Ethiopia to TPLF: No More Free Lunch

In 2015, while the war with ISIS was still going on, I had the opportunity to visit a Peshmerga base where I leaned on sandbags, and my fixer pointed out a village two kilometres away, held by one of the most despicable terrorist organizations on Earth.

To the world at the time, the evil of ISIS seemed a horrible yet seemingly permanent fixture of world politics. I met refugees from Mosul in a camp not far away from Erbil, people who lost practically everything. But in about three years, coalition forces would plow into Mosul and liberate the town.

And in all that time, as the world collectively held its breath and barely had an idea of how people fared “behind the lines” in Iraq and Syria, and as these psychopaths beheaded captured soldiers and even a respected, downright beloved archaeologist in Palmyra, I did not hear anyone once float the asinine idea of… “Well, ISIS doesn’t have power over there, and they don’t have communications, and they’re running out of food.”

The notion would have been ludicrous. Insane. It. Was. A. War.

In 1945, the Nazis sent little boys, their sobbing faces sometimes captured in film footage, to run out with rifles to defend what remained of the Third Reich. Can anyone believe that American soldiers wanted to shoot children? Mow them down with machine guns? But what choice did the soldiers have?

Does anyone think that when bombing raids were made on Berlin or Munich that the Allies wanted civilian casualties out of this? (And yes, I’m well aware of the atrocity of Dresden; after that, we can chat about what the Nazis did while invading Poland).

And yet the Allies dealt with an enemy of pure evil, one that did not think twice about bombing the East End of London into such rubble that to this day, Brits will wryly refer to a newish section of town as “Oh, yes, this was German relandscaping…”

What you did not hear was the enemy bleating, “You big meanies, our power’s cut off!”

No shit, asshole, you invaded the Poland, Holland, France, etc…

Now the world has gone insane. In what twisted reality does a terrorist organization have the right to demand “restore power and comms” while it vows to destroy the very government providing those services?

And even as its leaders threaten to invade more territory?

Because lest we forget, the ceasefire offer was barely a day old when Getachew Reda bragged to one of the TPLF’s favorite propagandists, Cara Anna of Associated Press, “We’ll stop at nothing to liberate every square inch” of Tigray. To Getachew, the unilateral ceasefire was a “sick joke,” and “if there is still a menace next door,” he and his thugs would go on a spree against Eritrea or regions with Amhara populations.

None of this has made any impression on Robert Godec, acting assistant secretary of state for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, who told the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress the next day, “If the [Ethiopian] government’s announcement of cessation of hostilities does not result in improvements, and the situation continues to worsen, Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate further actions.”

But… No such ultimatum issued to the TPLF. No recognition of responsibility on the TPLF’s part at all. And yet at that same hearing, Godec acknowledged that the TPLF started the conflict.

“We need govt of Ethiopia to lift comms blackout, Amhara forces to open 3 major roads and UN and other donors to continue to scale up aid,” tweeted the Lead for the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance last night.

How about “No?”

Hey, USAID, you wanted this mess, it’s yours. How dare you ask for road access and the blackout lifted — and for what the Ethiopian government rightly considers a terrorist group that attacked its armed forces. Go use Mekelle airport for aid drops.

Some will say that we won’t know what’s being smuggled in with aid transported by air, but quite frankly at this point, the security of Ethiopia’s territory outweighs the logistics, manpower, and regular abuse Ethiopian authorities will endure if they need to continue checking aid convoys.

To hell with them. Roads are closed. Get your own damn aid from your American buddies.

Need comms? Start building cell towers.

Especially when, according to sources, the TPLF, in fact, murdered several workers who tried to restore power service and communications after the terrorists repeatedly vandalized the infrastructure.

The U.S. and EU, the care providers for the entitled, spoiled and psychopathic child known as the TPLF, are telling the world the equivalent of, “Yeah, I know my kid just vandalized your store and puked on your cashier’s shoes, but you owe him a new Xbox.”

