The Audacity of Supporting America’s Policy

There is a proverb that goes something like this: “A thief believes everybody steals.”  How convenient! – for the thief, that is. We have an equivalent one in Tigrigna: “zebene wra wra nebsKa ayteEbra”. Hmmm, we can only say that dishonest rationalization knows no limits. It doesn’t make the thievery any less repulsive, but comes handy when recruiting more disciples for a bandit, doesn’t it? At least that explains the symbiotic relationship of the Eritrean regime and its fanatic followers in the Diaspora. The end justifies the means; therefore, anything goes. One side cheats and steals, the other side lies to shield it from any consequences.  By crowning themselves the ultimate defenders of the nation, they employ twisted logic full of even more twisted lies to guarantee essentially one thing: the right of one dictator to be left alone to do what he pleases.  


So far, they have been willing to let the cult leader extra-judicially kill people; make citizens disappear into thin air; brutally torture the youth; endanger the country’s sovereignty; turn the nation into a giant prison and now, into an emasculated pariah state -Africa’s North Korea. The cult followers are duped into thinking that that is how everyone does it.  It makes it palatable for thieves to believe everyone lies and steals. Yet, they might be slightly correct. After all, that is exactly how North Korea became, oh well, North Korea –a Stalinist dictatorship, secretive, isolated, heavily militarized and desperately poor country. 


So, what happened to the Singapore dreams of yesteryear? Eritrea was going to become a tigress like Singapore and on its way to rapid development. A beautiful dream indeed, but as they say, the devil is in the details. That route required an open society, free market capitalism, multi-party democracy and even pro-Western attitude. All sound great except these attributes just do not bode well with the personality and ideology of Eritrea’s self appointed Sun King, Isaias Afeworki.  Therefore, a complete opposite course had to be sought. It’s quite easy really, once you get Isaias figured out. It’s simply the opposite of what ought to be. Bring in secretive society, command economy, one-party rule and of course anti-Western mindset. Twist and misalign everything until it fits his world.  His world is of course what we call ‘Eritrea’ today – paranoid, isolated and self destructive. 


Here is pop quiz for you.  What do you think Isaias would do if he finds that a new pair of shoes does not fit him? Get larger sized shoes or cut off his toes to stubbornly fit into the tight pair? If you answered ‘cut off his toes..’ I am sorry but you would be wrong.  You see, this is a trick question.  We are talking about HIS toes.  He (or Nsu as they call him, those who revere him) is not that dumb; even though it may kind of explain why he prefers desert sandals to business shoes… 


Let’s talk about YOUR toes instead.  Without hesitation he would ask you – nay, order his henchmen – to cut off your toes and even your entire foot, for …what else?…the good of the nation of course. If you don’t comply and actually thank him for it, you must be a Weyane stooge, a defeatist, a traitor and a CIA spy. Instead of HIM (Nsu – how I hate that term!) coming to grips with reality; reality is warped to shape to fit him. Otherwise, what?  Otherwise, HE will “Release the Hounds” of course! 


The rabid attack dogs have a clear mission: intimidate, incapacitate, smear, banish or otherwise render useless anyone with the audacity to have alternative ideas. Just like the enforcers of a religious cult, they will do whatever it takes to keep the rule and mystic of the Great Leader going? Isaias Afeworki’s hounds use “the invisible and long arms of the state” when it is convenient and the apparatus of Western democracies (how ironic) if it is beyond their reach.  This well-perfected machine has worked precisely when it was unleashed against the defenseless Eritrean citizens, at least so far. And now, Isaias and his rabid dogs want to do the same with the international powers that have decided to start implementing their policy of containment. Every dog has his day, and the dictator’s fans are gearing up to show their loyalty by barking profanities at everyone who has the audacity to believe that the sanctions are well deserved punishment. 


As predicted, anti UN and US demonstrations are being conducted in major cities around the Western world with hypnotized people regurgitating what their cadres tell them to repeat: incoherent slogans and unreasonable demands. Blind followers of the regime; have been flickering all over the cyberspace lately, surrounded with fervent but fake patriotism from abroad (wink..wink, they are not crazy enough to actually live in Isaias’ Eritrea). Even the cold splash of the UN sanctions is not likely to end their hypnosis. But, lest some casual observers confuse this with genuine acts of concerned citizens and hoping that some reluctant followers wake up in time, here is a dose of reality, for this time, just like their boss, they may have gone too far.




Splash of Reality #1: It’s Ethiopia Stupid!


Here is the oft-repeated official recap of the circumstances that led to the UN Security Council Resolution 1907.  It all boils down to this: ‘The United States hates Eritrea and its independent-minded leader so much, it has intimidated and used Uganda, Russia, the UK, France, Austria, Japan, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Croatia, Mexico, Turkey, as well as Djibouti, Ethiopia, African Union and IGAD to punish the Eritrean people… and oh, yes they will all live to regret this’. 


