Thursday, April 06, 2006

At leaset he didn't call him a "self appointed colonial viceroy'- Part Duh!

As much as I wish it were so, no, I am not making up the letter from the Ethiopian Charge to Congressman Smith…

I think ‘Not Anonymous’ on the comments from the last post deciphered the tortuous second paragraph. For those of you who plan on writing diplomatic letters on behalf of the Ethiopian government, “detached academic” doesn’t mean “one who’s limbs have been severed” (as in an academic who has done a stint at Dedesa), nor does it mean “an academic who is disconnected from reality.” “Detached academic” is the Ambassador’s way of asking for a neutral party. Hm. That’s what Minister of Miseducation Genet Zewdie used to call them, I guess. I stand corrected even as I realize I might not be a detached blogger.

But to part 2.

So last we left this story, Mr. Ambassador Fesseha was trying to give "concrete examples" demonstrating Mr. Smith's blind refusal to "acknowledge the shared political and moral values of Ethiopia and America.” Apparently one of the values we share is the sacrosanct freedom of the press thingy. We giggled over it, but Mr. Ambassador was not quite done with that fleecy sophism.

Talking about how the Ethiopian press would cover these hearings:

I did, however, make the offer that your office could be provided with translations of some of the articles about the hearing that appear in non-English-medium newspapers with a view to helping you arrive at the right conclusion. With all due respect, it was simply appalling to me when you cavalierly dismissed my explanation.

Oh no. No.

Has anyone in the EPRDF taken debate classes in college? First rule, cover your weakness. Does the Ethiopian government really want to bring up how the state media will cover the hearings? Now I know the Ambassador was willing to have the non-English coverage translated, but could he go ahead and also translate the articles written in English to English because the way the Ethiopian News Agency writes stories, trying to maneuver around its chronic state of bullshit takes stamina.

I do hope the Congressman follows up on how the Ethiopian media covered the hearings. This is how the ENA covered Yamamoto’s most recent visit to EthiopiaHeadline please? “Ethiopia, US have strong political, economic, social relations: Yamamoto.” Sounds about right. You wonder why everyone cavalierly dismisses your explanation, Mr. Ambassador? Because you say things like, “with a view to helping you arrive at the right conclusion.”

Good rule to follow: don’t provide the evidence that’ll nail you to the wall.


We must have run out of those “concrete examples” of the political and moral values shared by Ethiopia and the US because the Ambassador abandons that line of reasoning and trampolines on to the next impossibly disjointed logic. No attenion span, these people. Brace yourself, it’s a bumpy drive:

Particularly troubling to me was your demanding that certain questions be responded to immediately, on the spot, that would have been inappropriate for me to do so. Foremost among these was your asking me for a commitment regarding the special rapporteur for torture: as a diplomat abroad, I can speak only about past and current policies of my government. I came to the hearing to discuss and answer questions about the existing policies of my government. You posed a question regarding a hypothetical policy. A request to permit a special rapporteur to conduct investigations, regardless of the issue involved, must be submitted through established channels and procedures. Requesting a government commitment for access to special Rapporteur without going through the U.N. established procedure is inappropriate, to say the least. Because this issue has never been raised before, it was impossible and highly inappropriate for me to speculate as to what the policy of the Ethiopian government might be if a request were to be made officially. To be perfectly candid, since reports of possible torture are so nebulous, the objective reality of the situation does not qualify for the appointment of a special rapporteur to investigate such ectoplasm in Ethiopia.

I can wait. I can wait until you recover from that. I'll just...

Whaaaaa? This was what you found most troubling, Ambassador Fesseha? Sure you stammered through a very bulky answer which should have been a simple reply, but did you write this thinking it… made you look better? I see it’s time for another handy rule: don’t make yourself look worse. Chris Smith drove over you like a MAC truck on steroids because you gave him an opening. And after reflecting back on your response, one would think you would be, I dunno, less foamy, not more. Mr. Smith gave you the rope and you showed him how well you can strangle yourself. Here’s what you should have said: “I will pass on your request to my government.” It was a no-win question… sort of when the hapless Michael Dukakis was asked what he would do if his daughter or wife was raped. It was a stupid question, asked to illicit a stupider answer. Dukakis took the bait: so did the good Ambassador. But then getting snippety about it and highlighting how much you were bitch slapped… oh that is so wrong.

Diplomats are neither expected nor authorized to make promises or commitments about future policy choices without specific instruction to do so. Your attempt to force a binary “yes/no” answer from me was calculated to embarrass me and the Embassy by creating an impression of indecision and cowardice. Neither one should be inferred.
What can be inferred was your own lack of respect for international standards of diplomatic protocol.

