November 27, 2005
When Adolf Hitler raised his beleaguered country to a new level of economic stability, we praised him and ignored his ideologies. When Josef Stalin threw in his lot with the Allied Forces, we called him Uncle Joe and handed many countries and millions of lives over to him. When we were distraught by another country holding our citizens hostage, we welcomed Saddam Hussein, who fought our oppressor, Iran.
When we sought to protect Afghanistan from being taken over by a totalitarian regime, we were encouraged that Osama bin Laden was willing to fight beside us, and we offered training and weapons to him and his troops.
Times change. We see our mistakes. Can we avoid making the same ones in the future?
Meles Zenawi, the leader of Ethiopia, has received $21 billion from the United States since taking power in 1991 under the guise of leading his country toward democracy. Ethiopia had its first democratic election ever last May. When it became clear the presiding government had suffered an overwhelming loss to its opposition, the CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy), ballot counting stopped, the government proclaimed itself the winner, opposition was quelled with death or imprisonment. At present, thousands have been imprisoned for the unforgivable crime of wanting democracy.
Can we learn from our past mistakes so Ethiopia doesn’t become another “Oops, we did it again”?
Could it be our fear of the enemy clouds our judgment? Could it be we invest more in war than in the long-range quest for peace? Are we creating new enemies unintentionally, by supporting anyone, no matter how unscrupulous, willing to fight on or side or promise not to aid our enemy, when they are laughing at us and doing exactly as they please, investing billions in Swiss banks while their people starve?
If we truly believe in democracy and freedom for the world, why do we not support efforts to educate and uplift all others to achieve the same blessings that we have, including freedom from fear and freedom of speech, religion and assembly.
Why don’t we invest in peace as aggressively as we are in war through education and true diplomacy, not only promoting what benefits us now and our financial future?
America was founded on the idea individuals were capable of self-rule. It has not been a smooth road, as we strove to ensure self-evident rights to all citizens. Can we believe the people of Ethiopia can build and maintain a democratic government? This is a country whose rich culture goes back to the time of ancient Egypt, which embraced Judaism from King David and Christianity from Jesus’ disciple, Phillip; which protected Mohammed from his enemies and is therefore protected in the Koran. Ethiopia also is the one country in all Africa never colonized by a foreign power.
Can we try to remember what it was like for our ancestors who were willing to give up everything for a dream? I still believe in that dream: a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I cast in my lot with the people of Ethiopia.