Eritrea in US Crosshairs
Eritrea’s refusal to “engage in any kind of military relationship with the U.S. Africa Command,” is putting “them in the crosshairs of the United States,” said Glen Ford, executive editor of the Black Agenda Report.
Earlier this month, the United Nations published an investigation that concluded that Eritrea has committed crimes against humanity, citing “indefinite national service, arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearance, and gender based violence.”
Ford rejected the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, calling the charge of indefinite national service “bogus.”
“National service is not just military, but it’s also in public works projects. But also, in Eritrea, national service covers teachers, and all kinds of social service providers,” said Ford.
“Many other countries would call the system that Eritrea has instituted, in which teachers and social service providers are part of national service – they would call that socialism, and nation-building. That’s exactly what the Eritreans call it,” said Ford.
The chair of the commission of inquiry, an Australia diplomat, has said that the international community should use the International Criminal Court and other methods to intervene in Eritrea.
Ford described the International Criminal Court and other UN panels as “political tools of the United States” and that are being used “to do to Eritrea exactly what they did to Libya.”
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore.
Earlier this month, the United Nations published an investigation that concluded that Eritrea has committed crimes against humanity, citing, quote, indefinite national service, arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearance, and gender based violence, among others. The chair of the commission of inquiry, an Australia diplomat, has said that the international community should use the International Criminal Court and other methods to get involved in curbing the atrocities in Eritrea.
Joining us to discuss this, from Plainfield, New Jersey, is Glen Ford. Glen is the co-founder and executive editor of Black Agenda Report, and the author of The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. Glen, we have spoken about this, and you seem concerned about the international community getting involved, saying Eritrea will be the next Libya. What do you mean by that?
GLEN FORD: Well, they’re clearly gearing up to do to Eritrea exactly what they did to Libya. They’re trying to call it an outlaw state, and they’re hooking it to these allegations by this United Nations panel. I want to make very clear, this UN panel is controlled by the United States. It’s the same panel that has placed sanctions against Eritrea for years, charging that this secular, I mean, steadfastly secular government in Eritrea was somehow helping the Shabaab in Somalia, which is a ridiculous charge.
Even today, the United States backs the Ethiopian government, and remember, Ethiopia is a nation of 94 million people which occupies, against international agreement, portions of Eritrean land. And there are constant threats to crush the government of Eritrea, a small country of only 6 million people that is, again, decidedly secularist and socialist, and one that does not collaborate with the United States or its AFRICOM military command in Africa. It puts it in the spotlight.
CONWAY: Well, Glen, the U.S. Department of State has responded to that UN commission with mild language. John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said, and they, quote, “encourage the government of Eritrea to engage fully with the international community and the United Nations body to address the human rights situation,” quote. Quite far from calling from, calling for military intervention. What has led you to the conclusion that they want to attack Eritrea?
FORD: Well, of course they’re calling for military intervention. They’ve made up this bogus charge. And let’s look at it. First of all, the people that the panel says have been enslaved, the panel mentions 400,000 enslaved persons, are people, mostly young people, who have been drafted by the Eritrean government into national service. National service is not just military, but it’s also in public works projects. But also, in Eritrea, national service covers teachers, and all kinds of social service providers.
Many other countries would call the system that Eritrea has instituted, in which teachers and social service providers are part of national service, they would call that socialism, and nation-building. That’s exactly what the Eritreans call it. And every country has the right to use a draft. And until 1973 the United States used a draft, and it still is authorized to use a draft, and that’s part of what sovereign nations can do.
The pretext for this charge that Ethiopia’s–that Eritrea is some kind of rogue nation, is the charge that Eritrea contributes the second-largest number of refugees to Europe, right behind Syria. But everybody in that part of the world, and the United States, knows, and Europeans know, that most of the people who claim to be Eritreans are actually Ethiopian refugees, or refugees from Sudan, or some other part of Africa. Because what the United States and the Europeans have done is to give special status to Eritreans, so that Eritreans, or people who claim that they are Eritreans, get the right to remain in the country in Europe that they emigrate to, and others are turned away. It’s very, very much like the U.S. policy in Cuba, where the Cubans had special status.