Fine and dandy, but there is always a flip side… 


We all know what happened.  Shaebia and Weyane have been at each other’s throat for over a decade now. At every level and where it counts most, the Ethiopians have undoubtedly been more cunning, slick, illusive and efficient at getting what they want.  Trust me, you don’t have to be all that to outsmart and outwit the blindfolded Shaebia/PFDJ organization.  The result: they managed to easily control Badme, Eritrea to Baidoa, Somalia and everything in between. 


And now, to top off their non-compliance with the border demarcation ruling, they managed to effectively orchestrate their diplomatic advantage and slap their arch enemy with a UN sanction.  The predictably reliable Isaias Afeworki was very helpful along the way; nevertheless, it was not an easy task to pull.  And you thought they should have gotten the sanction instead, huh?  If geo-politics worked like our mothers’ Uuqub, yes indeed. But living is learning and we just learned that the number one threat to Eritrea’s national security remains one man – our reckless and inept dictator. 


So, how did Ethiopia do it? 


They used all their resources and soft skills of course. They appeared more reasonable compared to the stubborn and erratic behavior of Isaias and his PFDJ.  While Eritrea was disappearing its dissenting leaders into the oblivion; the Ethiopians were seen “pardoning” jailed opponents. While Eritrea was busy muzzling the budding private press; Ethiopia’s non-governmental media flourished. While Eritrea was shredding the Constitution before it even made it off of the press and predicting four more decades of dictatorship; Ethiopia is getting ready for its fourth election –however rigged, rehearsed or manipulated we might choose to believe.  While Eritrea was chasing away NGO’s, Western diplomats and the UNMEE; Ethiopians proved to be more accommodating and easier to work with. It’s all relative, and relatively speaking, at this juncture, even Menghistu Hailemariam gets offended when compared to Isaias Afeworki. I hear Menghistu now carries this chart that shows the sharp rise in the number of prisons in today’s Eritrea as compared to during his reign …even when adjusted for inflation! Or does he mean population?.. whatever…back to the point. 


So, here we are now.  If this was some kind of cat and mouse chase; a pointless pissing contest; two bald men fighting over a comb or some other metaphor; it’s now clear who won.  Who said this was about fairness or picking on your own size? Whatever it was, Isaias and his PFDJ are now roped and tied like a helpless calf at a rodeo. 


But, let’s not miss the moral of the story; which is: don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. 


Again, how did the Ethiopians do it?  The above mentioned “modes of operation” really helped, but at the top of the list is their choice and ability to be a reliable friend of the United States, the sole superpower of world. Now, we know this is a juicy red meat for the hound dogs and they salivate at the thought of demonizing America, the bully. But… 


Hold your drools my canine friends!…because, this is where the next dose of reality-check gets administered. 


Splash of Reality #2: The Lies About America


One can easily fill a book with all the lies and half truths that are spawned by third world tyrants, fanatics, zealots and conspiracy theorists. Another may easily write an encyclopedia full of America’s foreign blunders and its dark domestic history.  The truth is, civilizations that have come and gone have all had their impact and the rise of United States has its own history. But we can’t pick and choose, can we? For example, we can’t selectively talk about the virtues of the Marshal Plan, without mentioning the destruction of Germany at the hands the Allies. We can’t talk about just about the destruction of Germany without mentioning the need to stop Hitler and the Third Reich.  We can’t applaud US-Japan relationship without referring to Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima. World history is full of intertwined events and unless we choose to see them in their totality everything becomes muddled. 


Before we go off on a tangent here, let’s focus our discussion to the issue at hand.  Overall, the rise of the United States in the last century, at least in my humble opinion, has brought about more good things for the world than otherwise. But then again, honestly, who cares what I think? Really! 


We can debate until the cows come home about Vietnam and Cambodia, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, Iraq and Afghanistan, Korea and the Philippines, the Moon Landing and JFK, Capitalism and Neo-Conservatism, Reaganomics and the Obama Doctrine. That’s why I said, who cares what I think. America truly is a global super power that will very likely stay a super power for the rest of our lifetime and may be beyond.  Is that good or bad? To me, that is like asking if rain is good or bad for humanity.  It can certainly help us grow crops and quench our thirsts but it can also turn into a flood, engulf our houses and drown us.  But no matter what you and I think, it will keep raining. 


When it rains, some people will get an umbrella, collect rain drops and adjust their life style to accommodate the rain and some others will point to the sky and curse the clouds and demand for the rain to stop hitting them. The later takes either big balls or a very small brain, or both. Wait a minute …could our Isaias be suffering from such an ailment? BBBSBS (Big-Balls-But-Small-Brain-Syndrome)?  


