Tuesday, October 23

It's NOT All in the Game, Yo

it's all in the game, yo

Omar's friendly advice to a drug dealer he is robbing

We find the tone of some recent commentary about Senator Inhofe disturbing. Several friends of ethiopundit have parried that by noting that this blog makes fun of American politicians and diplomats routinely. That is true - but it's all in the game of American politics where despite disagreement there is a basis of assumption that participants are acting with some basic good faith.

For example, for the long unfinished post below our friendly neighborhood photoshopper grafted the heads of former Congressmen Dick Armey and Richard Gephardt (of DLA Piper infamy) onto the bodies of pimps straight out of central casting. The purpose was to make a point about allowing the corruption of the democratic American political system by the dictatorial government of Ethiopia.

Lobbying itself is not the issue and Armey / Gephardt / DLA Piper are not the issue either. From organizations like the Hellenic Institute and AIPAC onto relative newcomers such as Ethiopian-Americans active in the political process, lobbying by interested communities is fundamental to the way American politics works and is entirely honorable.

However, things are different when a foreign despot such as Meles Zenawi uses money stolen from his own people and siphoned from American foreign aid to hire lobbyists in Washington D.C. to protect himself from the consequences of his mass violence. There we are are not talking about anything remotely honorable but rather something fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.

We may feel - and know we are right - to say that Armey and Gephardt are in error and that they are doing grave harm to the interests of the US and Ethiopia. But we remember that they are fundamentally honorable men however they are caricatured in this blog. We don't really think that Ambassador Yamamoto is Darth Vader either.

Today they are just doing their job (perhaps too well in the Senate) after their failure in the House. But in the future they could be pushing policies friendly to Ethiopia or they might simply see the light. Who knows?

The opinions and actions of Senator Inhofe, who is opposed to the sanctions bill against Meles Inc. should be seen in exactly the same way. He simply disagrees with most opponents of the Ethiopian dictatorship about what is right for American interests in the Horn of Africa. Tomorrow he may get on the good side of the angels or just lose interest. That is the way normal politics usually works and that is just fine.

In the meantime his opinions may be torn to pieces, exposed everywhere for how wrong they are, and attacked with passion - but he remains a respected and responsible elected representative of the American people. Most importantly he and other Senators likely to agree with him may be convinced to the contrary but only by passionate rationality - not by insults and aspersions on his or their characters.

The zero-sum view of 'my way or the highway' tragically defines the Ethiopian political game set up by Mengistu and Meles - with lethal consequences visited upon millions of Ethiopians everyday and also as an attempted export to corrupt American life. Don't get us wrong, when we make fun of and denounce Meles and his gangsters we either mean to offend or don't care - after all Meles is a reader of this blog and he is simply bad news.

But, in the American political game and the new Ethiopian political game being pioneered by the non-violent and democratic opposition on several continents, there should be a realization that Mengistu style and Melesian rules of discourse don't apply and that they are entirely counterproductive for all concerned in every way.

Insulting Senator Inhofe or other politicians of either major American party will serve only the interests of Meles Inc. That mainly serves to level the moral playing field, if only in appearance, between the never ending shrill hatred, threats, and denunciations coming from the regime cadres / agents / diplomats in every TPLF / EPRDF / government forum against equally honorable men like Congressman Donald Payne and Christopher Smith.

Civility with reason, passion, humor, and even anger IS all in the game in the US and the Ethiopian political environment that is in opposition to rule by the gun. There is always an uneasy suspicion that those who sound like Meles Inc. when they don't get their way are actually like Meles.

We know that is not true - but appearance matters in such situations. The ways and policies of dictatorial pimpage as practiced by Meles, however, is NEVER all in the game. We don't want to live in Omar's world and we reject Melesian rules too. We should all try to make the proper distinctions.


A great Harper's article on Armey / Gephardt / DLA Piper is here.

Dagmawi has an exceptional analysis of the rationale and reason behind reactions to HR 2003 here.

Ethiomedia, Ethiopian Politics and Ethio-Zagol remain must reads.

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