Monday, October 30

The Great Intellectual Dictator

The Great Dictator is a 1940 Charlie Chaplin film and his first 'talkie'. In it, Chaplin both satirizes 1930s Totalitarianism and points out its essentially evil nature. In one extended sequence, the great dictator dances with a globe just as such men actually controlled the fates of millions. Mankind in general is blessed to be out of the reach of Ethiopia's dictatorship and Ethiopians and others on the Horn of Africa are cursed that Meles is playing with their lives in the same way today.

One of the principal targets for Chaplin's mockery is the dictator's cult of personality. Kruschev in his 1956 'secret speech' denouncing Stalinism had the following to say about such cults:
Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person. . . . One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin's self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948.

This book is an expression of the most dissolute flattery, an example of making a man into a godhead, of transforming him into an infallible sage, "the greatest leader," "sublime strategist of all times and nations." Finally no other words could be found with which to lift Stalin up to the heavens.

We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book.
The traditional version of such cults is familiar to us all in man's history, both good and bad, of god-kings. However, almost every monarch was positively benign when compared to modern times and the absolute rule of aggressive, intrusive and omnipresent dictatorship familiar to all victims and observers of fascism of the left and communism of the right.

The most famous cult of personality is probably that of Big Brother in 1984 but the Kim dynasty in North Korea, Mussolini in Italy, Mao in China, Castro in Cuba, Hitler in Germany and Mengistu in Ethiopia were subjects of such official religious devotion to their perfection. Ethiopia's current ruler, Meles Zenawi, appears to have no cult built up around him.

Every business and home (although he probably owns the business or owns the owner in question and by definition owns the land under the home in question) does not display his picture, ceremonial duties of state are carried out by a President who at least symbolically outranks the PM and he is even when seen as a dictator supposedly beholden to a politburo or the 'elders' of his tribal revolutionary party.

That all goes to show how sophisticated a cult of personality can be or how easily one can escape the eyes of those who don't look to closely - or don't want to. The contest between Mengistu and Meles / between Scientific Socialism and Revolutionary Democracy / between uneducated military Dictatorship of the Proletariat and student tribal Democratic Centralism was ultimately a struggle played out between two remarkably like-minded men for posession of Ethiopia.

We have likened Mengistu's rule to Zemene Awre - The Era of the Beast. This was the apt title for the Dergue’s reign given by an Eritrean poet whose name we have forgotten but whose words accurately describe seventeen years of brutality and destruction. We have also called the reign of Meles, Zemene Ashattir - The Era of the Trickster.

Both believed in tribal apartheid, both insisted on the essential illegitimacy of Ethiopia, both were against the concepts of private property and market economics, both held fake elections and had fake assemblies of the people, both controlled inseperable parties and governments, both did not hesitate to kill or intimidate exactly as many people as they needed to so that they could rule indefinitely in the name of 'the people'.

While evil (and what is dictatorship besides evil?) does come in the obvious form of the bloody beast, it is the more pleasing form of the trickster that seduces , corrupts and destroys with greater efficiency. Lies, secrecy, vicious reactions to criticism, eternal intrigue, manipulation, suspicion and an utter lack of transparency are vital elements of government today. Years ago the BBC made the following observation
Observers used to joke that when the TPLF captured towns from Mengistu's Marxist regime, they would take down the ubiquitous portraits of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Lenin in government offices, and replace them with even larger ones.
Mengistu ruled during a time when the USSR under Brezhnev was quite willing to supply all he needed to kill the requisite number of Ethiopians to stay in power. Meles came around to late for that unquestioning type of support. Almost from the beginning Meles had to deal with creating an illusion of popular and democratic credentials to stay ahead in the contest.

By the time Meles took over in 1991 there was no choice but to rule with images of Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith replacing images of Marx and Lenin. The internal contradictions of the larger revolutionary democratic world had seen it relegated to the dustbin of history so an accomodation had to be made to the victorious imperialist forces.

After all, somebody had to pay for Revolutionary Democracy, which was guaranteed to bring poverty and suffering in its wake. Pyonyang and Havana have found nuclear blackmail and sexual tourism to be reliable sources of finance so they don't have to play the same games to please aid donors.

Thus was born the Melesian cult of personality. The Melesian Cult is above all steeped in lies and blood. In the post On the Origins of the TPLF we took a look at the 1970s origins of the popular movement that Meles Inc. took over.

Until every traditional and ideological rival had been dealt with besides the Dergue, the nascent TPLF vigorously pretended not to be Communist. One reason was that Tigray has always been the Ethiopian setting of the strongest rights of personal property and also of Ethiopian patriotism.