Forget him for a second and let’s look at how his advisors are currently positioning their arguments?  Oh no, did I say advisors? I take it back. No one “advises” the Great Leader; instead HE lectures people into thinking his way. And the following pure lies are what he told the soundboards who should know better (such as Dr. Ghidewon Abay Asmerom) to echo ad nauseum. 


“American Diplomats Make Their Own Policy”


In their lame attempt to discredit America’s stance, the regime and its believers have been accusing US Department of State officials of formulating their own policy. Intentionally or not, they have been screaming that Dr. Jendayi Frazier had her own Africa Policy and Dr. Susan Rice passed her own UN Security council resolution. Just because things run at the whims of one-man in Eritrea, it does not automatically mean that is how it works in the United States. So, what gives? Well, didn’t we say that a thief believes everyone steals? 


US foreign policy may be a hodge-podge of national security interests, intelligence reports, ideologies, economic considerations and quid-pro-quo arrangements but it does not mean Susan Rice can wake up one day and make her own decisions.  Democracies just don’t work that way.  What it means is that, somewhere, somehow Isaias Afeworki’s agenda clashes with that of America’s.  America’s diplomats are expected to advance America’s interests first and foremost.  Whose interests do you think Isaias is advancing when he immersed Eritrea in the thick of the Somali conflict? There is no plausible answer other than his wounded ego.  Recently, I am sure his insatiable ego just got wounded some more and the Eritrean people have to pay up every time Isaias gets a black eye. yKdenena 


“Eritrea and America Has Irreconcilable Differences”


This may sound rudimentary to most people, but defenders of the indefensible Isaias do not seem to understand that in the world of politics and diplomacy, there are no permanent friends or enemies but permanent interests. Pragmatism trumps idealism most of the time. Yes, it is a fact that at some point in time, America considered Eritrea’s independence to be against its national interest (Gee…makes one wonder if the then ghedli’s Arab-leaning, anti-Zionist, anti-American, communist rhetoric had anything to do with it?) But I digress… 


Pragmatism later required that the United States to be one of the first to recognize Eritrea as an independent nation. Fast forward from that to Hilary Clinton dancing in Asmara with her daughter Chelsea, to Hilary Clinton issuing stern warning if Isaias does not mend his ways.  What changed? Hard to say that, much has changed in US Foreign Policy for the region (it rarely changes from one administration to the next); but a lot has changed on the Eritrean side –from “fighting Bin-Laden when he was in Sudan”, to “we have a right to issue passports to whomever we choose, damn it!”. 


Western Europe, Egypt, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and many others have tremendously benefited from having a close relationship with the United States.  Regardless what leftists and ultra-liberals proclaim, what the United States seeks for the most part is regional stability and its interests are jeopardized when there is chaos?  So, it is preposterous to claim that the US goal in the Horn of Africa is to purposely instigate disorder and anarchy. As a matter of fact, it is when the US ignores and neglects the region that the Horn suffered the most. 


Simply put, when conflicts arise, the one with the closest ties with the US have unfair advantage.  Consider it like a giant stick in the middle of a wresting ring. Whoever picks it up first and smashes his opponent wins. Eritrea (and Isaias is not Eritrea), has nothing against the notion of cooperating with the United States’ designs for the Horn and there should have been no reason for the US to prefer Ethiopia (or Djibouti for that matter) at the expense of Eritrea. To lose the cooperation of the US is tantamount to handing your opponent that giant stick. So let’s not start barking at the wrong tree; it’s not the UNjust sanctions, it’s the UNelected leader! 


Nsu (or Captain Dum Dum as I like to call him) has been palling around with the wrong crowd, betting on the wrong horse and stepping on the wrong toes, lately.  


It gets worse… 


Splash of Reality #3: A Smoking Gun? 


We will probably never know the extent of the Eritrean regime’s involvement in Somalia. It could be small, it could be expansive.  But this much we are sure: Isaias has admitted on several occasions that he lends “political and diplomatic support” to Somali insurgents and Eritrea remains the only country that does not recognize the TFG.  Even crazy Libya recognizes the TFG. In this day and age, if that is not handing the giant stick to your enemies and ask them to use it against you, I don’t know what is. 


