manner.Part of great leadership is admitting error so that the people can learn from your humility and great character. That is why the PM revealed that
various problems that challenged the effective implementation of the civil service reform program, have been encountered.Have no worry dear reader, those responsible will be dealt with at the appropriate time. Even if it seems to the ideologically immature that challenging the PM in any way or even opposition to him are at issue.
Just punishment will come for blocking effective implementation of the Meles program, which by definition would have worked ...
... without the usual gang of narrow nationalists, hooligans, Rwanda genocidists, Eritrean agents, Somali Al Quaedas, imperial loyalists, Dergue remnants, those pesky kids from Scooby Doo, disloyal Tigrayans, rent seekers, kulaks, neftegnas and gremlins - it is clear that Ethiopia would be heaven on earth.
Note that without actual mention of Scooby Doo and gremlins alone (not yet anwyay), all others above and some we can't remember are routinely accused of responsibility for all of the country's ills in a rotating list of blame
Lastly the PM notes that
Political parties, non-governmental organizations, civic organizations and the media play significant role in building democracy,We are certain that everyone at the conference heard all of this with a straight face even though they know that they are part of one of the most brutal, most corrupt, least free, least attractive to foreign investment, imprisoning the most journalists, street massacring, opposition arresting (tens of thousands in camps), hostile to the free market and private ownership, unattractive to foreign investment, globally uncompetitive governments on earth.
Stable and developed multi party democratic system could only be established through ensuring rule of law, he said, and called on all political parties to demonstrate commitment for the prevalence of rule of law in the country.
After all their lives and fortunes depended on their very own personal sun, moon and stars in the person of the PM and how they carry out his will and whims while parroting his words. It is hard to imagine how the writer of the ENA article or anyone else can take any of it seriously.
Every time the PM comes out with a new development paradigm about revolutionary democracy, agricultural development led industrialization, the benefits of having no private ownership of land in forming a free market they know it is just all about staying in power forever. Cadres just have to keep the justifications up to date in their hearts and minds to get through the next gimgema (formal confession of one's own thought crimes) that are a routine part of Ethiopian governance.
Every country that has ever experienced dictatorship is used to this silly ersatz altruism and humanism covered over greed and brutality by ritual and propaganda. The conference was just a tiny tinny version of the Nazi Nuremberg marches of the 1930s, any Soviet Congress meeting of the whole century past or any of Mengistu's rallies for the glory of the workers and peasants in 1980s Ethiopia. The intent and results of this miniature totalitarian display is just as deadly as its cousins.
But ... Ethiopians in the West in the name of the tens of thousands in prisons and camps in Ethiopia who had the will to say no, aren't cooperating in the glorification of Meles (except for those few who submit). So the PM made sure he would be at a phony conference instead of in New York rather than have to face Ethiopians that he couldn't arrest, torture or ruin for their defiance.
Even though Meles has been invited into the Oval Office only with the escort of Kenya's Moi (presumbably to keep an eye on him and to keep Bush from having to talk to Meles for too long alone), U.N. conferences have always been a place to feel important for dictators from Castro to Kruschev to Chavez to Ahmadinejad and even for frank terrorists like Arafat.
The price for admission for far too many U.N. members of the Meles ilk is essentially killing or terrorising enough of their own people to climb to the top of a heap of bodies - then binding the living together with fear until their will to resist is bent or broken. Dictators always feel very welcome at the U.N. no matter which justification they used to build up the body count needed to get in.
Most importantly they know that they will be free of criticism of any kind while in that sanctuary - no matter what their crimes are. So the prospect of the Ethiopian diaspora going and messing with the program was not a pleasant one for the PM. Even with the prospect of angling for hundreds of billions of MDG money and being seen with civilized leaders from every continent in the hope that their glory would rub off did not make facing a few protesting free Ethiopians worth it.
To stop this kind of thing from happening Meles has done his best to influence events in America. The post Icebergs & Pink Elephants, takes a look at how the Ethiopian government in just one effort that we happen to know about uses millions of dollars per year siphoned off of foreign aid and squeezed from Ethiopians to hire lawyers and lobbyists in the US.
A current bill, HR 5680, The Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006 is being kept from a full House vote by Speaker Hastert because former rep Dick Armey and all the efforts of the lobbying firm DLA Piper are going to keep it from a full House vote. Even though the committee unanimously approved it in the very best bipartisan style.
