Amanuel Biedemariam (9 Feb. 2009) In her young existence the US recorded a colorful history with a constitution and documented legacy full of heroism that can inspire, nurture, guide, anchor, and console. It is the envy of millions around the world for its vision, ideals and openness. The history is cemented in the form of monuments carefully preserved historical landmarks, buildings, towns and archived treasures. These picturesque representations relate history to in a unique way. The Marine Corps War Memorial depicts the brave men and women in Mt. Suribachi while they raised American flag after a hard fought victory of Iwo Jima; FDR Memorial evokes emotions about the great depression, World War II, the mood of this nation at the time, the Fire-Side Chats, the breadlines, unemployment, and the hardship Americans endured. Americans feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they visit these monumental representations of their history. History that bases its foundation on freedom, liberty and justice for all; intended, stated, understood and applied in all aspects of the daily life of every American.
However, outside this view and contrary to the beliefs of the American public the US discards these rights and values when dealing with Africans and African nations. There is disconnecting between what the US government does and how Americans perceive and view US actions abroad. There is a notion that America is the good guy that always bases African policies on charitable causes. Americans are bombarded with messages geared at reinforcing that notion. America sends her biggest celebrities to Africa as UN Ambassadors, human rights activists and humanitarians such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Madonna and George Clooney. President George W Bush cited his biggest achievement to be PEPFAR an aid program geared to fight AIDS in Africa. It is powerful to see leaders like Bill Gates and President Bill Clinton talk about philanthropy and how they work to change the lives of millions in Africa and other impoverished parts of the world. It is powerful because it reinforces Americans view of America that projects their values and good nature that wants to do good for goodness sake.
While that is true reflection of the American heart, the actions and policies of the US government fail to reflect it. Americans for far too long have given Presidents, the State Department and foreign operatives carte blanche to execute foreign policies matters as they may. That is a result of a brilliant and sustained public relations campaign by the US governments that assured Americans into submission. In addition the US media failed to report and educate Americans about African matters and their implications.
Ultimately, it is failure of the American people to see the importance of engagement and unwillingness to take responsibility for US actions in Africa. Americans lost desire and the need to make efforts necessary that can establish bridges for future generations. Americans failed to understand their place in the world and the relationships that needed to be established. America based her relations on self interest greed and world domination. America let go of the respect they have to the world and allowed politicians and various parties with interests to create circumstances and pathways that distanced US from the world. Time and the oceans distanced US from her values such us the call to serve for greater good President Kennedy entrusted (Peace Corps), and let those values to fizzle.
America has always been engaged in Africa and African affairs for geopolitical and economic interests. America is and has been a party to many conflicts in Africa outside the view of the American people; this has been true throughout US history. However, the Bush Administration took it to another level using the War-on-Terror mantra to forward US agenda. President Bush went militarily after nations he perceived unfriendly by openly stating “You are with us or against us.” He propped sham governments everywhere by promoting phony elections to legitimize them even when these governments trampled the rights and the will of people in the worst ways. He used the illegitimate minority regime in Ethiopia to invade Somalia so he can put a sham government that did not represent the interest of the people of Somalia. In the process; millions of Somali’s were displaced, over 30,000 people killed thousands wounded. President Bush destroyed the opportunity of Ethiopians to have a peaceful democratic transformation by propping a government that is unaccountable to the people of Ethiopia.
Ethiopians conducted a legitimate election but they were denied twice with the help of US State Department operative that gave every justification to excuse the criminal acts perpetrated by Meles Zenawi and changed election results. As a result Ethiopians lost hope to bring change peacefully. He encouraged the breach of constitution by Yoweri Museveni (unlimited term for his presidency) to accommodate a Client-State in Uganda. President Bush disrespected sovereignty and encouraged his client state Ethiopia to disregard treaties, break and flaunt the rule of law against Eritrea and became a party to a conflict that took the lives of tens of thousands of people. Thus, perpetuating conflict cycles synonymous with African nations.
America needs no evidence of her long involvement in Africa; a visit to the historic home of President George Washington in Mt. Vernon will give one the link in the form of living quarters and graves of African Slaves. The plantation in Arlington Cemetery will tell the story of African Slaves in unmarked graves. These are historic sample evidences of US African links based on the exploitation of African Human and natural resources.