When Tigrayans no longer had a choice, Meles Inc. showed its true face and the first pillar of its rule. Donald Levine notes that
This ethno-Marxist sentiment drove the most ambitious elements of the TPLF movement. It led those who took political control of the TPLF to turn against Tigrayan political elements who did not support Eritrean independence. Before long that led, evidence suggests, to a policy of liquidating those elements.

Tigray became, survivors of those horrific years aver, a "killing field." According to many reports, which must be investigated further by future historians, Tigrayan civilians were slaughtered right and left–in many cases following gruesome torture, according to eye witnesses.


Coupled with the new dogmatic abstraction about Ethiopia as an invention of Minilek, it became a heady brew that induced the committed TPLF ethno-Marxists to murder great numbers of civilians and to perpetrate slanders against Amharas and Ethiopian patriots.

One veteran of those killings confesses that when he told another, early in the fighting "the number of people we have killed thus far has reached 10,000," his comrade replied: "So what, Red China had to kill a million people in order to become victorious." Attitudes of that sort, be it noted, were shared by other Ethiopian revolutionaries of the time.
Here appeared the second pillar of Meles Inc. ideology, along with Marxisit-Leninism there was to be necessary dedication to Eritrean independence. In addition to being the opportunistic heirs of Stalin and Mao which naturally dictated a search for fractures such as class divisions to weaken their target, they also needed to search out regional and tribal divisions and similiarly make them worse to guarantee victory at all costs.

Later, even Stalin and Mao were not enough so the third pillar of Meles Inc. ideology was put in place. In response to comptetition, a need for absolutism developed within a struggle already betrayed by Moscow and ignored by Beijing so Meles declared absolute devotion to the teachings and examples of Enver Hoxha. We discussed this in the post Original Gangsta and concluded that the purpose was entirely internal.

First to set the lowest expectations possible for the TPLF and second to announce that any price in Tigrayan blood would be paid for Meles Inc. rule. The meaning of 'La Lutta Continua' after he was criticized for holding a fake election is simply an extension of the willingness to kill from Tigrayans alone to all Ethiopians in general.

As the rival Communist Mengistu collapsed, Meles realized that the ghost of Enver Hoxha would not pay the bills for his own brand of impoverishing government so he became a born again liberal democrat and capitalist.

Every step on the way from when his agents made their bones terrorizing Tigrayan peasants into submission all the way to walking the guilded halls of palaces where legitimate Presidents and Prime Ministers rule - the most consistent and notable part of Meles rule has been an amazing tactical ability to be exactly what the moment demanded for absolute power and absolute justification of every action.

By definition, "a cult of personality is a political institution in which a country's leader uses mass media to create a larger-than-life public image through unquestioning flattery and praise".

Unlike the cults of personality of his more unsophisticated totalitarian ideological ancestors, Meles has let whatever the idea of the moment is - speak for him while he can shed them all in turn like a snake sheds its skin. All the while assured that attacks on the actual origin of every nonsensical new paradigm and borrowed idea are dealt with without mercy and that like crumbs thrown to birds, a flurry of words will keep those who can't be killed in awe while they try to understand it all.

Why don't we take a look at a partial list of the serial intellectual fronts and justifications for Meles to rule Ethiopia indefinitely. All used with consummate opportunism:

1- Tribalism (from Lenin and every other radical of the day)
2- The EPLF Agenda (from Issias Afeworki)
3- Albanian Communism (from Enver Hoxha)
4- Revolutionary Democracy (from Mao and Lenin)
5- Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (from Stalin, Mao and Nyerere)
6- Internet Led Industrialization (from Bono)
7- Renaissance African Leadership (from Clinton)
8- Super Liberal Democrat (from Blair)
9- Mr. Good Governance (Blair again)
10- Mr. Millenium Development Goals (from Sachs)
11- 'New and Improved' Development Economics (from Stiglitz)
12- The War on Terror (from Bush)

Aside from playing TPLF factions against each other, deciding who to kill or crush and scheduling purges we wonder if Meles has ever had an original thought. For the sources of inspiration that were alive at the time they were used, each providedcover for the Melesian Cult in turn very willingly while the horrible nature of their practical / intellectual partner was clear before the world.

And ... in turn, Meles has turned on each source of inspiration just as viciously as the moment required for his interests of eternal rule. One by one he will make it through the whole list betraying each in turn until he takes his golden parachute to land on billions stashed away in Western property and banks.

What will be left for Ethiopians to deal with is tragic to contemplate. Betrayal of Ethiopia's interests should simply be assumed. We are not talking about a great deal of sentimentality here.