As we said the DLA Piper cash is only what we all know about. The true figure that the Freedom of Information Act and the files of agents of foreign governments kept by the Department of Justice could reveal might be in the millions per month. Add to that the cost of the espionage operation being run out of Ethiopian Embassies and Consultates to intimidate American citizens and legal residents and the cost might be even higher.
What does the cost really matter to the regime in Ethiopia?
They aren't paying for any of it. American taxpayers and captive Ethiopians pay the bills and the profits of any such investment are fantastic. Meles Inc. gets to rule Ethiopa indefinitely and to get richer and richer while they are at it. Much of the money comes back abroad to investments and golden parachutes for the aristocracy when they have to leave the husk of the nation they are sucking dry behind one day.
The threat of collapse in Ethiopia instigated by Meles Inc. - mainly because of the policies of Meles Inc. is actually why the bill is not getting through the full House. No matter how many millions were invested anywhere by the regime in influence operations, it is the policy decision of the Clinton and Bush administrations to ignore human rights in Ethiopia and there is a bipartisan consensus among the House leadership and the media that no one should expect too much from Ethiopians anyway.
Remember how Meles only got into the Oval Office with Moi to keep an eye on him. Bush did not want to be directly associated with the Ethiopian government. It is clear to American policy makers of every stripe that the government of Meles is not only bad news but that it is actively harmful to Ethiopia's interests and to America's long term interests.
But the U.S. government has other, seemingly more important, fish to fry RIGHT NOW and demanding what they think Ethiopians can't handle is just a way to stay out of trouble and to kick the can down the road to a future administration. The Americans never took Ethiopia's Potemkin democracy of 2005 seriously at all so they did not squeak when American observers where kicked out in a flurry of propaganda about the CIA and American imperialism.
When the last American Ambassador was appointed Human Rights Watch had this to say
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.More accurately, the issue is not just The War on Terror but that Washington has a very clear understanding of Meles regardless of what they say out loud. They know he will stay in power at all costs and that the end game for their ally Meles, is in Lenin's very own words, the following "if we go, we shall slam the door on an empty house".
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.
Every policy of the Ethiopian government is designed to create poverty and instability in Ethiopia (and environs) or at the most generous conditions where no wealth can be created. Party / government monopoly of the entire political and economic space means that there is a tiny aristocracy making money off of the whole corrupt mess.
Growth only occurs through carefully controlled and always siphoned remittances from Ethiopians abroad and aid from those very same countries where people are allowed to create wealth - both only after the lion's share is taken by the party / government through corrupt laws and businesses.
Such a system can't function with the consent of or even any political participation from Ethiopians. So the 'social contract' of Ethiopian government has foreign aid donors such as the US as the sole constituents of government. Without them the government would be even more brutal but even with them it has clearly demonstrated its willingness to do anything to stay in power no matter what any 'strategic partners' or 'development partners' have to say.
So, far more important than the War on Terror, Washington feels that Meles will pull down the whole of the Horn of Africa around him like a perverted Samson if he does not get what he wants. American policy makers have long assumed that events and news are manipulated by Meles Inc. to make it seem more important to Washington. Herman Cohen has made this point clearly.
In Somalia, Ethiopian intervention on behalf of a government in internal exile that was a creature of Meles Inc. not only invited Somali hostility but clearly begged for the professional Islamists of the ICU to declare a jihad on Ethiopia. It is a marriage made in heaven - both the EPRDF and ICU get the perfect enemy of their dreams (each other) who is allied with the very perfect allies (infidels and terrorists) to get foreign money and interest pumping in.
The long term doesn't matter for either group. They just want absolute power now and know how to make their own people submit and how to make foreigners jump through hoops as well. Altogether too many play right along.
The last Ethiopian ambassador, Aurelia E. Brazeal, despite saving the lives of many Anuak victims of Meles regime, left office with an emotional appeal to Ethiopians to just submit to their government while equating the realities of Ethiopian tyranny with free choices of American democracy. Somehow, we were all to believe that even writer Toni Morrisson and the 'free spirit of the 1960s' would approve of Meles Inc.
