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Alliance With Atrocity: Bush's Terror War Partners in Ethiopia
By Chris Floyd, chris-floyd.com
June 18, 2007
The New York Times paints a pretty picture of George W. Bush's bosom pals in Ethiopia, in an important story that once again gives the howling lie to the Bushists' pretensions of advancing freedom and democracy in their world-encircling Terror War.
Of course, the story itself, by Jeffrey Gettleman, is marred by the usual uncritical acceptance of Administration spin on its key role in aiding the Ethiopian dictatorship's aggression in Somalia, and ignores entirely the American airstrikes during the invasion that killed scores of civilians (and are still going on in the Somali hinterland). This is not surprising, given that Gettleman's last big piece from the region was a truly odious bit of propaganda hackwork that essentially painted the victims of the aggression as greedy, worthless, anarchic trash who got what was coming to them. (See "The Lies of the Times: NYT Pushes Bush Line on Somalia.")
Still, the new article is a vast improvement on its predecessor, employing a journalistic device that is increasingly rare in the higher circles of the coporate media: reportage. Gettleman has actually gone to the Ogaden desert to talk with victims of the Ethiopian dictatorships's savage internal repression. He actually details Ethiopia's brutal crackdown on its nascent democracy movement, and its strangling of free elections in 2005 -- and even compares it to the murderous Chinese reaction to the historic Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
(Of course, Bush only increased American military aid to Ethiopia after the 2005 repression -- just as his father never let the Tiananmen massacre derail his courtship of China's leaders, which has paid off so handsomely for America's ruling family, with fat Chinese contracts for son Neil and lucre aplenty for George I's brother, Prescott Jr., long-time head of the Chinese-American Chamber of Commerce. Who wants to bet that Ethiopia will soon adopt Neil's latest wheeze, a "computer learning" gizmo he is marketing with business partners like Boris Berezovsky and Sun Myung Moon? For more on the Warbuckian Bushes, see "Uncle Sugar" and "Buried Treasure.")
So let's give credit where it's due. Although Gettleman downplays the American partnership with Ethiopia's conquest of Somalia -- and takes 40 paragraphs before he mentions that the European Commission is now investigating Bush's partner for war crimes "in connection to hundreds of Somali civilians killed by Ethiopian troops" -- he does bring in a Democratic congressman to decry the U.S. military alliance with Ethiopia, and its bitter fruit in Somalia. I believe this is the first time I've seen such a criticism aired by an elected official in a story from the major corporate media since the attack on Somalia last December.
What's more, the Timesman admirably puts the suffering of the persecuted ethnic Somalis of Ethiopia's Ogaden desert front and center in the story. And he makes an explicit connection between the perpetrators of these atrocities and their staunch supporters in the Bush Administration:
In village after village, people said they had been brutalized by government troops. They described a widespread and longstanding reign of terror, with Ethiopian soldiers gang-raping women, burning down huts and killing civilians at will.
Of course, even in making this connection, which ties the Bush Administration directly to the atrocities detailed in the story, Gettleman still totes White House water by retailing, as unqualified fact, the baseless charge that the overthrown Somali regime was a "potential terrorist threat" -- and thus a legitimate target for the Terror War treatment. (Then again, you could say that any group or any person is a "potential" terrorist threat. If that's your basis for "intervention," then you can invade, detain or kill anyone you like. Which, as we have often pointed out here, is actually the operating philosophy of the Bush Regime.) But let's brush aside Gettleman's knee-jerk spin, and return to the facts and testimonies he unearths.
It is the same military that the American government helps train and equip — and provides with prized intelligence. The two nations have been allies for years, but recently they have grown especially close, teaming up last winter to oust an Islamic movement that controlled much of Somalia and rid the region of a potential terrorist threat.
Anab, a 40-year-old camel herder who was too frightened, like many others, to give her last name, said soldiers took her to a police station, put her in a cell and twisted her nipples with pliers. She said government security forces routinely rounded up young women under the pretext that they were rebel supporters so they could bring them to jail and rape them. "Me, I am old," she said, "but they raped me, too."
As everywhere in the world where violence and repression flourish, women have been particular victims. (Of course, given the Administration's proven track record of callous disregard for the world's most vulnerable women, the fate of the Ogaden women is not likely to trouble the White House very much.)
...Human Rights Watch issued a report in 2005 that documented a rampage by government troops against members of the Anuak, a minority tribe in western Ethiopia, in which soldiers ransacked homes, beat villagers to death with iron bars and in one case, according to a witness, tied up a prisoner and ran over him with a military truck.
...[Ethiopia's] leaders...had promised to let some air into a very stultified political system during the national elections of 2005, which were billed as a milestone on the road to democracy. Instead, they turned into Ethiopia's version of Tiananmen Square. With the opposition poised to win a record number of seats in Parliament, the government cracked down brutally, opening fire on demonstrators, rounding up tens of thousands of opposition supporters and students and leveling charges of treason and even attempted to kill top opposition leaders, including the man elected mayor of Addis Ababa.
Asma, 19, who now lives in neighboring Somaliland, said she was stuck in an underground cell for more than six months last year, raped and tortured. "They beat me on the feet and breasts," she said. She was freed only after her father paid the soldiers ransom, she said, though she did not know how much.
As Gettleman notes, the struggle in the Ogaden was simply ignored by the Bush Adminstration -- until a rebel Ogaden faction staged a bloody attack on an oilfield in Ethiopia last April. Raping women and beating villagers to death, that's just background noise; but messing with the sacred crude -- now, that's serious. So now the Bush administration is seriously considering Ethiopia's oft-repeated request for Washington "to add the Ogaden National Liberation Front to its list of designated foreign terrorist organizations." That could open the spigot to even more U.S. military aid for the dictatorship, and perhaps even bring America's secret Terror Warriors -- such as the Special Forces units operating in Somalia today -- into the Ogaden.
Ambaro, 25, now living in Addis Ababa, said she was gang-raped by five Ethiopian soldiers in January near the town of Fik. She said troops came to her village every night to pluck another young woman. "I'm in pain now, all over my body," she said. " I'm worried that I'll become crazy because of what happened."
After all, for America's war-profiteering ruling family, and its many like-minded barons among the respectable elite, you can never have too many killing fields to play upon -- just as your proxies can never be brutal enough to forfeit your aid...as long as they keep doing your bidding.
Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including the Nation, CounterPunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times, Trinicenter and many others. He is the author of Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, and is co-founder and editor of the "Empire Burlesque" political blog. He can be reached at email@example.com.