Unfortunately, even when Americans are handed overwhelming evidences of the wrongs perpetrated in Africa, Americans deny and choose the feel good side of history. George Washington’s slave ownership is glossed over and exonerated because historians chose to romanticize history by stating Washington wanted to free the slaves after the death of his wife Martha Custis Washington. Historically America always finds reasons to distance from risponsibilities.
The world however likes to see the good side of America and always separated Americans from US foreign policies and stood with America no matter how it may have impacted their lives. The international community expresses affection for Americans in many ways. After the September 11 attacks that left many victims, the World felt for the United States of America, sympathized with Americans and stood ready to support America in any way. The anguish of the mothers and the wives of the victims elicited strong feelings. As a result people felt a sense of responsibility, duty and obligation to stand with Americans and to help safe guard America in any way possible. But that goodwill was dashed by George W Bush’s belligerent hegemony that reeked havoc around the globe.
President Bush was destructive and used all means necessary to achieve quickly his ill-conceived hegemony. In addition to the proxy wars he ignited everywhere, he used a weak UN to push agendas; he bullied African Union and other international organizations into submission. He dictated the weak UN to pass unnecessary resolution after resolution to accomplish goals. The diplomatic bullying conducted by his representative Dr. Janday Frazer was like attacks by a vicious Pit-bull. In the process he weakened IGAD, AU, Arab League and many international organizations further killing their credibility and effectiveness. As a result, there is no trust for US actions and intentions. The US is not the beacon of hope that it once was, to the contrary it is feared and loathed around the world. American image is tarnished and wherever American travel receives negative feedback.
The election of President Barack Obama has renewed the good will for America one more time albeit guarded for good reasons. The world is looking forward to work with the new president and a renewed spirit. In his inaugural speech President Obama stated,
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” In reality however, the United States has been on the wrong side of history more than one can count. The United States is and has been responsible to put or keep despots in power in many countries in Africa for centuries. That is true in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Djibouti, Nigeria, Liberia and the list is long.
If President Obama withdraws aid to Ethiopia, the despotic minority regime led by Meles Zenawi will collapse immediately. That means, with a stroke of a pen, President Obama can unclench many hands. Moreover, the President has unprecedented opportunity to create a new direction for US African relations by focusing on PEACE, respecting sovereignty, by allowing Africans to decide their own fate.
Fact: the US has and will always play a role in Africa; and historically America has not played cleanly. For that to change Americans must play an active role by taking time to understand the issues and demand change. The time to give carte blanches to political operatives and the State Department must end. It is incumbent upon the American people to demand change from the government, the media and themselves for the sake of PEACE, stability and the environment. If Somalia is beset with piracy world trade will suffer and the Indian Ocean will be free for industrial toxic dumping thus impacting the environment.
Clearly, Africans have shown to be susceptible to Western (outside) influence. Africa is controlled by outside forces to the point of paralysis. Most leaders in Africa don’t represent the people and interests of Africa. They represent the interests of the West with China making headways.
Africa is on a path of destruction culturally and musically. The history, way of life and social infrastructures are being altered indefinitely. Africans are loosing every human capacity to develop and to have a normal life. Africans are experiencing crimes against humanities in much greater scale in numbers, magnitude and impact compared to the holocaust or any calamitous disaster that inflicted humanity in recorded history. However, the silence of the world and Americans against these crimes is horrid. This is ironic because the West is on major PR offensive to spare the planet from environmental degradation. However, it is impossible to focus on environmental causes when the custodians of the environment are attacked from every angle.
President Obama’s rise to power was based on the vision of a united America. Here is a quote from his keynote speech in 2004, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” President Obama correctly put the responsibility of change back on American people. He empowered Americans and they responded with a grass roots effort to elect him in order to bring change. That bottom-up movement is required to bring an attitude of change regarding Africa. Americans must take responsibility to push for change on US-African relations. They must actively engage with the people of Africa directly outside US governmental interest and make people to people relations as they have with the European countries such as student exchange programs and the like.
The international community always gave Americans a break from US policies abroad by saying: it is US foreign policy, George W. Bush, Nixon, Reagan or Clinton… but never the American people. However, with the election of President Obama Americans have taken ownership and they will be held to account for the first time. That is a fact that should never escape the American psyche! In other words, the world clearly knows and understands it is not the Blue States, Red States, it is not Black, White, Red, Latino, Asian Americans, and it is not US foreign policies, America or the US; it is the UNITED STES OF AMERICA.
To sum it up, here is a quote from a speech, June. 4, 2005 by President Obama; “The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.”
Africans have dreams as well.
May wisdom prevail!