The new Ambassador, Don Yamamoto won't be much different. This article (link from Ethiomedia) from Foggy Bottom iself is titled Yamamoto cites U.S. strategic partnership with Ethiopia. Yamamoto made his statement right in the middle of Ethiopian-American lobbying and protests in Washington for HR5680 authored by New Jersey Congressmen Christopher Smith [R] and Donald Payne [D]. Other friends of American interests and Ethiopian democracy like Reps Mike Honda and Dana Rohrbacher are participating as well.
One must try and imagine a typical phone conversation on this subject:
Meles: can't you keep your politicians under control? Arrest them or something ... surely you can at least bribe them or they must have families you can threaten.
Yamamoto: we don't do that here. anyway we've made sure the bill isn't going anywhere and just about everyone is playing along. We've made sure of that and I'll make a statement to support you as a strategic ally too.
Meles: fine, but can't you do anything about those pesky Ethiopian-Americans? Scare them off somehow ...
Yamamoto: look I've already told them Ethiopia is none of their business aside from remittances they send - the US government has never dared to say that kind of thing to an immigrant community before.
Meles: yeah, yeah... you know what we have some spare Agazee tribal militia that can take care of them easy ...
Yamamoto: we don't do that here in Washington Prime Minister (but we will pay whether or not you do it in Addis).
Meles: look here Don, you keep pushing me on this 'touchy feely' human rights stuff and I'll kill as many Ethiopians as I need to, then I'll mess up Somalia even more not to mention Djibout and Kenya and Sudan ... how will your War on Terror be doing then? You all will have to clean up the mess.
Meles: Sorry, I just figured you needed to be reminded of the stakes here. You think I got to where I am by passing civil service exams, getting good recommendations and dealing with office politics? I kill mo***** fu***** for a living yo, well I have others do it for me anyway. Since I make the laws here there is no bag limit and it is always hunitng season. Better believe, you all are going to keep financing me or I will bring down a storm of pain on all these Ethiopians like you never imagined ...
Yamamoto: the checks are already in the mail Prime Minister.
Meles: Damn right they are. Oh and I'll be staging a terrorist incident soon - that should help you out on the P.R. front at least. Now let's see ... why don't I have CUD, no the OLF is better, HR5680 mentions them doesn't it? set some bombs off and we will blame it on the Eritreans too?
Yamamoto: I'm not supposed to be hearing this! (Finally hanging up the phone, then to his staff: send the checks today please.)
The article should be titled "Yamamoto rides to the rescue of Ethiopian dictator" The Administration and the House leadership of both parties don't want or don't care if this even comes up for a vote. This is in so many respects a great theme and story for politicians and reporters - foreign dictatorship, War on Terror, gold plated lobbying firm, ex-congressman, billions in American aid being wasted, espionage on American soil under diplomatic cover, etc. are sets of key words that might draw too much attention if the House actually votes on the bill and debates it before the world.
Short sighted American politics that see value in stability in tyranny and Meles Inc. threats to the security of a whole region of the world have come together to stall an important measure for both countries. Meles, the global conman of Bob Marley's lyrics above, can only exist with the active support of myopic policy makers in Washington.
The realpolitik wisdom too many see in policies based on low expectation for some are actually just going to be a headache for another administration when it all necessarily comes crashing down. For Ethiopians the term headache is too soft to describe things. Migraine is more like it or even the 'worst headache of your life' every day while any prospects for 'life liberty and the pursuit of happiness' are placed permanently on hold and indeed in retreat for 70 million people.
In the end, conmen and baldheads* are usually chased off. It is just hard to stomach the US government doing its very best to keep them around as long as possible. Every day means more Ethiopian blood, sweat and tears and increases the chances that young American soldiers will one day have to police a tragedy that a few measures today could prevent.
(*Disclaimer: the term 'baldhead' is used in this post without reference to the actual appearance of any individual and the term has no relation to the fact that anyone mentioned herein may or may not have for any possible reason or personal choice a particular hair style. Indeed, all who knows us well knows that one of us is by any definition totally baldheaded - although clearly not a 'baldhead' of Rasta-speak.
Oh and by the way, the post They Got So Much Things to Say is about Marley's birthday celebration in Addis. It remembers that Rastafarianism is about Ras Tafari no matter how much Marley's current 'representatives' needed a venue for the concert and how much Meles Inc. wanted to pretend they weren't the bad guys in the 'struggle' for justice.)