If you’ve been informed on imperialism’s dismemberment of Yugoslavia, and on how NATO’s bombing campaign was not merely unwarranted but based on false “humanitarian” pretenses, you can see the parallels between what happened in Yugoslavia and what’s now happening in Ethiopia. In both places, the imperialists have orchestrated an extensive, long-lasting disinformation campaign, one that seeks to blame the side which Washington has selected as its demonization target. In both places, the imperialists have backed factions that commit vast amounts of atrocities, and have justified their actions by shifting all responsibility to the demonized party. In both places, Washington has used the consequential destruction to push for military intervention, which is the final step in a scheme whose purpose is to seal the country’s fate as another victim of neo-colonization.
Before the bombs dropped on Yugoslavia, the CIA dropped propaganda
In Ethiopia, the imperialists still haven’t managed to carry out an invasion, which is because of the strengthening of Washington’s rivals since the Yugoslavia intervention two decades ago (or even since the Libya intervention just one decade ago). Russia and China have been blocking imperialism’s underhanded attempts to gain United Nations leverage towards invading Ethiopia, sticking by their stance that Ethiopia’s civil war is an internal affair within the country not requiring outside policing efforts. The imperialists are finding that their hand is decrepit, and not as able to subdue countries as it used to be. So they’re trying to replicate their model for destroying Yugoslavia, putting forth continuous atrocity propaganda against the Ethiopian government.
To understand the nature of the narratives Washington is using to try to kill Ethiopia, we need to look at how Washington created the narrative precedents for what it did to Yugoslavian socialism. Modern Ethiopia and Eritrea (the other targeted country) aren’t socialist of course, but they are Belt and Road Initiative countries. And this is enough to put them on imperialism’s murder list. The way the imperialists justified murdering Yugoslavia was, as Michael Parenti described, by telling a simplistic story about a bad actor who had supposedly torn the country apart all on its own:
This Milosevic is both an “orthodox socialist” and an “opportunistic Serbian nationalist,” a demagogic power-hungry “second Tito” who simultaneously wants dictatorial power over all of Yugoslavia while eagerly pursuing polices that “destroy the state that Tito created.” The author [former U.S. Foreign Service office Louis Sell] does not demonstrate by reference to specific policies and programs that Milosevic is responsible for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, he just tells us so again and again. One would think that the Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian Muslim, Macedonian, and Kosovo Albanian secessionists and U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organization interventionists might have had something to do with it. In my opinion, Milosevic’s real sin was that he resisted the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and opposed a U.S.-imposed hegemony. He also attempted to spare Yugoslavia the worst of the merciless privatizations and rollbacks that have afflicted other formerly communist countries.
The picture I’ve gotten of the story of Yugoslavia’s destruction is that as is the case in Ethiopia, it’s more complicated than the imperialists and their apologists portray it to be. According to Yugoslavians I’ve talked to, Milosevic wasn’t an optimal socialist leader, but he also wasn’t guilty of the outrageous war crimes he was accused of. And he’s indeed been exonerated on these crimes since he died due to assassination. When you look deep enough into the history surrounding the conflict, you find that Serbia has been guilty of crimes of aggression—Lenin even wrote about these crimes in Imperialism—but also that this history was exploited by the imperialists to reignite old ethnic tensions. With imperialism’s primary tactic having been to carry out false flags which got blamed on the Serbs, making Serbia out to be the sole culprit for the ensuing turmoil.
The atrocities that Serbia was genuinely guilty of were mixed in with fraudulent war crimes accounts, and the crimes of the far-right separatists Washington backed were never brought up. As the author Gaither Stewart has concluded, this Serbophobic media campaign culminated in a wildly hyperbolic narrative that watered down what genocide truly means: “The propaganda line was Milosevic conducted genocide in Kosovo. An enormous historical lie. President Milosevic and Serbia had to take the whole blame for the civil war. Serbia was excluded from its own Kosovo province and Milosevic was hauled off to the International Tribunal in The Hague and tried for war crimes … where he eventually died in his cell, at night. Enough to make you doubt all history books. If truth were the prime criterion, then most history books would have to be rewritten … Schopenhauer wrote back in 1851 that Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as is a street whore with syphilis.”
