He who pays the piper dictates the tune.
By Weldu Ghebreselasie (Ph.D.)
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in the United States of America, on 11 September 2001, former US President George W. Bush famously gave ‘You are either with us, or with the terrorists’ warning to United Nations member states to achieve the support level enough to hunt down culprits believed to have caused the devastation that rocked the country’s sense of security. A statement with almost the same message is also attributed to Hilary Clinton. Upon taking in the tone of the messages, almost all member states, whether in good faith or under duress through direct or indirect influence, supported the hunt for the terrorists behind the unbearably distressing loss of life and collapse of US landmark structures. The hunt begot the war in Afghanistan and Iraq; the two countries bore the brunt of the military frenzy and fury of the United States and its allies.
The decision to go to the war, the horrendous consequences of which haunt to this day both countries, was passed in the name of each member state. Embedded, however, in the decision and in the seemingly a strong reminder statement is a pre-emptive threat that offered no space for discussion on alternative means and differing perspectives to question whether the two countries were really responsible. This heavy-handed and underhanded military aggression later swung into action and opened a luxuriant way for the United States and its allies to expand their sphere of influence.
The same trend continued unabated and engulfed Libya and Syria in its conflagration. In the case of Syria, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands of others, the intervention-induced crisis has practically rendered the formerly stable and peaceful country a ‘ghost’ country; the United States’ control of the oil-rich eastern part of Syria (and Iraq) to date is a glaring example of intervention conducted under the guise of securing peace and sharing tenets of democracy.
Quite often, skirting around the United Nations, unjustified-direct or indirect- military intervention continues to stretch out its tentacles and threaten the sovereignty of quite many countries, including Russia, Iran, and China, to stifle their counter-power˗economic˗ and military and their right to maintain their sovereignty.
The modern-day breach of charters and sovereignty through unsolicited, unwarranted, and outside-UN-charter unilateral military means, duplicity, sanctimony, and sanctions has been described aptly by the concept of ‘post-truth.’ Post-truth encompasses the tendency to take decision based not on objective facts but appeal to emotions. The ‘’secrets’’ that revolved around ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq are a classic example of emotionally shaping the opinions of millions of people who believed that President Saddam Hussein was evil incarnate hell-bent on exterminating every species of life on earth. The seemingly credible piece of secret that reverberated across and shocked the world appealed to people’s heart not to their intellect. Credit to repetition and hyperbole through media of every form and nature, the distortion had served its purpose and justified the war that toppled Saddam Hussein and bogged the country in horrific and haunting crises. Though the deception and the bloodbath it had caused would later become an embarrassment to the allied powers and the international community, it has hardly been used as a valuable lesson to help deter similar catastrophe. Old habits die hard. By and large, post-truth points to the trend in which deception and lies (fake news) play vicious roles to justify objectives.
More importantly, however, post-truth relates to circumstances in which decision to justify causes and beliefs are not based on consensus and mutual agreements, but a circumstance in which decisions are made by powers that be. It is common knowledge nowadays that the glaring absence of consensus on international issues and issues of sovereignty at the United Nations continues to cause insurmountable challenges to particularly developing countries because it is these member states that bear the brunt. The lack hideously suppresses their version of realty and denies them political clout that would enable them to influence decisions; those who stand in the way of those who have the tight grip on the reins are branded ‘enemies’ of the international community, and through warped accusations, sanctions and distortions of facts, they are made to go through times of arduous economic and political woe.
Direct and/or indirect interventions not approved by UN charters, besides the power of their own, deploy agents (countries) who dip into a low curtsey to stay in the good grace of their enablers. The accomplices continue to curry favour with the powers that be and find themselves effectively calumniating, for left overs, victim countries, in most cases, their neighbours. Curiously enough, the mentor and the mentored— kindred spirits— slobber over the sources of others (territory and its riches) and dart for all they are worth to control and expropriate much to the chagrin of the millions who are desperate for prosperity and harmony. This modus operandi involves multiple masked and unmasked characters.
