Table for One, Please: Meles at the Progressive Leaders Summit.
Hopefully, Ato Meles has not sent in his RSVP for next year's "Progressive Leaders" summit.
Who knows what truly happened between Prime Ministers Meles and Blair in
Which of the following does not belong at a “progressive leaders” summit?
a. Ultra utopian, self-aggrandizing rhetoric
b. Empty promises, patronizing hyperbole and mind numbing boredom
c. A sumptuous buffet
d. Meles Zenawi
BBC covered the story in its usual tone… supremely disinterested.
But at a news conference, Mr Blair found himself sitting alongside his Ethiopian counterpart, Mr Zenawi, who has been facing strong international criticism over his handling of the political unrest and violence that followed disputed elections.
Okkkay. This is the first time I think I have read a BBC reporter referring to the elections as ‘disputed.’ Usually it goes something like, “The ruling party won the election that were generally deemed fair, but the opposition triple quadrupled its seats in the parliament…blah blah.” But, don’t worry, Mr. Blair will set that straight.
On Sunday, Mr Blair said he had been concerned about what he called "real issues".
"The government won the election, there was then a reaction to it, there was then, perhaps, if I can say this without being too undiplomatic, an over reaction to that, which often happens," said Mr Blair.
Saying that perhaps there was an ‘over reaction’ is deemed too undiplomatic these days? Mmm. Just how beautiful is Blair's deliberately understated, backhanded castration? "Perhaps an over reaction." Exquisite. Let's pretend to go along with it.
Er… your buddy there, the progressive one sitting next to you, yes, that one, shot live ammunition into an unarmed crowd, is terrorizing the countryside, has set up detention camps all over the country, has criminalized dissent and… I ain’t too much of a diplomat, but on this side of the Pacific we call that more than an “over reaction.” We call it thuggary. An over reaction is when sugar is half price at Costco and you buy 20 pounds.
Interestingly, not only was there an “over reaction”… perhaps, but, according to Mr. Blair, it “often happens.” Really? Do many “progressive leaders” um, “over react” and often gun down unarmed citizens in disputed elections? Let’s ask the other progressive leaders.
Makes you wonder what Blair would say if he were trying to be undiplomatic.
In case we need a reminder, December 4, 2005 fellow Brit Tim Clarke, head of the EU delegation in Addis, had this to say about Ato Meles’ “over reaction” which some have called ... gross human rights abuses:
We've been hearing from Dedesa camp about atrocities taking place. It's extremely worrying. We have not witnessed anything like this in
But I don’t want to over react. It’s undiplomatic.
Then there is the coverage of The Times (of
To both men’s evident distaste, Mr Blair found himself seated next to Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, at the final press conference of a weekend summit of “progressive” world leaders.
Note the quotation marks around progressive. The Times actually makes mention of a trivial fact: that there were people who were actually shot and killed by Ato Meles’ gunmen (“scores of unarmed demonstrators, mainly students, were shot dead in June and November in the capital), as opposed to the BBC which prefers the more genteel “political unrest and violence.”
Detailing the fact that the ‘progressive’ Ato Meles was anointed by Mr. Blair, the Times article continues,
Now, with a stony-faced Mr Meles alongside, Mr Blair, on his first visit to
The actual transcript of the press conference will make for an interesting read, and if I was not clamoring to go on vacation, I’d have researched it. Good thing I have my priorities straight. But it appears that there was an awwwwwkkkwaaard question and answer session as to why Ato Meles was even in South Africa… with him sitting right there. Ouch! (“Shhh,” said Mr. Blair. “He’s right here. He can hear youuuuuu.”)
If Ato Meles were a better man, or even a thinking man, he would understand the depth with which he was just royally dissed in front of the world. Anyone else would have made an excuse (read:
That left Mr. Blair, who in a very British way, emasculated and coddled his protégée.
And Ato Meles? Poor Ato Meles. Only he could have deluded himself into going to a ‘progressive leaders’ meeting. He ended up looking ridiculous, sulky and trite. He ended up having to explain his very ‘suitability’, and I have no sympathy for the man, but that hurts even in bucolic settings. Worse of all… he ended up being talked about in the third person by a jittery ferenje. Few things are more humiliating.
Thank God Ato Meles has the kind of warlord-in-a-polyester-leisure suit mentality that inoculates him from knowing when he’s been insulted. He probably thinks this was a coup, another feather in his trucker cap. Rock on.
The Times article includes all the salacious details fit to print.
Behind the icy diplomatic exchange, however, the body language told a different story. Whereas the other leaders’ chairs were placed in such a way that they almost rubbed shoulders, a large gap opened up behind the place names of the
[see picture from Ethiomedia]
Oooooh. You see? Typical. They invite you, and then they treat you like shit. For Christ’s sake, Mr. Blair, you still give the man millions of pounds, you’ve had high tea with him, hell, you even invited him to the G8! So he kills a few people? Who hasn't over reacted? Move your place card closer to your boy and smile for the camera. Ato Meles is part of your legacy, and we will make sure to remind you of it as often as possible. Making sure there is a physical gap between you on the dais doesn't make up for your silence. Besides, if you didn’t want to sit next to Meles, you should have swapped places before the press conference. Talk about over reaction. What’s with acting like a four-year-old?
And then as if to hammer in the point:
Afterwards, Mr Blair warmly shook the hands of Thabo Mbeki of
All contact with Mr Meles, though, was avoided.
Oh snap! Well, hopefully Ato Meles was so pleased with himself about rubbing shoulders at the progressives club that he didn’t notice his own unhuggablness. Coz that’ll piss him off. And when Ato Meles is pissed off, he becomes petty and vindictive… which means more Ethiopians will have to die.
So instead of telling the world all the ‘progressive leader-y’ stuff they did over the weekend, Mr. Blair had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining Ato Meles. The headlines coming out of this summit were not supposed to be about
Please, Mr. Blair… please retroactively hug Ato Meles. Of course, if you do, and it is caught on camera, we will remind you of it ad nauseum… but, whachoogonna do? It’s a bitch being friends with people who over react.
Off to vacation! It’ll be the Gooch forum if/when he decides to impart his wisdom.