State Department representatives get awfully quiet when one asks why the TPLF, which was designated a terrorist group under Homeland Security’s Global Terrorism Database, can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of the Biden administration.

If we look further, however, we can get a clue. The fix has been in for years. Abebe Gallaw noted an interesting mindset on the part of the keepers of the GTD. If a government does it, well, that’s not terrorism, that’s “state terrorism,” so not included — geddit? And by 2013, the U.S. Attorney General’s office, along with Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security, got the bright idea of exempting the TPLF from the normal rules that would apply to a terrorist organization regarding one of its members immigrating into the United States.

Remember when folks wanted to sue the asses of those in the diaspora raising cash for the TPLF? First, the money was supposed to be for innocents, but in a shamelessly brazen move, the fundraisers announced to their faithful that oh, no, they changed their minds and were diverting the money to their PR and lobbying efforts. No doubt a good portion of it found its way into the bank accounts of Von Batten-Montague-York, their lobby firm that should have a villain cameo in the next James Bond flick.

And the cry went up, Sue them! They’re raising money for terrorism! Only those of us who made that argument never had a chance.

Note the exemptions of “activities” by the TPLF granted by Kerry and Company:

On its face, yes, this is a policy related to immigration eligibility criteria. But it’s quite obvious that if you keep the terrorist designation on the books while doing an end-run around the whole point of designating terrorist groups, something else is going on.

A year later, Susan Rice stood in the White House press briefing room as Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor and laughed after claiming Ethiopia’s election that year was a “100%” democratic election.

No one in Ethiopia laughed. And Rice is not welcome there any time soon.

And so now we’re fully immersed in a weird, wild, Tim Burton world in which Von Batten-Montague-York can claim the Addis government’s declaration of TPLF as a terrorist group was done for “political and strategic purposes.”

Gee, I guess only the United States is allowed to say who the bad guys are. Fun fact: long before the U.S. decided it would barge into Iraq on a pointless search for fictional WMDs, it wanted to assassinate a general named Abdul Karim Qassim in 1958. Guess who the U.S. hired as part of a six-man hit squad? Saddam Hussein. It’s a great story: Saddam was completely incompetent, wound up getting shot by another member of his own team while another idiot got a hand grenade stuck in his coat, and then Saddam fled to Cairo, where the CIA babysat him for a while. I still can’t believe this stuff wasn’t a bigger deal back in 2003.

But then again, maybe I should…Because here are the Western spin doctors at it again. “Ethiopian officials threaten to send troops back into Tigray,” shouts the Guardian, for a piece written by Jason Burke.

Why is it that we have to scroll down several paragraphs to find the boasts of Getachew Reda reported by the AP? Okay, standard inverted pyramid structure, journalism 101, lead with your most up-to-date info — but it’s incredibly misleading, even downright deceitful, to present the Ethiopian government as threatening to break the ceasefire when the comments were made Wednesday and after Getachew Reda issued his sinister promises to go invade other territory.

No matter how despicable, it seems there are those who are determined to let the TPLF have its way. Nic Cheeseman, columnist for South Africa’s The Mail and Guardian, wins “Pompous Douche of the Week” Award by accusing analyst Bronwyn Bruton of being “disingenuous” and pushing what looks like “bias”…only to advance on the same day the stupidest rationale I’ve come across yet to justify media bias.

Who the hell decides who’s the “underdog?” As we’ve seen, lately, it seems to be the top dogs.

Under Cheeseman’s rules of warped reality, we should all be celebrating those terrorist acts in Europe by the Red Brigades. Hooray! After all, Italy was a “dominant power” with “advantages,” wasn’t it? Sorry, Aldo Moro, you were shot and dumped in the trunk of a Renault by “underdog” heroes. Hooray, Boko Haram! You’re free to go commit the vilest attacks because Nic Cheeseman noticed that Nigeria is a “dominant power.”

