By Abdi Lami*
An old friend of mine and I took a memory trip back to mid 1990s and early 2000s when we both were students at Addis Ababa University (AAU). Although we were not in the same batch and did not pursue same professional studies, we shared some fundamentals of campus life common to all students who undergo the processing machines of higher education institutions. As friends and concerned citizens; we shared frustrations, despair and grievances about the lack of democracy, the repulsive – ever deteriorating nature of human rights and the toxic political landscape in Ethiopia.
That frustration sometimes went to the extent that we wanted to ignore politics and just live in obscurity. This was however, a self defeating and a dangerous manifestation of hopelessness that could feed into our own professional degeneration. As we thought quitting is not a viable option and a recipe for self denial, our anger and resentment at this poisonous political reality fueled our discussions and often served as an incentive to scramble to come up with possible scenarios and solutions to our own inquiry.
In our discussions and arguments, we often politicized foreign assistance and development aid industry. We frequently found ourselves excessively obsessed with the misguided western countries foreign policy towards Ethiopia particularly the appeasement policy pursued by the United States administration. In the course of our dialogues since, my friend often recalled the notorious AAU campus conflicts which were intentionally incited by the ruling parity security agents for possible political consumption. He had always been furious about these artificially inseminated conflicts among ethnically polarized student groups and the possible international reactions. He was very much optimistic about intervention particularly from the United States. In fact, he gradually recognized that the United States does not care and even there was a very real possibility that those skirmishes were not heard at all.
We were too ambitious and young at the time. However, as we matured, widened our political scope with exposure to a broader worldview and got to know the international power order, we came to recognize that, the west, particularly the United States, does not care whether you democratize, prosper, advance, and/or suffer from exclusion, subjugation, and be subjected to horrific actions caused by totalitarian regimes. In fact, massive amount of development aid has been poured into Ethiopia by donors primarily to protect and promote the national interest of the donor countries disregarding the needs of impoverished people. The United States cares if and only if circumstances are against its national security interests and the welfare of its people.
Very few examples can maybe cited where the United States has shown interest only to defend and protect International peace, security and promote democracy. The United States is heavily preoccupied with confronting the Iranian regime. The Islamic republic of Iran is committed to pursue its desire of acquiring nuclear power and has persistently resisted to back down to the US and United Nation’s demand to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The Iranian nation reaching this level and achieving nuclear power capability, whether for peaceful or military purposes, means a threat to the national security of the United States and its closest allies. Although several options are available to exclude Iran from international presence, strong economic embargo has always been on the table to cripple its ambition and undermine Iran’s desire to become a strong regional power. The growing influence of Iran in the Middle East means potentially a serious setback to the United States regional economic interest mainly its stake in the vast oil and petroleum resources. Iran’s nuclear weapons ownership would mean the falling of the nuclear weapons, with a capability to strike the United States mainland, and its regional allies, into the hands of “terrorist groups”.
The North Korean case of nuclear ownership and its controversial relation with the west particularly the United States is the primary cause for the ideological divide. The communist nation is still a powerful remnant of the past socialist world order. In the 21st century, almost the entire world is organized under liberal ideology and free market principles where integration into the international trade and market economy is considered as an opportunity for growth, and prosperity. Globalization and the movement of the global production across nations have created immense opportunities for multinationals corporations and international free enterprises that crash and dismantle the interests of indigenous entities and institutions. The defiance of the communist Korea to surrender to the international capitalism, in which the United States is a front runner, is a serious heartburn for the U.S administration and its international allies. The psychological warfare and the sanctions that target and intend to weaken North Korea fundamentally reflects the United States desire to promote solely its foreign policy interests but not stand in solidarity with the North Korean people against the repressive and brutal communist dictator.
China is still a communist nation that is typically characterized by centralized development planning by which state monopoly and interference in every aspect of life is highly reflected. However, with mixed economic policies of the Communist China, the United States has been able to penetrate the Chinese vast market. Chinese companies have a solid ground in the United States and the economic interdependence between the two nations has grown exponentially in recent years. China is the biggest foreign creditor to the United States treasury as the US owes the Chinese government almost a trillion dollars. All the while, China remains one of the worlds worst human rights offenders. The United States has been reluctant to strongly condemn the Chinese government on this stance and the US appeasement policies towards China have been a serious headache for the international human rights defenders. In the end, the pacification of the US towards the Chinese governments grave human rights records, portray the US recklessness about the Chinese totalitarian regime and its failure to pass a self-proclaimed test of promoting democratic values around the world.
For naive and innocent people like me, the US invasion of Iraq meant that the United States is the guardian of world peace and stability with a vested interest in the promotion of human rights, democracy and social justice. Saddam Hussein was ousted and his minority government was toppled when the United States invaded the country in 2003. Even though Saddam Hussein was undeniably one of the worst Dictators in history, the real objective behind the US invasion of Iraq was primarily economic. Credible but unconfirmed sources link high profile royal families in Saudi Arabia with the inner circles of the United States former administration and thus to oil and petroleum fortunes in Iraq and the entire Middle East. Therefore, the United States invasion of Iraq and the ousting of the dictatorial regime could be justified by reasons of not religious, rather as a concern over weapons of mass destruction, political, concerns for suppression of freedom and deterioration of human rights. The United States had to meet the national security interest in terms of uncontrolled and obsessive consumption of the global resources.
In a nation where the lion’s share of its economy or 70% of the GDP is for consumption, it is barely possible to rely on domestic production. So, to meet the growing needs of its population, the United States has to dominate, control and exploit the world by creating false pretexts, and reasons to scramble the less powerful, and non-complying rouge states. Iraq was an innocent bystander and the victim of such desire by the world’s capitalist and powerful nation for domination and exploitation.