The argument centering on ‘Post-truth’ also lays bare the role of some so called directors of research/study centres, former journalists, political actors, social groups, and regional analysts who have become bent to the will of the few and their accomplices. From a snug haven, they promote one side of reality, hence helping exacerbate the suffering of millions of people. They also churn out hate speech, smear campaign and belligerent rhetoric capable of unfurling social order at it seams and leading to conflicts. For example, Alex De Waal’s reckless statement that the war in Tigray was war of ‘genocide’ serves timeworn agenda. Similar statements are gushing from institutions and organizations (government and non-government) that are saddeningly still tight-lipped on TPLF’s war of crimes in Ethiopia and Eritrea. These groups hardly issue a single statement of admonition or accusation to prove wrong TPLF’s shockingly unwarranted daydream-like claim of a large swathe of Eritrean territory, including its share of the Red Sea. By and large, except for fleeting accusations of the heinous crimes committed by the TPLF, allegations of ‘war crimes in Tigray’ endure and are being inexorably blown out of proportion to depict an ugly face of the other side. The old trick betrays the claim of balanced investigation and analysis of events. For all intents and purposes, this aspect of post-truth drives a poisonous wedge not only between the countries that run the errand for their enablers and the victim countries but also between the enablers and victim ones.
The Horn of Africa is one of the regions in the world where ruthless Western interference, with mainly western-oriented international media platforms on its side, manifests itself. More often than not, baseless and shallow narratives that bubble up on social media and mainstream media rub salt into the injuries that threaten to eat away at the opportunities for regional integration. These narratives rage like unremitting fire and help create warped opinions among millions. Such transformation of social world or continuous construction of reality through media, which Couldry and Hepp (2017) call deep mediatisation, has subjected some of the Horn countries to what media critic Sergei A. Samoilenko call ‘’international scandals and reputational crises.’’ As such, media outlets go beyond reporting acceptable news into justifying war or otherwise, whereby they manage audience members’ perception of events such as the war in Tigray—presenting to the world the TPLF as a downtrodden side with hands washed of breach of sovereignty(its claim on Eritrean territories) and human rights and instigation of war. As a result, this tendency has, to a remarkable extent, encouraged chicanery, insensitivity, indifference, and recklessness toward the crisis in this region and other regional and international crises that indeed need consensus and consideration of versions of realty coming from different corners of the world represented at the United Nations.
On the whole, the international community continues to fail to settle international disputes by peaceful means because vested interests of the few in the West and their accomplices in the developing (third) world and decisions that do not involve member states in constructive engagement continue to breach and endanger international peace, security, justice, and sovereignty. Also, divisive Western narratives spread through international media and social media overwhelm and, quite frequently, subdue alternative narratives, creating one version of reality because these narratives not only shy away from the reality on the ground but also have become the bane of life in quite a many part of the world. As a consequence, the grisly picture of today’s increasingly unsafe world causes one to ask questions not only of disquietude but also of hope for a bright future.
How many more countries and their people will have to suffer before the greed mongers come around and strive in the best interest of peace, cooperation, integration, and progress? For how much long will the few in the West continue to crave the cream of the world to aggrandize themselves through calumny, military might and decisions that effectively shut out the perspectives of member states? As long as these basic questions remain unanswered, increasingly wanton injustice will continue to cause further suffering to the victims of post-truth, and surely, in the long run, it will not be to the advantage of those behind the injustice.
Needless to say, it is high time that the few in the West discerned the consequences of their supercilious and inveterate approach that has been discomfiting multiple good-hearted efforts aimed at ensuring equity, understanding, peace, security, and sanctity of sovereignty. Besides, settlement of regional and international disputes, including abrogation and/or ratification of agreements (for example, climate change, conflict resolutions, etc.) must involve diverse voices to seek out and agree upon sustainable solutions to the benefit of all. Member states have to, in line with their rights enshrined in UN charters, equally exercise the right of say and choice of policies, for, as Rasumihin, one of the main characters in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (p.198), opines ‘’ to be wrong in one’s way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first you are a man, in the second you are no better than a bird.’’ Let nations come together to develop a modus vivendi for peace and development.
Dostoyevsky, F. (1950). Crime and Punishment.New York: The Modern Library.
Couldry, N., & Hepp, A. (2017). The mediated construction of reality. Malden, MA: Polity.
Samoilenko, S. A. (2016). Character Assassination and Reputation Management in the Context of Mediated Complexity.
Waisbord, S. (2018). The elective affinity between post-truth communication and populist politics, Communication Research and Practice, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2018.1428928
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