And this guy is a Professor of Democracy and International Development at the University of Birmingham. He used to run the African Studies Centre at Oxford. That is truly frightening.

It has been, to put it mildly, a confusing and depressing week for Ethiopians and those in the diaspora who want to make sense of the ceasefire and who hope something good can come out of this debacle after months of their native land getting beaten up and treated like an international pariah.

I have a few humble suggestions.

What Should Be Done

The U.S., Britain and EU have been screaming until our ears bleed about “unfettered access” and rescuing folks from famine. For months. What is very interesting is that I have not heard a single word from any Western official about ensuring civilians are safe within territory held by the TPLF. And as we now know, various confirmed and unconfirmed reports are already coming out about their reprisal executions.

It hasn’t seemed to occur to the idiots in Washington and London that there could be innocent people who do not want to live under the depraved rule of a terrorist organization.

Let the motto ring out loud and long, until they hear it in D.C. and get the message: Safe Passage Now.

Tigrayans who want out of the region should get safe passage to federal held territory. Let these people go. Students at Mekelle University, interim administration workers fearing for their lives, everyone who wants out should be allowed to get out — to walk out safely and be given transport to safe locales in the rest of Ethiopia.

A TPLF sympathizer demanded to know from me on Twitter where would six million people go? It is a ridiculous question on its face, because are you already conceding that six million Tigrayans don’t support the TPLF? Then what are we talking for?

And quite frankly, the desperate flee to anywhere they can. Far better that an arrangement is worked out so they can get away from danger to locations in safe Ethiopian territory where their immediate needs can be met. Because do we really want to see Mekelle turn into Mosul?

Conversely, if anyone wants passage into Tigray, they should be granted it at agreed-upon checkpoints, for which both sides are entitled to check arrivals for smuggled arms.

Civilians travelling to Tigray could have a five or ten-day grace period which would allow them to track down and collect relatives and folks who cannot easily travel alone out of the region, such as the disabled and elderly. Let them come, collect their loved ones, and safely leave.

You claim the moral high ground, TPLF? Show us you can do this decent thing for people.

Otherwise… Well, my hope is that the Abiy government will block all aid convoys, all shipments until fast-track negotiations are concluded — not with the TPLF, because their word is worthless. No, make the arrangements with the Americans, Brits and Europeans, who will expect their prize Dobermans to honor a deal.

No More Free Lunch

What else? After this, after innocent civilians are granted safe passage and escorted out of the region, no more handouts. It ends here. Like the entitled brat who says he’ll do just fine, moving into his bitchin’ new apartment, you don’t get to come back and have Mom do your laundry. Fend for yourself, TPLF assholes.

And I do mean everything. Go read at night by car headlights. Go bug the Americans to fill in the very large hole in terms of food supplies, now that Ethiopia is no longer footing the bill. Congratulations! You claim you wanted your own independent state, well, you can’t have the one to the south. You get what you paid for with others’ blood.

Governing, as you know, is a lot harder than trying to destroy a government — you guys are experts at that. As for actually providing the essentials and basics for a populace? As everyone knows, not so much.

A TPLF troll, thinking herself clever, tweeted the other day, “Build a wall between Tigray and Ethiopia.” That was sooooo funny to her.

I replied, “Welp… You have enough rocks up there. Do please get started.”

Kick Out the Correspondents

I’ve made this argument before in another article, so I won’t rehash my case here, except to make it explicitly clear once again that a free press does not mean only Western correspondents can provide it. They are guests, not citizens, and if they continue to side with their chosen “underdog” to the point of flagrantly lying and manipulating, they shouldn’t be welcome.

It’s never been more urgent that these people have to go. Put them gently and respectfully on a plane and send them home… or if they like, to their new posting, the capital of the self-declared Tigray state —

Where they can get a wonderful dose of the reality they failed to bring to their reportage of the conflict.