The Case of “Abu Mansour”, al-Shabaab’s Spokesman


In the United States, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) under the Department of the Treasury is responsible for enforcing economic and trade sanctions.  The OFAC mainly does this by making sure that known terrorist and sanctioned persons do not use the banking system to wire funds. When transacting business, all banks in the US are required to check names against a database of over 6000 persons. A query of “Eritrea” yields the following result, among other things… 

ROBOW, Mukhtar (a.k.a. ALI, Mujahid Mukhtar Robow; a.k.a. ALI, Mukhtar Abdullahi; a.k.a. ALI, Shaykh Mukhtar Robo; a.k.a. RUBU, Mukhtar Ali; a.k.a. “ABU MANSOUR”; a.k.a. “ABU MANSUR”); DOB 1969; alt. DOB 10 Oct 1969; POB Xudur, Somalia; alt. POB Keren, Eritrea; nationality Eritrea; National ID No. 1372584 (Kenya); Passport 0310857 (Eritrea) issued 21 Aug 2006 expires 20 Aug 2008; (Following data derived from an Eritrean passport issued under the alias name of Mukhtar Abdullahi Ali: Alt. DOB: 10 October 1969; Alt. POB: Keren Eritrea; nationality: Eritrean; National ID No.: 1372584, Kenya; Passport No.: 0310857, Eritrea, Issue Date 21 August 2006, Expire Date 20 August 2008) (individual) [SDGT] 


According to this public information, this individual (who is currently al-Shabaab’s spokesperson) has been issued an Eritrean passport on August 21, 2006 and he is currently under the US terrorist watch list. A few weeks ago, he pledged his organization’s allegiance to Al-Qaeda in Yemen and promised to send his troops there. Al-Qaeda in Yemen is the group that took credit for the attempting to blow up a US airplane over Detroit. 


On January 14, 2010 a headline news on Al-Jazeera’s website declares: “Eritrean President Blasts al-Shabaab over Yemen Threats”….A thinly veiled attempt to distance himself perhaps (and as usual, only after the fact), but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. And only God knows what the sophisticated monitoring and espionage of the power that be shows.  But as members of the family that has been beaten up and subjected to misery by this irresponsible and reckless brute, what we should be saying is, “Not this time, not in our name!”  


To do otherwise and actually participate in raising funds that will go into the hands of the PFDJ is to indirectly finance terrorism.  Until the PFDJ admits its mistakes and completely disassociates itself from the likes of Abu Mansour and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, especially Eritrean-Americans should seriously think about their actions. The experts are saying that America will likely be attacked by terror groups based in Somalia or the Arab Peninsula. Now would be the time for Isaias to wash his hands off clean; and for well meaning patriots to stay away from his contaminated hands. 


Dilemma of Dual Allegiance


We can all acknowledge that there is a lot of emotional reaction going around and some may find it hard to choose between the love of the country they left behind and the affection to the place they now call home. That is to be expected.  But what is unacceptable is to buy into this indoctrination that the Western democratic countries a lot of us live in have some evil intentions against Eritrea. Especially, Eritrean-Americans who are well integrated in to the American society, and for the most part, enjoy a far better lifestyle than the average American; have the responsibility to speak the truth.  The country we are fortunate to live in is a wonderful country and still the beacon of hope for the world. It is far from perfect but and it is not the evil country that the propagandists of the regime would have us believe and we all know it.  


Let’s say a brutal man makes a habit of beating his wife and children day in and day out. Occasionally, passersbys and good Samaritans try to interfere and plead with him not to be so brutal. Instead of listening to their advice, he chooses to scream at them, chase them from his house and even accuses them of trying to break up his family. But the beatings and ill-treatment continue. 


One faithful day, our subject leaves the house and a few hours later the family gets a call. It’s the police calling to inform them that the father is arrested for instigating a fight at a local bar – and of course, he denies it – and wants his wife and children to bail him out.  Now, let’s give the family three options: (a) Let the brutal man stay in jail as long as possible, so they can start building new peaceful life; (b) Accuse the police for framing their “beloved” father, and hope no one laughs; or (c) Argue that they need the father’s income more than they hate his abuse and torture. 


This is what generally separates Eritreans’ reaction to the UN sanctions.  Stark choices for sure, but at the end of the day, those who choose (b) or (c) better explain to the rest of us, how the reign of brutality will end. Otherwise, don’t they become part of the problem as well?  


Much is expected from those to whom much is given. It does not mean we all should agree with the official position of the US government. That would be un-American. But at the very least, we should stand along the side of those who want constitutional governance, a right to choose their leaders, freedom of expression, right of assembly and worship. We should challenge those who cling to power by lying, cheating and deceiving. 


It may be too much to expect from ardent supporter of the regime such as the YPFDJ, but instead of holding hands and singing Cumbaya to an UNelected dictator, and irresponsibly radicalizing the youth, at the very least, I hope they choose to question and counsel their leaders.  


Because… that country down by the Red Sea, that these hypocrites claim to love more than you and I, deserves better than this; better than thieves who believe everyone steals.  


Because that country, is my country too, damn it!

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