What do you expect to come out of a vanguard tribalist revolutionary party and business empire that feeds off of the blood, sweat and tears of a nation? As far as his Terror Warrior credentials go, Meles is faking terrorist threats towards Ethiopia coming out of Somalia and he practically begged for a jihad to be declared against Ethiopia by invading Somalia to begin with.

Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, Al Quaeda and a whole host of assorted murderous miscreants actually caused harm to their own societies and foreign targets before they were targeted. Somalia's Islamists may be no different but it seems more likely that Meles invaded simply to have more burnished status as a strategic ally in the war on terror just as the Senate was considering HR-5680.

All of the above sources of inspiration knew exactly what Meles was about but he gave them all the desperately needed chance to see him exactly as they needed to. Constantly through this succession of ideas has been the primacy absolute rule of Meles Zenawi with great care taken when discussing a previous justification because it may re-occur at any time and absolutely no tolerance of actual discussion of Meles himself.

The Melesian Cult of Personality has been achieved without a single image of the man himself on currency, billboards or lapel pins ... but his supremacy is uppermost in every mind. Minimal consideration of whichever mask he chooses to wear still means that none of the essence of the dictatorial state he rules is open for any consideration.

Dedication to the essentials has given Meles a winning formula for rule. He has bypassed the need for any Ethiopians at all as a constituency by perpetuating the essentials of a system inherited from Mengistu that will keep them poor and powerless indefinitely.

His constituency is instead foreigners who in realizing his capacity to bring harm to Ethiopians take on the task of caring for Ethiopians at a minimal level and of minimizing the risks to regional security he can create.

Meles and his revolutionary aristocracy in the name of the party / government / cronies that all regulate each other own all of Ethiopia's land and economy in a more selfish and greedy grasp than ever before in history.

They deal with opposition brutally before all and do their will with a pretense of civilization where Western eyes are present and where they aren't do exactly what they want to anyone who thinks wrong thoughts.

All the while willing partners find in Meles a strategic partner or a new democrat or a great micro-economist or other such absurdities. This is all the essence of cleverness.

Is cleverness a form of intelligence? Certainly it is. Does intelligence combined with the perverse set of social skills needed to rise within a bloody revolutionary party at war make someone very smart? Sure they do.

Can you stir in a few big words and ideas, put them in the oven and bake a great intellectual? Apperently so. Even if Meles was some great intellectual (a very big if, mind you), of what purpose is intelligence in the service of immorality?

Once anyone figures out what he is actually talking about and manages to see what he has accomplished it is clear that beyond a cushion provided by foreign aid and remittances that there is nothing good in the mix for Ethiopians.

Despite the occasional intrusion of reality, the illusion of intellectualism is a profoundly important part of the Cult of Meles. Indeed, being able to impress or fool ferenjis (along with ruthlessness in dealing with even imagined dissent) was one of the principal reasons for his rise and rule.

That intellectual illusion is just an aspect of being to every ferenji exactly the man their fevered imaginations need most deeply to picture sitting in front of them in his office or across a dinner or negotiating table. Ethiopians understand it all too well. They have no voice at that table or in any office and they know all too well the wages for commenting on the reality of Meles.

At every stage, choice little understood bites of intelligent sounding and self justifying rhetoric are grafted onto the grand Melesian illusion. The truth is that just like the Great Dictator who danced with the whole globe above, Ethiopia's own Great Intellectual Dictator is also of interest only for the games he plays with the fates of millions on the Horn of Africa.

In What are the Real Reasons Why Meles Decided to Accept the Border Ruling?, Dagmawi asks a fascinating question after noting that "identity is a dynamic property that changes in response to internal and external factors as each human being goes through life".
How many passports does Meles carry? He is an Adwan, a Tigrigna-speaker, a former(?) Marxist-Leninist, an Ethiopian, a guerrilla fighter and an Eritrean. It is not wrong to have multiple identities, but we need to know which of these passports Meles holds most dear.

When there is a conflict of interest, which identity does he defend with the most passion? What passport is he traveling on now with this new proposal of his?

Meles has a long record. It is clear from this record what is most important to him. He himself has told us in the past. The following ranking is my guess on how Meles prioritizes his various passports:

1. Nation of Tigrai
2. Ethnicity of Tigringa speaking people in the horn of Africa
3. Locality of the Adwa region
4. Post-Modern Adherents of Marxism-Leninism
5. Federal entity composed of separate ethnic nations that exist in northeast Africa
(note: this entity currently goes by the name of Ethiopia)
6. Country of Eritrea
7. Orthodox Christian
8. African
9. Human

There is a disconnect here. Meles has a job: Prime Minister of Ethiopia. But the Federal Entity of Northeast Africa (Ethiopia) only ranks fifth on the list of identities that are important to him.
We think Dagmawi is right (as usual) but we think that he left out the most important factor of the Ethiopian dictator's identity: above all else Meles is all about Meles and above all else Meles is loyal to Meles.