Contemporary concepts such as terrorism are fuzzy and abused words. The concept is defined solely from a single perspective characterizing it as a desperate act of groups, or individuals who are frustrated in the formal institution of governance. For genuine understanding of the concept; terrorism, state sponsored terrorism and state terrorists have to be in the category. If the widely accepted definition of terrorism was applied to the Ethiopian government, we may not have problem understanding the concept. The US indirectly promotes an act of terrorism by supporting dictators who terrorize their own citizens. If terrorism defines the nature of the Chinese government, it is fairly realistic to assume that any country can commit an act of terror to silence descent, maintain status quo and extend its lifeline. The world also needs to thoroughly understand the motives of individuals and groups that engage in a catastrophic destruction of innocent lives and resources.
The US presence at every corner of the world under the pretext of fighting international terrorism is the desire to control resources and promote its selfish foreign policy motives. International presence also simply means the radicalization of Muslim extremists, Jihadist groups or individuals. The ever growing proliferation of what they call “home grown terrorists” in the United States seeks to resist the supremacy of international predatory capitalism. In fact, the United States is in war with not the Muslim world but with extremist groups. Attaining International peace and security need common and mutual understanding among nations. The US can govern the world only through genuine promotion of democracy and defending human rights not by merely propagating the egocentric nature of its predatory capitalism.
Al-Qaeda’s base of strike against the west particularly the United States and its ideological warfare has so far been Afghanistan and Pakistan. The overt motives of presence by the US and NATO forces are counter-terrorism in mission. However, the covert purpose of the international coalition forces in Afghanistan is clearly beyond this mission. Somalia is becoming the next Taliban in East Africa. Terrorism and groups linked to international terrorist organizations are finding safe heaven at this failed and lawless state. Therefore, for the United States and its allies, exploiting every opportunity to pursue and destroy the terrorist networks means conquering further territories, disrupting indigenous structures and replacing it with its surrogates, expand the reach of the capitalist web of exploitation networks and ultimately meeting their selfish economic interest.
In the name of terrorism, they invade and destroy local culture, dismantle indigenous governance structures, seed instability, and create mistrust among various groups. Yes the United States want to maintain its global lead in terms of military capability, economic might, political influence and cultural slavery. Loss of international dominance in this competitive world means a symbolic and catastrophic failure in every aspects and probably equivalent to committing suicide for the United States.
The United States is a uniquely and exceptionally built nation on earth. A nation that is built on the core values of promoting predatory capitalism does not recognize the true face of democracy and freedom. If the US recognizes these credos they are solely limited to its national boundaries. Every calculation the United States makes in the international relation is guided fundamentally by the material gains and self-centered corporate world. The United States claims of promoting democracy, international peace and security are simply false. It is a fake claim because the United States does not live up to its commitments and universal principles that are enshrined in its own democratic ideals when it comes to promoting freedom and democracy beyond its national borders.
It is also a fake claim because the United States partners itself with predators of peace, creators of havoc and the worst offenders of human rights. A false and fake claim because the United States provides moral, financial, logistic and material support to totalitarian/ authotarian rulers who brutally crash oppositions, silence dissidents and suppress freedom and liberty. A false claim in a sense that the United States institutes coercive state machinery and surrogate governments that defend the US foreign policy interests and dies for its dirty war particularly in the fight against terrorism. These actions do not represent and guarantee the interest of the impoverished people of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. Therefore, this is absolutely a failed and misguided foreign policy goals as well as a serious strategic blunder if not a severe provocation of instability, chaos and devastation the United States has caused to the International peace and order.
The United States has nurtured the present regime in Ethiopia. It has done every possible effort to strengthen Melese Zenawi since the mid 1980s when he joined the guerrilla warfare until TPLF thugs eventually toppled the military regime in 1991. CIA’s covert involvement in the Ethiopias catastrophic civil war from the very outset was primarily motivated by the US interest to dismantle the socialist camp in which Ethiopia was party to during the Dergue regime. The communist camp came to an end in Ethiopia and the presumption and hope was to make a meaningful transition from totalitarian rule under the communist regime to democratic governance.
In fact, in early days of the transitional government, there were hopes that Ethiopia would democratize sooner or later. As early indicators, free speeches began to emerge. Free media, independent newsletters flourished, opposition groups were blooming, and economic independence and freedom sprung as symptoms of free markets and democratization process. Early elections were held relatively in an environment of peace and stability until opposition groups were eliminated from the political scene and became real game changers. The mysterious case of the Oromo Liberation Front withdrawal from the political process and nation building efforts was in fact one of the classic examples and the gravest and most calculated political risks the TPLF has ever taken.
As the government got solid ground and critics from the oppositions camps held strong resilience, the early signs of democratization process ceased way to intimidation and harassment. Symptoms of totalitarianism began to emerge within the TPLF inner circle and its human rights records began to deteriorate. And the EPRDF ruling clique has made greater stride toward steady movement to consolidate its power and eliminate any forms of dissent by any possible means. Opponents were crashed and stifled, and the TPLF gangsters have proven themselves the worst predators of peace and stability. They have achieved every reasonable level of what the totalitarian regime can achieve.
The may 23, 2010 Ethiopian parliamentary election outcomes has clearly proven that the path Ethiopia has taken is absolutely an erroneous one. However, the west particularly the United States has managed to remain silent and soundless. Two fundamental questions remain to be answered. Should Ethiopia turn into a terrorist nation or reach a nuclear power capability to attract the attention of United States and other western countries to curb its dangerous move toward authoritarian one-party rule and eliminate free thinking, democracy and liberty? Or should the west really trade off democracy with stability? We will wait and see what happens.