His assessment is supported by investigations from not just the sources which vindicated Milosevic, but the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which has found that “Although the Commission does not consider the killings around Srebrenica as genocide, it recognizes the fact that thousands of people (mostly prisoners of war) were killed in the most horrific way and that those responsible for these heinous crimes should be punished.” As I said, the fact that atrocities occurred doesn’t mean it was a genocide. And the idea that the imperialists orchestrated false flags is supported by how CIA agents have admitted to being assigned black propaganda missions within Yugoslavia, as well as by the “French Connection” to Srebrenica which has shown the role NATO had behind engineering the most infamous atrocities. Serbia wasn’t 100% innocent, but the fact that NATO had to effectively commandeer every aspect of the trials of Milosevic and his generals reveals how negligible the official account is. As far as the unambiguously verified Serbian atrocities are concerned, it’s more likely that Milosevic’s government wasn’t able to keep full control over its forces than that Milosevic was a bloodthirsty fascist.
It’s necessary for me to explain how we’ve been lied to about Yugoslavia, more so than it is for me to explain how we’ve been lied to about other imperialist target countries like Syria or even Russia, because Yugoslavia is a focal point in the hypocritical outrage that imperialism’s apologists erupt with whenever you challenge their narratives. The information war around Yugoslavia is still in motion, consistent with how imperialism continues to sow conflict throughout the Balkans, so a culture of defensiveness continues to exist when it comes to the Radio Free Europe accounts of the CIA’s false flags. You can’t say that atrocity propaganda happened, because that destroys imperialism’s narrative about how Yugoslavia’s breakup was self-inflicted. This is why when Milosevic was exonerated, Radio Free Europe and the other imperialist propaganda actors rushed to try to discredit the investigation. This counter-propaganda campaign wasn’t just about defending the pro-imperialist ideology; it was about covering up their own guilt as the sources which created the conflict by assisting in NATO’s scapegoating of the Serbs.
Now the imperialists are trying to create the same dominant cultural perception when it comes to Ethiopia, which they aim to balkanize so that its rise to economic independence can be stopped.
Trying (and failing) to replicate the Yugoslavia model in Ethiopia
The essence of the story they’re spinning about Ethiopia is that the country’s government is the side to blame for the turmoil, and that it’s carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tigrayans. As was the case with Yugoslavia, there’s a grain of truth to the narrative the imperialists are spinning, this being that the Kingdom of Abyssinia expanded into an empire in order to establish the country as it now exists, and that Ethiopia’s current leader Abiy seeks to maintain centralized authority over the historically oppressed nations. This is a similar contradiction to the one which existed in Yugoslavia, where Milosevic hoped to have Serbia act as a unifying force following Serbia’s historic criminal role. (A project that could have worked if not for imperialism’s meddling.) But also like in Yugoslavia, there’s a side to the story the imperialist media will never tell, one designed to protect those within the conflict who Washington backs. Namely the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which is truly the force responsible for the famine and the unfolding cycle of violence.
What the headlines leave out is that prior to when Ethiopia’s current regime came to power, there was already ethnic cleansing happening for decades—the ethnic cleansing from the Tigrayan apartheid regime. Tigrayans overwhelmingly controlled the military and the government, until losing their supremacist status and resorting to terrorism. Like Ethiopia’s current leaders, the Tigrayan regime was essentially pro-China, but in the last several years Washington has adopted “kill the BRI at all costs” as the center of its foreign policy. So Washington, after having ignored the Tigrayan regime’s racist atrocities for decades, has been suddenly applying human rights scrutiny to Ethiopia. This is so that it can make the war waged by its proxy terrorist group the TPLF appear justified to those who don’t research Ethiopia’s history, or the geopolitical reasons behind why we’re now getting bombarded with stories demonizing Ethiopia.
How true are these accounts of Ethiopia committing atrocities? What we first need to consider when asking how guilty Washington’s enemies are is that when Washington accuses anyone of using war crimes as a deliberate strategy, it’s absolutely projecting its own vile way of operating. The United States military murders civilians in such high proportions that the number of combatants it kills are miniscule by comparison, and when journalists like Manning or Assange reveal U.S. military personnel’s war crimes, it responds by prosecuting those journalists rather than the perpetrators. Washington has brought about tens of thousands of deaths throughout its military campaigns, and has murdered millions more through its starvations sanctions.
When a country like this accuses another of violating the laws of war, it’s not doing so out of concern for human rights. It’s doing so to accuse the enemy of that which itself is guilty. That I’ve had to devote so much time to debunking atrocity narratives about Yugoslavia shows the power of this diversionary tactic; Washington’s atrocity propaganda has made it so that when those in the imperialist news bubble think of wartime abuses, they don’t think about Washington, by far the biggest practicer of such abuses. They think of the leaders who’ve stood up to Washington.