Meles wakes up every morning wondering what he should do for Meles that day and whom he has to break or trick to do it. Meles is dedicated to the interests of the absolute and eternal rule of Meles.

Meles has created a country (or at least a party, government and mutual elite) in his very own image. All dedicated to the proposition that he should rule and that without him all would be chaos. Tigrayans are to Meles simply the most readily available victims.

All other factors and motivations fade beside simple, plain old dictatorship. Old comrades, current cronies, eager cadres, opponents and everyone else are like 70 million Ethiopians simply animate objects to be used and discarded as needed in the service of the Prime Directive of Ethiopian Government - service to Meles.

Meles is the dominant factor in the lives of all regime 'supporters'. Meles Inc. wants obedient subjects, not partners. The partners it does tolerate are partners in crime who lose a bit of them selves in pursuit of property or position or just the easy way in life. Its supporters are people who by force or circumstance and very seldom by choice become minions of a vanguard party that treats them like minions and not like men.

Between harassment and intimidation, spying and subverting one’s own spirit and those of others, always in the party’s service, supporters can not but feel a continual internal sense of complicity in wrong. ‘Only following orders’ can only serve for just so long.

Government supporters are simply afraid to be critical in any way even if the criticism is constructive. THEY ARE TERRIFIED OF THE GOVERNMENT more than the opposition is. Cadres know very well the legal and moral crimes that they routinely commit against their own fellow cadres and opponents alike and are thus familiar with what lies in store for themselves if they think unapproved thoughts or even worse - dare to voice them.

They also know that their own hands are dirty and can only justify their own weak behavior by louder and more aggressive behavior to prove themselves and to direct fire away from themselves. It is a structure that dehumanizes all who touch it within and without while demanding subservience in the same manner that cowboys break the spirit of a horse. They endure in the system to give themselves some illusion of purpose beyond the whims of those above them.

It is likely the case that much of the brutality of every manner directed against opponents is a result of trying to silence the internal guilt of knowing better from what tradition and family have taught them but being unable to face their own weak reality as a cog in an immoral machine. They seem to have viciousness in direct proportion to the earnestness of their opponents.

Try getting a government supporter to make any critique of the government in any way at all. They simply can't do it. It is like asking someone to forsake God. Now try the same with an opposition supporter and try and get them to criticize the opposition - you won't be able to shut them up. That is all a sign of great strength of the opposition and the clear insecurity and weakness of the government.

The only way a criticism will be allowed is when particular permission is given for the sake of infiltration and seeming reasonable in civilized circles. For example, the odd throwaway remark about the land policy is done only along the lines of a script handed down from far above and attempts to make the speaker seem open minded.

Presumably cadres should have to submit themselves to ritual cleansing after such missions.

Another example where extraordinary written permission may be needed is when loud abusive insults are directed at the government by its agents. The purpose there is classic Leninist infiltration to draw out hidden opponents in the flock and to discredit the opposition. Having thus established 'street credibility' an assault on the opposition may be launched that is supposed to find more receptive ears.

Often such calls are made with demands for anti-government violence and tribal insults and other ad hominem attacks. Even when no one is fooled, a purpose is served by such performances. Everyone just feels stupid and silly to even be in the company or the same room and interested in the same subject as the performer.

Participation on the sacred party ground of politics is thus discouraged by often successful but indirect means. Willing participants in the ruling party games are actually rather sad to contemplate seriously. Those at home may have untold pressures brought to bear on them but those abroad are real subjects for study.

What happens to those who dare to break the rules and not play along with the Melesian Cult? During a series of street massacres last year it seems to be popular wisdom now that almost 200 civilians were killed for protesting or just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A further 20,000 are reported to be in camps under horrible conditions.

From the beginning we said all estimates of dead, injured and imprisoned were far too low and to this day we think even the new numbers greatly underestimate the government's vengeance upon realizing it was even more loathed than it had imagined. Even in a fake election in a dictatorship not a single district where observers where present was won by the government and no vote counts capable of sustaining statistical inquiry and common sense have been submitted to anyone.

Like gangsters, Meles Inc. took the issue to the streets and settled it there with violence. Leaders of the opposition, human rights groups and the press are in horrible conditions in prison and on trial for their lives before judges as bought and paid for by Meles as his private militia and secret police.

So ... Meles certainly does have a Cult of Personality as vivid and intrusive as any of his totalitarian relations. Criticism of him is not tolerated and praise of him is assumed. The illusion of the great intellectual is simply part of the whole sorry business.