For those of who still believe “if it bleeds, it leads,” let’s see how long you last there when your agenda of pushing pain and conflict runs smack into the painted sets and puff smoke of the TPLF, wanting to claim all is paradise now. Let’s see how your new best buddies react to the critical stories you write on their screw-ups.

I confess I will genuinely get a kick out of watching that. I will put up my feet and enjoy that spectacle immensely.

And at long last, finally… Prevail

Ethiopia is now saddled with a mind-boggling debt created by a terrorist organization and its war. It will need to get out from under that. All the more reason for the Free Lunch to stop now. Instead, it must turn its face towards fresh opportunities and diversifying its economy. Focus on infrastructure. Build more schools, train more professionals. And most importantly, secure new friends.

It’s quite clear that all these machinations to destabilize the country have puppeteers standing in the shadows behind the TPLF. Egypt is hell bent on stopping GERD, and the U.S. seems hell bent on pleasing Egypt, sucking up to a despotic regime even while it condemns what may well be one of Ethiopia’s most fair elections in its history (at least earning a “C” grade from some observers for trying).

As I’ve written before, if the U.S. and EU want to treat an ally like an enemy, it’s time for Ethiopia to get new friends. It’s also time for Ethiopia to reach out and resume its place as a leader of Pan-African interests.

The one thing that has always impressed me is the Ethiopian capacity to forgive. Read Raymond Jonas’s excellent The Battle of Adwa for how Italian prisoners of war were treated after the fighting was over. Consider how Italians were soon treated cordially in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Diaspora friends and contacts within Ethiopia have always said essentially, “We can handle the truth, we just want to know what’s really going on.” For their trouble and compassion, they’ve been rewarded with propaganda, lies, and abuse. They’ve been told on a daily, almost hourly basis that they are the enemy, their history and culture insulted.

Yet they hold their heads high and still care. There are millions of Ethiopians of mixed ancestry who share in Tigray’s heritage, which in the end is and always shall be part of Ethiopia’s heritage. And it is the Ethiopian spirit, the human spirit, to care about those displaced, those who are starving or who are traumatized by war. Which is why it’s so infuriating and contemptible that the Western media continues to portray this conflict as an ethnic one at its root instead of a war waged by a criminal oligarchy/terrorist group that’s using identity politics to harvest hate.

But now that terrorist group has the sweet illusion of power. The problem is that with their incompetence, any Tigrayans living within their ISIS-like domain will still suffer. Their quiet desperation or misery in silence may go on for some time, even years, as a Tigray state will no doubt be propped up with loans from the U.S., the EU and Britain. But eventually the bill will come due, as folks have next to nothing to grow up there, and tourism dollars will only go so far.

The propagandists, in their poverty of imagination, appropriated the hashtag verb of “Prevails” from Ethiopia when a more fitting slogan for their future will be #TigraySubsists.

And yet I know that no Ethiopian really wants that. They stole the term “prevails” because they understood its power — but not its spirit. You will only truly prevail together. I have extreme doubts that the TPLF will settle for its new Kingdom of Stone. It will invent a pretext to go beyond agreed-upon borders and kill again.

But if by some miracle, the U.S. persuades it to finally settle down and get on with governing, Ethiopia can be big enough to let it try its grand experiment.

There may (and likely will) come a time when Tigrayans, finally shaking off these terrorist parasites once and for all, want to return to the Ethiopian family. And it won’t be a question of if or should Ethiopians take them back, they will do it because a piece of the nation’s soul was missing for that interval, and only the coldest of hearts could say they won’t miss it.

And as for Tigrayans, those who at last recognize the true monsters in this drama, they will hopefully call themselves Ethiopians again and see arms stretched out and waiting — with extraordinary patience — to embrace them and welcome them home.

Writer person. Books - Prevail, The Karma Booth, Gangs in Canada; in June 2021, Winged Bull, a bio of Henry Layard, the Victorian era’s Indiana Jones.