Oh for the love of God, just let it go, already! It was bad enough when the Ambassador came off as simply incompetent… but why? Why give an image of himself as a coward as well? We were doing well with thinking he was just a bumbling pencil pusher. Now we have to suspect he is a coward as well? “Neither one should be inferred”?! Dude, so not the way to say you are not an indecisive coward. Besides, we did the inferring way before you suspected us of inferring. And you know what “What can be inferred was your own lack of respect for international standards of diplomatic protocol” sounds like? Like the words of an indecisive coward. No. An embarrassed, indecisive coward. (Aside: Wud Ambassador, Maguressun agursun. Fetfitew maguress gn… Injalot erson’iss.)

Similarly, you asked whether the Ethiopian government would permit
organizations such as the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, and IFES to work again inside
Ethiopia. I replied, truthfully, that if those organizations made application for a permit through the proper channels, they would be given full consideration. What you did not acknowledge in return was that our government has been in communication with these organizations since they left Ethiopia last year. Their situation is being addressed, even if it is not satisfactory to you.

This is so glaringly ex post facto. If you knew that Congressman Smith knows that the government is “in communication” with the NDI, IRI and IFES, why didn’t you say so? And that’s not even the point. The Ethiopian government kicked out three highly respected election observing organizations weeks before the elections-- something that has never happened before in the history of these organizations. Madeline Albright and John McCain wrote to Prime Minister Meles (AFP):

"We are particularly perplexed by these expulsions at a time when your government has stated its intention to organize an open and democratic election process," they said in a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

"This action will only raise questions about the credibility and transparency of these elections," they told Meles whose ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is battling numerous opposition parties in the hotly contested May 15 polls.

Why were they expelled in the first place, Mr. Ambassador? What atrocious, degenerate thing could they have done to be expelled? Answer: um, they hadn’t register properly. Yep. Never mind they were there since January! This is the level the Ethiopian government operates: third-rate intellectualism.

From the AFP article:

They acknowledged that they were not registered at the time of the expulsions but said they had been attempting to obtain the necessary accreditation since January to no avail.

The fact that the US State Department released its unflattering Human Rights Report on Ethiopia in February, I am sure, had nothing to do with kicking out the observers. That would be petty and vindictive. Okay, NDI, IRI and IFES. The Ambassador has spoken: “if those organizations made application”… Go make an application.

I’m bored. Are you bored?

It was insensitive of you to compare Ethiopia’s current government to that of Romania under the brutal Nicolae Ceaucescu, especially after I had noted in my prepared statement the historical reality under which Ethiopia has had to operate since 1974. The Ethiopian people and leaders of today’s Ethiopian government, through their blood, sweat, toil, and tears, and against the odds, overthrew the Communist dictatorship of
Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose regime was as comparable to Ceaucescu’s as any on the African continent. Mengistu’s genocidal policies, used to oppress and repress our country’s peoples, are still a part of living memory for any Ethiopian older than college age. For you to make this comparison was an insult to those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and to those who today are working to make Ethiopia a better, more peaceful, more prosperous, and more democratic place.

Ex post facto #2. The time to defend your government against charges of being like Ceaucescu was… let’s say, at…the hearings? … when the Congressman said it. No doubt you cringed when you saw the tape later at the way you were battered, but… you let the charge stand. I thought it was because you agreed with it. Silly me.

Irony # 1,289: "It was insensitive of you to ..." The Ethiopian Prime Minister…yes, the very embodiment of sensitivity, accused the opposition of resembling the Interhamwe, perpetrators
of the Rwandan genocide. And it wasn’t like he was shy about it neither. He has repeated those charges, as have his mini-mes. So, really? Insensitivity to the plight of Ethiopian while conjuring up images of
streets brimming with macheted bodies?

Letter writing tip #77: I know the standard EPRDF U. issued mantra is “We are better than Mengistu.” But, someone’s gotta tell you, not exactly riveting logic. But, rock on.

I was hoping this would just be a two part series but the remaining page and a half of the Ambassador’s letter is too precious to let go. So, yes, even though it is like striking another blow to a dead horse, there will be a Part 3. Someone’s got to do the dirty work around here. If the Prime Minister of Ethiopia needs a three-part Letter to the Editor to defend his government against the EU preliminary report, then I, too, shall take that privilege. I'm appallingly insensitive.

The Ethiopian government has been discredited way before one low-ranking Ambassador decided to mouth off. Yet it continues to play word games when it doesn’t even know the basic rules of engagement. Its friends, Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Jeffrey Sachs etc, were bawled over because they believed the best Ethiopia can do is the EPRDF. After all, Ethiopia lived through Mengistu. It’s that kind of condescension that gave the Ethiopian government the buoyancy to come to Washington DC and lecture us on diplomacy, proper etiquette, sensitivity, freedom of the media and democratic accreditation.

Ethiopia shall survive the EPRDF.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just you who is troubled by Kibur Ato Fisseha, Wonquette.

Many are.

4:58 PM, April 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb. The Ceausescu and Interhamwe bit is just top class.

Reminded me of Ben's ( wondering why Meles, while so eagerly offering to negotiate with Isayas, doesn't want to extend the same courtesy to the Ethiopian opposition.

10:46 PM, April 06, 2006  
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