No matter whom Meles quotes, who he finds to ghost write for him, how slavish cadres and sycophantic 'news' outlets are in permanent awe at his every utterance and see him as infallible, how many zeroes are added to the Meles Inc. portfolio, how many minutes of applause there are at party congresses or what summits there are invitations to - in the end the only common issue all have regarding him is how best to minimize the damage he necessarily causes with his primordial tribalism and primitive ideology.

We are delighted to be counted amongst 70 million Ethiopians and countless other friends of Ethiopia who have opted out of, or never joined, the Cult of Meles and all of its attendant bloodthirsty silliness.


This post fits in the series analyzing the ever evolving, ever opportunistic, ever more absurd intellectual justifications for Ethiopia's bloody dictatorship. It all started when we came across some excerpts from a book by the PM titled African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings (PDF file) that we were so impressed with. The series began even before we knew it in the posts Revolutionary Democracy, Hypnotize, Intellectuals and their Discontents and Jeffersonian Economics.

Tuesday, October 17

Coming Attractions

Eventually, in January or February we will get around to the continuation of another series about Meles Inc.'s attempts and successes at creating an American Kebele apparatus. A kebele or rural association is like the oppressive neighborhood Revolutionary Cuban "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution", a means for the state to regularly spy on and intimidate not only whole communities but even families and individuals that the secret police apparatus may have missed.

We wrote about the Dergue's own neighborhood version of those committees that was captured intact, then eagerly made more efficent by Meles Inc. after 1991 in the post, Defending the Revolution. That refinement was all the more easy because the TPLF already had the equally brutal and bloody Goat and Guree system in place down to the household level in Tigray from the 1970s on.

So, getting back to the point, the answer is yes dear reader, under cover of diplomatic status, the Ethiopian government has exported to the U.S. not only plans for but an actually functioning system of espionage and intimidation within the United States against American citizens and legal residents - and ultimately American taxpayers are paying for it all.

Why would the regime bother? Well, the only thing that Meles Inc. is more scared of than its normal 70 million Ethiopian victims is those Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia who can make themselves heard abroad. Although inspiration always travels from Ethiopia to its diaspora - the regime is terrified that either group may get any vision of a world without the current revolutionary aristocracy running the country or that they may get the counter-revolutionary notion that Ethiopians can be free.

Ferenjis in general may be surprised to know of this nasty business while Ethiopian-Americans who do are disgusted (or ashamed as the case may be for a very few). We began this series of posts without knowing it in 21 Months and Counting then continued it in Consent? and Icebergs & Pink Elephants.

In the upcoming post, "Encouragement", we will look at the phenomenon from the point of view of the regime's very own diplomats and agents to see how they do it (or thankfully in most cases how they just try to). Setting up kebeles in free American or Europe to 'manage' a diaspora against every tradition and the laws of those very sovereign host countries is by no coincidence the very same thing as setting up an espionage apparatus.

The only difference is that the targets in this case are more familiar to the hostile foreign government in question. Of course, both are equally illegal. Not surprisingly, the Ethiopian government's attempts and actual infiltration of the Ethiopian diaspora is remarkably similiar to how foreign organized crime networks establish themselves on new territory.

A post after that, Submission! will take at the psychology of collaboration. More accurately, the question is how the regime's efforts to have its will done on otherwise free people (who are certainly very far out of AK-47 range) is translated into obedience and ultimately justified by participants.

All humans need to justify themselves and some revel in a suburban (and city) kebele glory of imagined personal fiefdoms and power that substitute, perhaps, for longing to be "big" or even for absent memories of "fighting in the bush".

So to repeat, what we are trying to get at is what follows. How does someone who fled tyranny and found freedom and opportunity in a new home - keep alive in their bosom like a cherished tradition, the viper of immoral cadre culture they tried (apparently unsuccessfully) to flee?

We often get ideas and sources from readers and in this case as well we will eventually get around to asking for the opinions and experiences of readers on this matter. One reader just suggested we use a Hushmail account for those wanting to use encrypted emails. That seems a bit cloak and dagger, but then who knows where folks are writing from and what they are worried about so we will set one up.


A plan to list and comment on our favorite hip hop videos has been vetoed for now as 'not serious enough' amid complaints about gangster rap misogyny. Sometime soon we hope to return to the history of aviation in Ethiopia and to begin a 'virtual' museum of the Ethiopian Air Force over the past seventy years. Aside from that we will be back in a few weeks or so.

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.

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.
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.

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,


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.
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.

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.

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.
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".

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.
Yamamoto: ...
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.)