Given this context, the idea that the Ethiopian government has been committing atrocities—which shouldn’t be automatically negated, anymore than the verifiable Serbian atrocities should—means something different from what the imperialists claim it does. They say it means the world should be standing by the TPLF in its resistance against a supposed campaign of genocide. In reality, the TPLF has a role comparable to that of the fascist militias who’ve been fruitlessly fighting to restore white rule in post-colonial African countries. They’re reactionaries who seek to restore a racial supremacist system that’s without a doubt worse than Ethiopia’s current order, and who’ve committed over a generation’s worth of crimes against humanity. Whether or not the Ethiopian government’s denials of the human rights violations charges are truthful—and with time and further revelations, I suspect the government will indeed be vindicated like Milosevic was—supporting the TPLF is an indefensible position.
In regard to the CIA’s disinformation on Ethiopia, we haven’t yet gotten the equivalent of Srebrenica’s “French Connection” revelation, or of the WikiLeaks dump exposing Syria’s Douma incident as a false flag, but we have gotten a leak which exposes the types of information warfare strategies the TPLF is using. According to this rough translation of the instructions the TPLF has given to its online propaganda operatives, promoting fabricated or highly biased accounts of the conflict’s developments is integral to its goals of dividing Ethiopians and Eritreans, and of destabilizing the region more broadly:
“Tell them [the Ethiopians] that fascist Abiy has transferred your children to Eritrea & are suffering under Eritrea’s custody”
“Tell them over and over again that Ethiopia’s soldiers are faced with death while fighting TPLF forces and also being attacked by Eritrea from the back, if they retreat”
“Organize all your friends & colleagues in a form of campaign to make sure this information is disseminated widely to have an effect”
“We should know that this is the most opportune time to send all our enemies, both internal [Ethiopia] & external [Eritrea] alike, to their final resting place. Therefore, we shall not falter nor rest rather remain focused & organized like a “Bee” to make sure our goal succeeds & our future is guaranteed.”
If you’re familiar with white supremacist rhetoric, this language feels familiar. They’re talking about sending all who challenge their supremacist project to death, and about making sure that “our future” as an ethnic group is ensured. It resembles the cry of “white genocide” that white racists have been using, an insistence that if white supremacy gets defeated, this will only make for a reverse racism where those who used to be on top get exterminated. This narrative necessitates that the TPLF’s crimes, which include depriving Tigrayans of food and grooming Tigrayan children into military service, get whitewashed so that the TPLF can be made out as a heroic freedom defender. The fact that the TPLF is itself the primary source of Tigray’s suffering is hidden, and the Ethiopian government is cast as the sole culprit. As Alan Macleod has written about the misleading nature of our media’s Tigray coverage:
The conflict is ultimately a struggle between two political forces for the control of Ethiopia’s economy. Yet this is not at all how corporate media have presented the issue, preferring instead to frame it as the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments exterminating an ethnic minority group. CNN, for example, wrote: Eritrean troops aren’t just working hand in glove with the Ethiopian government, assisting in a merciless campaign against the Tigrayan people; in some pockets they’re fully in control and waging a reign of terror… [that] bears the hallmarks of genocide and has the potential to destabilize the wider Horn of Africa region. The New York Times has followed a similar line in much of its reporting. Embedding themselves with the TPLF, they described their companions as “a scrappy force of local Tigrayan recruits” that had, against the odds, “scored a cascade of battlefield victories against the Ethiopian military, one of Africa’s strongest.”
This is how the imperialist media portrays Washington’s proxy wars: by not covering the pivotal role that Washington’s terrorists play behind the horrors, and shifting all of the blame onto the government imperialism seeks to crush. Crucial to this is a perpetual stream of fabricated or false flag atrocity accounts.
Following the murder of Yugoslavia, the imperialists have done this in Syria with the war effort by the “moderate rebels,” in Ukraine with the conflict between Russia and Ukrainian fascism, and in the horn of Africa with this fraudulent “national liberation” insurgency. They’ve hoped to also do this in Xinjiang using the Uyghur genocide hoax as a terrorism recruitment ool, but they’re clearly never getting their desired civil war within China, as the CIA-incited Uyghur terrorist attacks have been definitively ended by China’s deradicalization program. The imperialists may have managed to start a civil war in Ethiopia, but the TPLF is increasingly in a state of desperation, unable to overcome the Ethiopian people’s resistance efforts. It’s now looking like they’ll ultimately fail to stop the BRI’s implementation in the region, though not without first causing years more of destruction.—————————————————————————
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