CONWAY: But, Glen Ford, let me, one, jump back first to the national service thing. It’s indefinite–I mean, I understood America has, China and every other nation, has a right to draft people for national security, and especially in time of war that might even be for the entire duration of that war. But isn’t Eritrea putting people into national service with an endless kind of service status, there’s no end to it? How do you explain that?
FORD: Well, when we’re talking about the duration of the war, the duration of the war will last until the U.S.-backed regime in Ethiopia stops behaving as if it is at war with Eritrea, and occupy Eritrean lands again. Again, Ethiopia is a country of 94 million people. It has the largest and most battle-hardened army in Africa. The Eritreans had to battle Ethiopia to gain their independence in 1991, and they have been on a military footing of necessity ever since. So the duration is still in effect.
In terms of national service for teachers and social service providers, that, again, is in some places called socialism. That is, they work for the state.
CONWAY: Okay, so–. But I can see you’re opposed to the international community getting involved, but–.
FORD: I don’t know why you keep calling it the international community. These are panels that are controlled by the United States and Europeans, and the United States and the Europeans always refer to themselves as the international community, and everybody else is, well, something else.
This is a question of sovereign national rights. It’s a question of facts. It’s a question of who is actually the reason for these hundreds of thousands of people trying to emigrate to Europe. It’s a question, the collaboration between the United States and Ethiopia, which only this week has been circulating rumors of war with Eritrea.
CONWAY: Well, okay. But you’re saying this is not a United Nations-sponsored panel. I mean, is there opposition from somewhere within the United Nations community, not necessarily about this report but about the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea?
FORD: This particular panel is controlled by the United States. If you know something about the political geography of the UN, different panels are influenced by different parties. But the United States is by far the biggest influence in the UN, from who gets to be Secretary General on down.
This panel has made bogus charges against Eritrea from the get-go. In fact, when it charged that Eritrea had been aiding the Shabaab in Somalia, two years later they concluded that, well, Eritrea is no longer aiding the Shabaab, but then decided that the sanctions that they placed against Eritrea, supposedly for aiding the Shabaab, were working, and therefore these sanctions should continue.
These are political tools of the United States. The International Criminal Court, which this panel wants to to take up the case of Eritrea, only indicts Africans. You’re familiar with that situation. And they are a tool of the United States, as well. They have never taken legal action against any ally of the United States. They won’t take any against Ethiopia, either, because Ethiopia is one of the big sticks that the United States use to keep the rest of Africa in line. And Eritrea is one of the very few countries in Africa that bucks the U.S. military and economic system. It is the Cuba of Africa.
CONWAY: So, okay. Just one final question: are you saying that it’s actually a socialist-orientated state?
FORD: Oh, certainly it’s a socialist-oriented state. That’s quite clear. That’s why they have national service. That’s why the economy is, is controlled by the government, and it’s, more specifically, it’s why the policy of the Eritreans is not to accept foreign aid. They see foreign aid that is from the United States and Europe as a trap that is designed to stunt the development of their countries, and they will not engage in any kind of military relationship with the U.S. Africa Command. Only Eritrea and Zimbabwe on the continent of Africa refuse to collaborate with AFRICOM. That puts them in the crosshairs of the United States.
That’s why the United States is now threatening, now threatening to create a situation in which Eritrea could be called an outlaw nation, its case sent to the International Criminal Court, and a conflict with Ethiopia stirred up so that there will be a shooting war with the United States backing the Ethiopians, who are much, much bigger than Eritrea to begin with.
CONWAY: Okay. Well, thank you for this update, and we’re looking forward to hearing more as this situation develops. So hopefully you can join us later in the future and update us again.
FORD: Thank you.
CONWAY: All right. Thank you for joining the Real News.
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